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Comparative religion is the branch of the study of religions concerned with the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices of the world's religions. In general the comparative study of religion yields a deeper understanding of the fundamental philosophical concerns of religion such as ethics, metaphysics, and the nature and forms of salvation. Studying such material is meant to give one a broadened and more sophisticated understanding of human beliefs and practices regarding the sacred, numinous, spiritual, and divine.
In the field of comparative religion, a common geographical classification of the main world religions includes Middle Eastern religions (including Iranian religions), Indian religions, East Asian religions, African religions, American religions, Oceanic religions, and classical Hellenistic religions.
Social scientists in the 19th century took a strong interest in comparative and "primitive" religion through the work of Max Müller, Edward Burnett Tylor, William Robertson Smith, James George Frazer, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Rudolf Otto.
The comparative study of religions is an academic discipline which has been developed within Christian theology faculties, and it has a tendency to force widely differing phenomena into a kind of strait-jacket cut to a Christian pattern. The problem is not only that other 'religions' may have little or nothing to say about questions which are of burning importance for Christianity, but that they may not even see themselves as religions in precisely the same way in which Christianity sees itself as a religion.
According to Charles Joseph Adams, in the field of comparative religion, a common geographical classification discerns the main world religions as follows:
- Middle Eastern religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and a variety of ancient cults;
- East Asian religions, the religious communities of China, Japan, and Korea, and consisting of Confucianism, Daoism, the various schools of Mahayana (“Greater Vehicle”) Buddhism, and Shintō;
- Indian religions, including early Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism, and sometimes also the Theravada (“Way of the Elders”) Buddhism and the Hindu- and Buddhist-inspired religions of South and Southeast Asia;
- African religions, the ancient belief systems of the various indigenous peoples of Africa, excluding ancient Egyptian religion, which is considered to belong to the ancient Middle East;
- American religions, the beliefs and practices of the various Indigenous peoples of the two American continents;
- Oceanic religions, the religious systems of the peoples of the Pacific islands, Australia, and New Zealand; and
- Classical religions of ancient Greece and Rome and their Hellenistic descendants.
Middle Eastern religions
Abrahamic or Western Asian religions
In the study of comparative religion, the category of Abrahamic religions consists of the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, which claim Abraham (Hebrew Avraham אַבְרָהָם ; Arabic Ibrahim إبراهيم ) as a part of their sacred history. Smaller religions such as Bahá'í Faith that fit this description are sometimes included but are often omitted.
The original belief in the One God of Abraham eventually became strictly monotheistic present-day Rabbinic Judaism. Christians believe that Christianity is the fulfillment and continuation of the Jewish Old Testament. Christians believe that Jesus (Hebrew Yeshua יֵשׁוּעַ) is the Messiah (Christ) foretold in the Old Testament prophecy, and believe in subsequent New Testament revelations based on the divine authority of Jesus in Christian belief (as the Incarnation of God). Islam believes the present Christian and Jewish scriptures have been corrupted over time and are no longer the original divine revelations as given to the Jewish people and to Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. For Muslims, the Qur'an is the final, complete revelation from God (Arabic الله Allah), who believe it to have been revealed to Muhammad alone, who is believed by Muslims to be the final prophet of Islam, and the Khatam an-Nabiyyin, meaning the last of the prophets ever sent by Allah ("seal of the prophets"). Based on the Muslim figure of the Mahdī, the ultimate saviour of humankind and the final Imām of the Twelve Imams, Ali Muhammad Shirazi, later known as Bab, created the Bábí movement out of the belief that he was the gate to the Twelfth Imām. This signalled a break with Islam and started a new religious system, Bábism. However, in the 1860s a split occurred after which the vast majority of Bábís who considered Mirza Husayn `Ali or Bahá'u'lláh to be Báb's spiritual successor founded the Bahá'í Movement, while the minority who followed Subh-i-Azal came to be called Azalis. The Bahá'í division eventually became a full-fledged religion of its own, the Bahá'í Faith. In comparison to the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the number of adherents for Bahai faith and other minor Abrahamic religions are not very significant.
Out of the three major Abrahamic faiths, Christianity and Judaism are the two religions that diverge the most in theology and practice.
The historical interaction of Islam and Judaism started in the 7th century CE with the origin and spread of Islam. There are many common aspects between Islam and Judaism, and as Islam developed, it gradually became the major religion closest to Judaism. As opposed to Christianity, which originated from interaction between ancient Greek, Roman, and Hebrew cultures, Judaism is very similar to Islam in its fundamental religious outlook, structure, jurisprudence and practice. There are many traditions within Islam originating from traditions within the Hebrew Bible or from post-biblical Jewish traditions. These practices are known collectively as the Isra'iliyat.
The historical interaction between Christianity and Islam connects fundamental ideas in Christianity with similar ones in Islam. Islam accepts many aspects of Christianity as part of its faith – with some differences in interpretation – and rejects other aspects. Islam believes the Qur'an is the final revelation from God and a completion of all previous revelations, including the Bible.
Several important religions and religious movements originated in Greater Iran, that is, among speakers of various Iranian languages. They include Mithraism, Ætsæg Din, Yazdanism, Ahl-e Haqq, Zurvanism, Mandaeism, Manichaeism, and Mazdakism.
Most scholars believe that Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world., with origins perhaps as far back as to the prehistoric times, or 5000 years. So "the kinship of the religions of India stems from the fact that Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs look back to Hinduism as their common mother."
