One of these figures was the famous pragmatist William James.
His 1902 Gifford lectures and book The Varieties of Religious Experience examined religion from a psychological-philosophical perspective and is still influential today.
There are two forms of monothetic definition; the first are substantive, seeking to identify a specific core as being at the heart of religion, such as a belief in a God or gods, or an emphasis on power.
The second are functional, seeking to define "religion" in terms of what it does for humans, for instance defining it by the argument that it exists to assuage fear of death, unite a community, or reinforce the control of one group over another.
His essay The Will to Believe defends the rationality of faith.
Max Weber studied religion from an economic perspective in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-1905), his most famous work.
New departments were founded and influential journals of religious studies were initiated (for example, Religious Studies and Religion).
In the forward to Approaches to the Study of Religion, Ninian Smart wrote that "in the English-speaking world [religious studies] basically dates from the 1960s, although before then there were such fields as 'the comparative study of religion', the 'history of religion', the 'sociology of religion' and so on..." In the 1980s, in both Britain and America, "the decrease in student applications and diminishing resources in the 1980s led to cut backs affecting religious studies departments." (Partridge) Later in the decade, religious studies began to pick up as a result of integrating religious studies with other disciplines and forming programs of study that mixed the discipline with more utilitarian study.
Interest in the general study of religion dates back to at least Hecataeus of Miletus (ca. The first history of religion was the Treatise on the Religious and Philosophical Sects (1127 CE), written by the Muslim scholar Muhammad al-Shahrastani.
Peter the Venerable, also working in the twelfth century, studied Islam and made possible a Latin translation of the Qur'an.
One of the earliest academic institutions where Religious Studies was presented as a distinct subject was University College Ibadan, now the University of Ibadan, where Geoffrey Parrinder was appointed as lecturer in Religious Studies in 1949.