The framework of ways of being religious offers several practical advantages, particularly for the beginning student in the comparative study of religion but also for the seasoned veteran. It can be an aid to the process of self-knowledge in placing oneself and one's own religious predelictions in relation to others both familiar and strange, and it can help to sort out one's options, as it were. Moreover, it provides a commonsense basis for beginning to distinguish healthy from degenerate expressions of a given practice, and perhaps for seeing more positive potential in a tradition than first meets the eye. In terms of a more objective study and understanding of religious phenomena, the framework has several assets: (1) it helps avoid false or oversimplifying generalizations about religion; (2) it helps one understand better and empathetically examples of any one way of being religious in their difference from examples of other ways, especially ones that at first seem strange; (3) it helps disentangle different sorts of religious differences, instead of supposing all are unique to each tradition; (4) it suggests fruitful comparative studies in depth; (5) it helps one identify and appreciate genuine differences between religions and avoid being misled by surface contrasts; and (6) it opens up several promising lines of further inquiry. Areas of inquiry on which the framework offers new and interesting perspectives include: nontraditional religious phenomena, philosophy of religion and religious philosophy, religious ethics and the ethics of religion, psychology of religion and religious psychology, dialogue between religions, and dialogue between different subtraditions of the same religion.
In addition to assets and advantages, the framework of ways of being religious has certain liabilities or disadvantages, especially if used uncritically or by itself without supplementation. (1) It is easy to take the abstract categories of the framework to be more real than the concrete phenomena they are used to describe, when it is the phenomena that are the testing ground of the categories. The six ways and their formulations as proposed here remain tentative, revisable, human constructions that call for further refining in light of the phenomena. (2) It is easy to presume, with the help of the framework, that one understands a religious phenomenon better than participant-insiders, whereas it is their understandings to which the comparativist is obliged to do justice. (3) It is easy to lose sight of what doesn't fit into the categories of the framework, and how the framework focuses only on a part of the whole picture. Finally, (4) it is tempting to use the framework to warrant tbeologicalo conclusions-for example, about the legitimacy of a certain religious practice-whereas such conclusions may appropriately be drawn only in terms of the existing authoritative warrants of the tradition in question.