Read a great article by Deepak Sarma, a professor at Case Western, on Hinduism in America. (Read it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-sarma/should-hindus-study-hinduism_b_1083986.html)
He argues that a “Hindu should study Hinduism by reason of being a college student, who has chosen to learn for the sake of learning and chosen to learn to think critically. If the student, Hindu or otherwise, does not have these goals then s/he ought to drop out and seek apprenticeship with a virtuoso in the desired vocation. A self-proclaiming Hindu ought to be able to explain who is a Hindu and what is Hinduism… Not only would they get a more nuanced understanding of Hinduism, but they may also become more enlightened human beings.”
I definitely agree, and further, I argue that practitioners should engage with the scholarly approach to what they practice. Hindus, Muslims, Christians; dancers, musicians, and actors; people of color, people who are gendered (or not gendered), or LGBT people. The scholarly study of a subject related to one’s identity gives a richer context to that identity and encourages critical thinking about it. Those who don’t feel strongly about their identity, like those who went to temple once in a while as kids, or those who don’t have much contact with social groups related to their ethnicity, have even greater reason to go: to learn what that identity means, what led them away from it, and whether they might like to return. But those individuals, and those who have a deep connection to the faith, ethnicity, or gender they identify with, should also recognize the distinction between the academic study and the personal study.