ST. AUGUSTINE UNIVERSITY OF TANZANIA.
FACULTY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES AND COMMUNICATIONS.
DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY AND ETHICS.
ACCADEMIC YEAR 2011/2012- 2 SEMESTER.
COURSE TITLE: COMPARATIVE RELIGION (BAPRM2& BScT 1)
COURSE CODE: PH 221
CREDIT HOURS: 3 HRS PER WEEK
Course lecturer: Ms GRACE RICHARD KAMBONA
1. GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO RELIGION 1.1. What is religion? The word Religion is derived from a Latin word “religio” which means “fear or awe” in the presence of a supernatural reality or being. Religion can be simply described as belief in spiritual beings. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines religion as belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Religion is an aspect of human experience that may intersect, incorporate, or transcend other aspects of life and society. Religion in this understanding includes a complex of activities that cannot be reduced to any single aspect of human experience. It is a part of individual life but also of group dynamics. Religion includes patterns of behavior but also patterns of language and thought. 1.2. The meaning of comparative religion Comparative religion is a field of religious studies that analyzes the similarities and differences of themes, myths, rituals and concepts among the world’s religions. It designates our task to compare and examine themes that cut across the various religions i.e. common themes. Comparative study of religion demonstrates that every religion possesses some measure of truth. 1.3. Reasons for studying Comparative religion To acquire knowledge of the historical development of the major strands of the religions to be discussed. To familiarize with the beliefs and practices that characterize the lifestyle of adherents to these religions. To identify some of the challenges that confront contemporary adherents to these religions. Religion being an integral part of human life, it is, therefore, an appropriate subject for scientific analysis. 1.4. Function of religion According to the anthropologists, religion helps to unite people in a shared experience and explanation of life. It provides a pattern of human behavior, often in response to the hazards of life.
Sociologists stress the social dimension of religious ideas. To them region provides an agreed way of looking at the world. It gives an individual a sense of purpose and meaning. Religion plays a significant role in the self-organization of personality. In this regard, religion becomes part of the individual’s personal behavior i.e. leads to personality development. It provides general conceptions about the order of existence (creation) i.e. how things exist and why they exist. Karl Marx, a sociologist, thinks that religion is the opium of the people. It gives relief to the oppressed; it gives heart to the heartless. It also relieves people of oppression. 1.5. Dimensions/themes of religion (Basic elements of religions) There are various approaches to looking and studying religion, and different methodologies that can be applied. Ninian Smart considers a ‘dimensional’ approach to the study of religion to be useful because in spite of their diversity, it is possible to make sense of the variety and to discern some patterns in the luxurious vegetation of the world’s religions and sub- traditions through adopting a dimensional approach. 1.5.1. The practical and ritual dimension (Ritual and worship) Every tradition has some formal practices to which it adheres for instance regular worship, prayers, preaching, and so on. They are often known as rituals. This practical and ritual dimension is very important with faiths/religions of a strongly sacramental kind, such as the Orthodox Christianity with its long and elaborate service known as the liturgy and the Eucharist or Holy Communion for Christians. This dimension is sometimes summed up in the religious context as any outward action linked to an inner intention. It...
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