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Comparative Religion

Comparative Religion


This lesson discusses comparative religion, which concerns itself with the study of the similarities and differences in the religions of the world.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi. Welcome to this tutorial on comparative religion. Comparative religion is an approach that examines the beliefs, rituals, customs, and traditions of the various living religions.

For the sake of comparison, comparative religion groups world religions into three different divisions-- the Abrahamic religions, originating in the ancient Near East around the Jordan River beginning with Judaism, eventually leading to Christianity, and several centuries later leading to Islam. And then in the Indian subcontinent, the Ganges River-- Hinduism, and stemming from Hinduism, Buddhism and the other Indian Religions. The Taoic religions-- beginning in China, also in Korea, Japan and the Far East-- Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto.

So by grouping religions into these three categories, we can kind of cross-compare them. Turning our attention to the Abrahamic face-- this is the story of Isaac and Ishmael. So Abraham had been promised a son and a multitude would come from him. And Sarah also knew about this promise. And she was tired of waiting around to bear a child. So she said, here, take my slave girl, Hagar, and have a child with her. And from Abraham and Hagar, Ishmael was born. At which time, Sarah gave birth to a son of her own, who was Isaac.

So Muslims trace their lineage to Abraham through Ishmael. And Jews trace their lineage to Abraham through Isaac.

There's also the story of the binding of Isaac or the sacrifice of Isaac. The same story is told in both Judaism and Islam, only in the Islamic version of the story, it's Ishmael who is bound. So both of these-- both Judaism and Islam-- trace their lineage to Abraham. And eventually Christianity also arises out of Judaism.

So we should also say something about the phenomenological approach, which sought to improve upon the older comparative studies, which really arose during the colonial period and normally were compared other religions in a negative fashion to Christianity. And oftentimes, the other world religions were viewed as a preparatory phase for Christianity. As an example, the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, in his lectures on the philosophy of religion, said that all of history is moving towards what he called absolute spirit, which is the culmination of Christianity and, of course, European culture. And the other religions had their value primarily as preparatory phases for the coming of Christianity, which was really seen as superior to these other traditions.

So phenomenology, in trying to find the essence of religion, or the essence of the religious experience, would try to strip away all of the particulars of various different traditions and find underneath those particularities a core religious experience. And in that way, the hope was that the study of religion could begin to move away from this negative type of comparison where there would be really a bias towards one tradition over others.

Thank you for watching this tutorial on comparative religion. We said that comparative religion is a discipline that compares the beliefs, rituals, customs, and traditions of all active religions. We also discussed the three divisions of comparative religion-- Indian religion, Taoic religion, and Abrahamic religion.

And we discussed the story of the origins of Judaism and Islam in the question over Abraham's rightful heir, either Isaac or Ishmael. We also talked about phenomenology as an approach which tries to overcome the bias of unfavorably comparing one religion to another.

Thanks for watching.

Terms to Know
Abrahamic Religion

Any of the religions that claim Abraham as an ancestor, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Comparative Religion

A discipline that takes as its subject the scholarly examination and comparison of the beliefs, rituals, customs, and traditions of all active religions.

Indian Religion

Any religion originating on the Indian subcontinent.

Taoic Religion

Any religion originating in east Asia.