William James is best known in the field of Religious Studies for his book Varieties of Religious Experience. It is not hard to see why given the text covers topics ranging from religion and neurology, depression and suicide, and mystical experiences among many others. It is the latter that Religious Studies tends to focus on. An overwhelming majority of what is written on James pertains solely to this one chapter in this one book. This is not a bad thing, but James has much more to offer to Religious Studies than just those fifty pages. As with any theory, as well, there will be criticisms to be made including James’ lack of a religious sociology and the Western lens through which he studies religion. Perhaps these critiques are rightfully made and there are issues to be found. Yet, to focus on one single text out of the many James has published pertaining to religion can lead to misinterpretation or at the very least, the lacking of a full picture. In this paper I will go over other texts James has written on religion including The Will to Believe and The Perception of Reality as well as address common critiques of James to show where the critiques may be right, but also where they may be not fully correct. In doing this I will show what more James has to offer to the field of Religious Studies, as well show that James may just have a social aspect to religion hidden within his writings.


McBride, Lee

Second Advisor

Mirza, Sarah


Philosophy; Religious Studies


Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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