Explain How A Student Of Religion Who May Or May Not Have Religious Convictions Would Set About The Examination Of A Religion With Which They Are Unfamiliar?

1317 words - 5 pages

The student of religion faces a number of challenges on embarking upon the close examination of any given religion. We firstly need to question and maybe even dismiss our own assumptions, prejudices and perhaps even attitudes, in order to gain the fullest picture of the religion we wish to study. There will also be the need to consult others and gather evidence in order to further our own understanding, and with such a variety ofevidence both academic and religious, who do we believe? We also, as with other studies need to attempt to define our area of study, this itself presents a challenge; with so many 'religions' to consider how do we put our definitions to the test and how conclusive can we deem our results to be?On beginning our study, firstly we need to ask ourselves, why we are making this study? Is it to better understand the world we live in, or is it to find religion ourselves or enhance the belief that we already have? The question of whether a persons existing religious beliefs may affect the way they treat the beliefs of others does need to be asked. To cite a rather exaggerated example, a Southern Baptist in America embarking upon a study of Islam may have difficulty dismissing the words of one of its churches prominent figures, Jerry Vines, who claimed Mohammed, the Islamic prophet and founder of the church ofIslam, was 'a demon possessed paedophile' (1). Although this example is extreme it does go some way to highlight the difficulty that someone with strong religious convictions may have in accepting the belief systems of others.We also need to bear in mind the question of 'who' should study religion, I was raised within a strict Roman Catholic family, and whilst I can say that I have experienced belief in God first hand, I would not profess to this in my adult years; does this make me a better or worse candidate for the study of religion?It is argued that religion due to its very nature, referred to be some as 'sui generis (Latin for - of its own kind) (Block4, P49) cannot be studied by someone who has not known what it is to 'have' religion. Rudulf Otto perpetuates this argument in 'The Elements In The Numinous' when saying 'it is not easy to discuss questions of religious psychology with someone who can recollect the emotions of childhood.......but cannot recall any intrinsically religious feeling.' (Block 4, P49)In light of this, I feel that the student of religion, regardless of their own beliefs, needs to recognise the variety that exists within what we call 'religion' today and accept that if we are to learn more about these faiths we must accept that the beliefs of others may not bethe same as our own.As a student of religion, we need to consider what kind of insight we expect to gain from our study, are we looking to establish whether the claims of a religion are true or false, or do we seek to determine whether religion is a constructive force?The question of determining the truth of claims made by a religion, in most...

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