The scientific study of religion (in German Religionswissenschaft) is an academic discipline which takes an historical, philological, and sociological approach towards the different world religions.
While theology seeks to make statements about a supernatural force or "transcendence" (commonly referred to as "God" or the "gods"), the scientific study of religion takes a neutral stance outside any particular religious viewpoint. In keeping with the approach of the discipline, not "God" or the "god(s)" are subject of scientific research, but rather the beliefs and ideas human beings have about their God/gods.
At the Freie Universität Berlin, the department focuses on European tradition since Greek Antiquity, although the cultural traditions and developments of both scriptural and non-scriptural non-European religions are also subjects of reasearch.
Against the broad backdrop of academic examination complemented by a historical-anthropological and material-hermeneutic basis, scholars at the Institute critically examine the principles, theories and methods relevant to the study of religion. They thus analyze specific religious and cultural developments as well as processes of the transference and transformation of religious beliefs and practices. This allows for serious research on the cultural - that is, artistic, social, and political - contexts of religious expression.