His teaching and research focus on how ways of seeing affect ways of being religious. What humans look at, the type of images created, and how humans learn to see images, are all shaped by cultural, biological and religious environments.
Investigating "religious visual culture," Plate's work is interdisciplinary, moving between developments in cultural anthropology, art history, film studies, and increasingly cognitive science, along with his home discipline, religious studies. Book-length publications include Religion and Film (Wallflower Press, 2008), The Religion and Film Reader (2007), Blasphemy: Art that Offends (2006), Walter Benjamin, Religion, and Aesthetics (2005), Re-Viewing the Passion: Mel Gibson's Film and Its Critics (2004), and Representing Religion in World Cinema (2003). Plate is also co-founder and managing editor of the journal, Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief.