I’m fascinated by the study of anthropology, I always have been, and I’ve been learning about it almost from the age I was capable of comprehending it, and hope that I am able to study it vocationally someday bh. This field however poses a lot of problems halachically, for one in all societies in the world religion and culture are inexorably intertwined, and there’s a question as to whether or not one is allowed to learn about other religions in the first place, let alone research and write extensively about them. And also observing ceremonies and such from different cultures poses problem given the issur of entering a beis avodah zara, or benefiting from avodah zara. I’m trying to discern definitively whether or not it’s muttar under the context of studying anthropology as an intellectual pursuit to do things such as watch a recording of a religious or cultural ceremony that would be assur to actually attend. I assume the answer is no given several sources I’ve tried to find on the topic. For example, Rov Schachter wrote this after the Kennedy funeral: https://i.stack.imgur.com/G7qdz.jpg . And the Chofetz Chaim זצ׳׳ל wrote this: “The Mishnah Berurah (53 s.k. 82), based on the Bach (Shu”t Bach haYeshanim 127), says it is permissible to listen to the song unless it was composed for is primarily sung in Christian religious services.” And Rov Moshe Feinstein זצ׳׳ל held the same opinion even in regards to non-live music(see igreis Moshe yore deah vol II no XI).
However it has come to my attention that there is a very fringe opinion that entering churches is permitted. For example Rabbi Berkowitz wrote this: “מכל הטעמים הנ׳׳ל נדמה לי שאין שום חשש איסור לבקר במקומות הקדושים של הנוצרים מתוך התענינות היסטורית, או אומנותית או מדעיתת, ומכ׳׳ש בא׳׳י”. And there are reports that Rabbi Carlebach, the former chief rabbi of Lubeck had a habit of entering churches so as to view artwork and such. And apparently R’ Yisrael Moshe Hazan once entered a church in order to study pentatonic music.
submitted by /u/Level_End418