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I wrote this book for three primary reasons. First, I find the study of different religious traditions both fascinating and exciting, and I think it is important for the generally educated person to understand the significance of religion in shaping people's lives and behaviors. Second, it is important to teach students how to engage in the academic study of religion, and the case study approach I use facilitates this process. Third, no book that I know of presently on the market uses extended cases to teach students how to do religious studies from an academic viewpoint. Most books explain what other scholars have learned about the religious traditions of the world, but they do not take the next step of inviting students to participate in the academic activity of studying religions and showing them, at least in a beginning way, how to go about such a study. In a world of increasing religious violence and intolerance it is more imperative than ever to learn how to objectively yet critically understand one's own religious views as well as those of others."