Gautama Buddha is mentioned as an Avatar of Vishnu in the Puranic texts of Hinduism. Most Hindus believe the Buddha accepted and incorporated many tenets of Hinduism in his doctrine, however, Buddhists disagree and state there was no such thing as Hinduism at the time of Buddha and in fact, "Indeed, it absorbed so many Buddhist traits that it is virtually impossible to distinguish the latter in medieval and later Hinduism." Prominent Hindu reformers such as Mahatma Gandhi and Vivekananda acknowledge Buddhist influence. Gandhi, like Hindus himself did not believe Buddha established a non-Hindu tradition. He writes, "I do not regard Jainism or Buddhism as separate from Hinduism." Zoroastrianism too is an Indian religion and its founder, Zarathushtra Spitama, was a Kashmiri Pandit born in Kashmir. Yungdrung Bon is another Indian religion and its founder, Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche, was born in Dardistan.
East Asian or Taoic religions
A Taoic religion is a religion, or religious philosophy, that focuses on the East Asian concept of Tao ("The Way"). This forms a large group of religions including Taoism, Confucianism, Jeung San Do, Shinto, I-Kuan Tao, Chondogyo, Chen Tao and Cao Dai. In large parts of East Asia, Buddhism has taken on some taoic features.
Tao can be roughly stated to be the flow of the universe, or the force behind the natural order. It is believed to be the influence that keeps the universe balanced and ordered and is associated with nature, due to a belief that nature demonstrates the Tao. The flow of Ch'i, as the essential energy of action and existence, is compared to the universal order of Tao. Following the Tao is also associated with a "proper" attitude, morality and lifestyle. This is intimately tied to the complex concept of De, or literally "virtue" or "power." De is the active expression of Tao.
Taoism and Ch'an Buddhism for centuries had a mutual influence on each other in China, Korea and Vietnam. These influences were inherited by Zen Buddhism when Ch'an Buddhism arrived in Japan and adapted as Zen Buddhism.
- Christianity and other religions
- Buddhism and Christianity
- Comparison of Buddhism and Christianity
- Christianity and Islam
- Christianity and Judaism
- Christianity and Neopaganism
- Christianity and Paganism
- Christianity and Vodou
Paganism and Neopaganism
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Comparative religion.|
- Comparative mythology
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- Institute for Interreligious Dialogue
- List of religions
- Parliament of the World's Religions
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- Religious universalism
- "Human beings' relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, and divine" Encyclopædia Britannica (online, 2006), cited after "Definitions of Religion". Religion facts.
- Charles Joseph Adams, Classification of religions: geographical, Encyclopædia Britannica
- Hans Kippenberg, Discovering Religious History in the Modern Age (2001).
- Nicholas de Lange, Judaism, Oxford University Press, 1986
- Why Abrahamic? Archived 8 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions at the University of Wisconsin
- "But the upshot of the whole matter is, that out of every hundred Bábís probably not more than three or four are Ezelís [sic], all the rest accepting Behá'u'lláh [sic] as the final and most perfect manifestation of the Truth." (Browne (1889) p. 351)
- Rabbi David Rosen, Jewish-Muslim Relations, Past and Present Archived 16 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine., November 2003
- Rabbi Justin Jaron Lewis, Islam and Judaism Archived 5 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine., October 2001
- P. 386 Transcultural Concepts in Nursing Care By Margaret M. Andrews, Joyceen S. Boyle
- P. 484 Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions By Wendy Doniger, M. Webster, Merriam-Webster, Inc
- P. 285 Communication for Development in the Third World By Srinivas R. Melkote, H. Leslie Steeves
- P. xvi The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hinduism By Linda Johnsen
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- P. 72 Multicultural Clients By Sybil M. Lassiter
- P. 15 Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation By Ian Stevenson
- P. 6 Hinduism By Sue Penney
- P. 22 The Best Guide to Eastern Philosophy and Religion By Diane Morgan
- P. 212 Alternative Religions By Stephen Hunt
- P. 35 Common Spirit Common Ground By Michael Strange
- P. 72 Canadian and World Politics By John Ruypers, Ruypers, Austin, Carter, Murphy
- P. 186 Information Please Almanac, Atlas and Yearbook
- P. 6 The World's Great Religions By Yoshiaki Gurney Omura, Selwyn Gurney Champion, Dorothy Short
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- Religions of the World S. Vernon McCasland, Grace E. Cairns, David C. Yu
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- “owes on eternal debt of gratitude to that great teacher,”Mahatma Gandhi and Buddhism Y.P. Anand An Encounter with Buddhism http://www.iop.or.jp/0414/anand.pdf
- He is the ideal Karma-Yogi, acting entirely without motive, and the history of humanity shows him to have been the greatest man ever born; beyond compare the greatest combination of heart and brain that ever existed, the greatest soul-power that has ever been manifested. Essay, Ideal Karma Yogi http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/5208/karmayoga/ideal.html
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- Saso, Michael R. (2015) Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest (MYSHOP): Prayers Without Words. Sino-Asian Institute of America, US. ISBN 978-1624074059.
- Eastman, Roger (1999) The Ways of Religion: An Introduction to the Major Traditions. Oxford University Press, US; 3 edition. ISBN 978-0-19-511835-3.
- Momen, Moojan (2009) [Originally published as The Phenomenon of Religion in 1999]. Understanding Religion: A Thematic Approach. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 978-1-85168-599-8.
- Muhiyaddin, M. A. (1984) A Comparative Study of the Religions of Today. Vantage Press, US. ISBN 978-0533059638.
- Shaw, Jeffrey M. (2014) Illusions of Freedom: Thomas Merton and Jacques Ellul on Technology and the Human Condition. Wipf and Stock. ISBN 978-1625640581.
- Smith, Huston (1991) The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. HarperOne, US; Rev Rep edition. ISBN 978-0062508119.
- Chopra, R. M. (2015) A Study of Religions, Anuradha Prakashan, New Delhi, ISBN 978-9382339-94-6.
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- "The Faith versus Reason Debate" – comparative religion studies inspired by Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy