Historically Religious Studies and Theology have been seen as two complementary disciplines. Here theology is accorded a rightful sub-category of the broader Religious Studies. Religious Studies (or “the Study of Religions” etc.) is thus a study of religious systems and movements across the world, taking into account their textual and intellectual traditions, their history, sociology, anthropology, comparative and theoretical questions, and the philosophy.
Divisions & Traditions
Alternative approaches to religion
- Philosophical ; (Philosophy of Religion) covers a critical appraisal of the philosophical underpinnings of religious beliefs, the nature of religious or "numinous" experience, the definition of religion, the history of religion in relation to society, issues such as secularism, and similarities to other "belief systems" e.g. technology. It can also mean the study of 'intellectual approaches' to religion as opposed to the study of beliefs and practices of people.
- Psychological ; Freud, Jung
- Phenomenological ; Ninian Smart : 'Religion... is a way of coming to experience.. the cosmos.'
- Sociological and Historical approaches; e.g. Ninian Smart - in a globalised world 'federalism' many different ways of coming to terms with the wonders of the world.
- Anthropological approaches ; Anthropology of Religion, Cognitive Theory
- Feminist ;
- Theological. Theology (as widely understood in Europe). In most of its sub-disciplines (New Testament Studies, Church History, etc.) academic theology makes use of several critical methods which are used in the study of religions other than Christianity. On the other hand, studies devoted mainly to the self-promotion of particular religious movements or standpoints are not included.
- Scientific ; Science critique of religion ; Science is a particular system of truth with a few axiomatic propositions : that the universe is governed by impartial laws and not by a superwill ; that the laws are at least to a degree discoverable through observation and experimentation, but not by revelation ; that every effect proceeds from a cause ; and that identical causes will, usually produce like effects (perhaps critiqued by Chaos theory); Ferris book “The Whole Shebang” (1997): “Religious systems are inherently conservative, science inherently progressive,” Mr. Ferris wrote. Religion and science don’t have to be hostile to each other, but we can stop setting them up on blind dates. “This may be an instance,” Mr. Ferris added, “where good walls make good neighbors.”
Study of Specific Religions
- Shamanism - spirit-possession, Siberian and inner Asian Shamanism, Inuit shamanism
- Spirit cults. - Zar Spirit cults in Sudan.
- Islam -
- Popular religion
- Christianity http://biblos.com/ Excellent bible site ;
- Religion in Africa - Christian tradition - Kongo Belief, Prophetic Movements, Religious Change,
- African-American Religions - Vodou, Rastafari
- Religions in Melanesia - Kwaio Religion, Religion and Ecology, Millenarian Movements,
- Neopaganism , - Western Mystery tradition, Ritual Magic, New Age Spirituality
- Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane - in the modern world we have lost the sense of the sacred.
- Ninian Smart - the organic development of religion in human history and linking to other 'worldviews' with similar characteristics to religions - Marxism and humanism.