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Religious Studies

A Textbook

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Adrián Slavkovský

This textbook offers a brief overview of the basic approaches to the scientific scrutiny of religion. To remain uninterested in examining religion is more difficult than examining any other object of research. In relation to issues of religion, we cannot stand as impartial observers, because we are always somehow involved. Therefore, this book emphasizes not only knowledge of religions, but also how to find ways to get closer to impartiality. It offers an overview of topics, questions, and context, rather than a coherent theory.
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5. Comparative Religious Studies

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Keywords: similarity, difference, context, relativisation of uniqueness, neutral category

5.1 The Role of Comparison

Perceptions of similarities and differences belong among our most basic cognitive skills and activities that inspire us to organise our perceptions, maintain a meaningful whole picture of reality, and prevent the world from becoming chaotic and random. Comparison is one of the fundamental scientific approaches and it has an important place also in theology.

If we want to explain a religion, we must first understand it. An important part of understanding is to set it in context. This means to explore different forms and see its parts in relation to the whole, variations with regard to major issues, and innovation in relation to the historical forms of the religion. The uniqueness of each phenomenon is the most obvious in the context of its ← 43 | 44 → variations, and this perspective helps us move closer to understanding its essence. The individual god, prayer, sacrifice, temple, social role, etc., are best understood in the wider range of deities, various prayers, and other relevant facts. Finally, the very concept of religion is a comparative category and the consequence of numerous surveys covering all cultures.

Thanks to comparative religious studies it has been shown that there does not exist any religious fact or phenomenon that occurs only in a single historical religion. Comparison looks for formulas and matrixes of similarities and differences. Knowledge of one religion enlightens another religion, but in constantly extending...

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