Get Set for Religious Studies

Get Set for Religious Studies

Get Set for Religious Studies

Get Set for Religious Studies

Synopsis

The transition from RE A level, or from entirely alternate roots (many RS students have not taken previous RS related courses), to Religious Studies at university requires some careful shepherding. The field is huge. This introductory book will provide a clear map for the key features of the terrain. The two main strands shaping the book define what religions are and explain how Religious Studies approaches the religions. The language is clear at the same time as introducing some of the key terminology used in the study of religions.

The study of religions and the academic discipline of Religious Studies are growing areas in tertiary education in the UK. The continued interest in RE AS and A level as well as the growth in cognate humanities and social sciences, such as Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, at AS/A level and GNVQ level indicates the significant interest amongst students on matters that pertain to culture and humanity in general. Students realise that religion is a driving force in contemporary culture and the study of it is central to understanding the contemporary world. The statistics on religious belief bear out their interest: four billion out of the six billion people who inhabit the world profess religious belief; even in the 'secular' societies of the Western world religiosity is growing and changing--a recent BBC poll stated that 70% of people in the UK believe in a 'higher being' or spiritual force.

Excerpt

Questions of definition can seem dry at first, but with a word that we use as often as ‘religion’ everyone has their views and associations, so discussion is usually lively. Some people are sympathetic towards religion and some hostile. An interesting preliminary to the discussion that follows, which we suggested in the Introduction, might be to jot down your own attempt at a definition and ask some other people you know of different ages and if possible from a variety of religious or non-religious backgrounds to give you their ideas. You will find it interesting to see, as this section develops, how the definitions you have collected relate to the points made by a variety of scholars. John Bowker remarks in his Introduction to the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions that ‘a strange thing about religion is that we all know what it is until someone asks us to tell them’ (Bowker, 1997: xv). He then lists some key definitions from thinkers of varied backgrounds, many of whom are important for the variety of approaches we shall be considering in Part ii.

For people from a Christian or post-Christian background, the term ‘religion’ may first and foremost be a matter of what people believe and in particular what they believe about God. But those who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh, or who study these traditions, may prefer to emphasise that they are ways of life and that religion is an unsympathetic term if it is associated primarily with belief. For them religion is first and foremost a matter of what you do, not what you think. There is an emphasis on community, what you eat, what you wear, who and how you marry and how you treat your elders. in India it is orthopraxy (doing the . . .

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