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Introducing religions

This module offers an introduction to the study of religions, and to six living religious traditions that have had – and continue to have – a major influence on world affairs: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. You will explore their historical development and contemporary manifestations, developing your knowledge and understanding of different practices and beliefs and their underpinning concepts and principles. You will also examine aspects of the religious dimension in current affairs – while developing skills of analysis and evaluation that will benefit future studies in religion and other academic disciplines.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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Student Reviews

I really enjoyed this module - it has given me a much better understanding about different religions. The Very Short...
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This has possibly been the most enjoyable module of my Humanities degree. A thoroughly well written module, where each of...
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What you will study

Why study religion? An understanding of the world’s religious traditions is crucial in helping us to appreciate not just the varied forms of belief and practice that we encounter at home, abroad and in the media, but also the influence that religion has on world affairs. By exploring the religious concepts and principles underpinning a wide range of worldviews and lifestyles, Introducing religions will enhance your knowledge and understanding of ideas and events, past and present, around the world.

This module will introduce you to issues important to the study of religions – such as the differences between studying and doing religion – and will help you to develop methodological skills of analysis and evaluation across a wide range of sources that will benefit future studies either in religion or other academic disciplines.

Each of the six traditions covered in this module has shaped the spiritual, social, political and economic lives of its adherents, and continues to influence the everyday lives of millions of people all over the world. You will also examine the diversity within these religious traditions and the factors – both internal and external – that typically contribute to this diversity.

Using a short introductory text for each religion (supported by study guides, audio CDs and a DVD), you will look at: the different ways in which religions shape how people see the world and their purpose in it; the role of religious founders, leaders and texts; and a range of religious rituals, practices and patterns of behaviour. In short, you’ll look at how people live their religion.

All this will help you to recognise and appreciate the practical implications of following a given religion, and to develop an approach to the study of religion which is accurate in its description of different beliefs and worldviews, and sensitive to what these mean to their adherents.

If you would like more information about this module you can visit the A217 website which has further details about the module content, short samples of study materials, and frequently asked questions. 

You will learn

You will learn about the major features of six religious traditions in terms of their historical development, beliefs and social forms. You will become familiar with the beliefs and practices that characterise the lifestyle of adherents to these religions in the contemporary world and some of the media through which religious insight is expressed (for example, texts, ritual performance, symbolism, architecture and material culture). You will gain practical experience in the study of religions, using appropriate technical language and methodologies.

Vocational relevance

By exploring the religious concepts and principles underpinning a wide range of world views and lifestyles, Introducing religions will enhance your knowledge and understanding of ideas and events, past and present, around the world. It should also help you to develop empathy and sensitivity when dealing with divergent views and pluralism of belief.

Knowledge about and understanding of various religious traditions might be particularly useful to teachers; health professionals; social workers; community workers; personnel workers and those involved in the food and catering industry. Anyone dealing with the public in today’s multi-religious environment might benefit from this module.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

7 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module and builds on the OU level 1 modules The arts past and present (AA100), Voices, texts and material culture (A105) or the discontinued modules Voices and texts (A150) and Making sense of things: an introduction to material culture (A151). These OU level 1 modules develop skills such as logical thinking, clear expression, essay writing and the ability to select and interpret relevant materials. They also offer an introduction to a range of subjects in the arts and humanities.

If you have not studied at university level before, you are strongly advised to study at OU level 1 before progressing to OU level 2 study.

Your regional or national centre can advise you on where you can see reference copies of OU level 1 study materials. Some are also available from Open University Worldwide Ltd. We particularly recommend looking at these materials if you have not successfully completed OU level 1 study or studied at an equivalent level elsewhere.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service

Preparatory work

No preparatory work is necessary for this module, but students might like to note that the set texts for this module are the A Very Short Introduction to the six religions listed in the Set Books section, published by Oxford University Press.

While students may want to start on some reading with these, please remember that the study guides, DVD and audio CDs provided with the study materials will expand on and explain in greater detail the material encountered in the Very Short Introduction texts.


Start End Fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2015. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation. Fees for courses starting from 1 August 2015 will be available in March 2015.
This information was provided on 26/01/2015.

What's included

Study guides and other printed material; audio CDs; a DVD, website.

You will need

A DVD player and an audio CD player, or a computer that can play both audio CDs and DVDs.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Knott, K Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press £7.99 - ISBN 9780192853875
  • Nesbitt, E Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press £7.99 - ISBN 9780192806017
  • Ruthven, M Islam: A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press £7.99 - ISBN 9780199642878
  • Keown, D Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press £7.99 - ISBN 9780199663835 New edition published Feb 13

If you have a disability

The printed study materials are available in the DAISY Digital Talking Book format. The books are available in a comb-bound format. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.