Religious Studies Scholarship in Nigeria: The Professional Ethics Imperative

Article excerpt

Introduction

The need for professional ethics in several professions such as medicine, nursing, computer, accountancy financial management, information systems among others (Chadwick, 1998) has received much attention in scholarly and non-scholarly world across the globe but with little or nothing said or written about Religious Studies scholarship. Thus, as many people (trained, untrained and semi trained) are taking much interest in Religious Studies today thus expanding the horizon of the field in general, there is an urgent need for appropriate professional ethics in Religious Studies scholarship enterprise. This is imperative because within the context of millennial goals development, one of the outstanding issues deserving attention is the quest for professionalism in all aspects of human endeavour. Professionalism in all its form and context is an effort geared towards perfection, dedication to duty and enhancement of competency so that proper things (duties) are done in a proper manner not only for the benefit of the doers but also for the advantage of individuals, group of individuals and the entire community who are always at the receiving ends of what everybody does at one time or the other. It is in light of this, that people talk of professional ethics, which simply concerns one's conduct of behaviour and practices when carrying out professional work. Such work includes lecturing or teaching, researching and writing. In other words, code of ethics guiding the above are concerned with a range of issues such as academic honesty, data privacy professional accountability, impartiality in data analysis and professional consulting among others.

Scope and Methodology

The work is strictly restricted to discussion about the essence, benefit and implications of designing and implementing Codes of ethics for Religious Studies scholarship The method of approach is both descriptive and argumentative and these would be done within the ambit of functionalism theory propounded by Talcot Parson and expanded by Emile Durkheim. This theory suggests that society is an organic whole each of its constituent parts working to maintain the others and the body as a whole. This theory is relevant to our examination of the relevance of code of ethics for Religious Studies scholarship because it would help scholars of religion make meaningful the phenomenon of religion as an institution with capacity to enhancing, preserving and maintaining a stable social whole. To make sense of this desire before our readers, precisely the target audiences- scholars of Religious Studies, we also advance more argument from the viewpoint of Immanuel Kant's theory of categorical imperative, which suggests, "Do unto others what we expect others to do unto us" (http://www.animalfreedom.org/english/ column/kantcategorical-imperative.html) The merits of Kant's categorical imperative to scholars of Religious Studies is that it would help them overcome egoism, which manifest in seeing sense only in the religions they practice as against other religions different from theirs.

This will probably forbid them, that is, scholars of Religious Studies, from action (teaching and researching) characterized by selfish interest. It would also make them uphold code of morality associated with their profession, which firmly establishes the reign of reason, elevates the dignity of man and his religion and appreciate the sensibility in religious practice. In the end, this would encourage them to engage in more rational and objective scholarship independent of bias and sentiment.

In addition to the theoretical aspect of the research methodology, through interview, we also elicit information from stakeholders in Religious Studies scholarship precisely students and lecturers in the Department of Religious Studies in the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. The questions we asked them pertained to religious profiles of academic staff in the Universities. …