Comparative Religion: Its Meaning and Importance to Christianity and Islam
Published 26 Apr 2017
The barrier which separates every person, group or nation in this world is getting thicker every minute. It would not be surprising to know that at one point in time, another war would break between several countries because of the competitive relations that countries have with others. Although religion is supposed to play a big part in maintaining and upholding the peace between mankind, the opposite is actually what is happening today.
It may not be much blatant but we can not deny that religion is one of the factors which further strengthen the barrier separating on group of people from another. It is a concerning thing that most of the time, religion does not serve its real and essential purpose. Instead of uniting different races into one mutual world, the real score is that the world of breaking apart because of it. This is one reason why the study of comparative religion may be a potentially significant branch of discipline in the contemporary era.
In this research paper, the questions which the researcher would undertake are the following:
What is comparative religion?
When and how did it root in becoming an academic discipline?
What is its importance in terms of specific religions and most of all to humanity as a whole?
INTRODUCTION OF THE RESEARCH
“The history of man begins not with flints, rock temples and pyramids, but with language. The second stage is that of myths as the first attempts at translating the phenomena of nature into thought. The third stage is that of religion or the recognition of moral powers and in the end of One moral power behind and above nature. The fourth and last stage is philosophy, or a critique of the powers of reason in their legitimate working on the data of experience.”
– Friedrich Max Muller, 1823-1900
A world without religion may be compared to a jungle where people are literally bound with the “survival of the fittest” concept. Had it not been with religious beliefs, the population of the world today may be less than half as populous as it is right now. People are slaying others here and there, doing all the immoralities of life, observing the most unethical behaviors.
The world is lucky that religion succeeded in bringing out the morality among people. It is a gift that humankind should all take care of and maintain to its highest sense of purity. Religion, indeed, brings about the sense of morality and ethics among people; but the saddening part of it is that people only shows morality among people of their religion.
It might be surprising to know that but it is a fact. Morality is, shown only or only intended be shown to people of their own racial belief- though this is not even true at all times with the presence of crimes here and there. This brings about the conclusion that religion further stains the peacefulness of the human race. Instead of making the world a more peaceful place to live in, religion often brings out the common misunderstandings and clustering among people- just like how racial discrimination does to people in United States and in other countries where it is most common.
Because of these concerning phenomena, a very significant academic discipline arises- the study of Comparative Religion. As the term suggests, this field integrates the research method, the systematic way of dealing with things with the study of several religions.
In connection, the integration of the Christian Church in this study is also of great importance since Christianity is the most widely used religion as of the moment with Islam not far from the top. Because of these, it is also somehow a responsibility of the both the Christian and Moslem community to spearhead the quest for world peace.
STATUS QUO OF THE CHRISTIANITY
Currently, there are about 33% of the world’s populations who are under the Christian community (World Religion Statistics). Christianity is very widespread in the Americas, Philippines, and Europe is also fast rising in the continents of Asia, Africa and Oceania. Meanwhile, Islam is also widely distributed in Middle East countries like the UAE, Iran and Iraq.
Rooting from the belief of Judaism, the Christian religion has been the root of many other religions which were given birth at some points in time due to many factors. Protestantism, Mormon belief and many other religious groups have emerged from this religion. We cannot hide the fact that there have been many disputes regarding Christianity and religions which branched out from it, like the Protestantism- which broke of the Catholic Church because of some issues. Many other issues have risen regarding the catholic Christian church and its so-called “branch” sects. But more than these “in-house” misunderstandings and disputes, there are also out-of-the-Christian-world feuds and hostilities which involves other religions.
In the Philippines for example, there has been a long dispute between the Moslems and the Christians. War between the Moros (as locally referred to) and the Catholic Christians are very blatant to the extent of many victims who shed their lives in shootouts and bombings. Another instance is the after-effect of the World Trade Center bombing which led to the world-wide perception of Islam believers as terrorists and bombers who are always in for the kill.
COMPARATIVE RELIGION DEFINED
Comparative religion is a growing discipline which rooted in the nineteenth century. Its pioneers were only few with Friedrich Max Muller being the most prominent of them all. However, as time passes, this field of study attracted more and more academic and even biblical scholars to pursue the quest of rooting all other religions into one distinct entity.
In standard definition, comparative religion is the both a religious study and field which analyzes the similarities and differences of different world religions according to their themes, concepts and traditions- with religion defined as the relation of human beings as to what they consider as sacred, holy and spiritual.
MAIN CONCEPT OF COMPARATIVE RELIGION
Comparative religion, as defined earlier in this paper aims to analyze the differences and similarities of different religions all over the world. Its main concept is, as suggested by the term, making comparison and contrasts between beliefs. But the task doesn’t just end in a mere comparing and contrasting of the beliefs because aside from this, comparative religion scholars and academicians seek for a distinct quality of these religions which would embody a belief and ideology which would unite all religions into one.
For instance, Islam and Christianity is a hot tandem for several years now because of many factors which are real detrimental for both parties. In the perspective of comparative religion, these two religions are similar and can actually exist in harmony without any forms of misunderstandings and feuds.
One aspect in which the researchers would base from is the traditions which both religions observe. As known, prayer is a common denominator between the two- there is only a difference the way of delivering it and the number of times they do it in a single day. The similarity in this aspect may be considered as a way by which both would understand one another.
Another thing which they could consider is the scriptures of these religions. For the Christians, there is the bible while for the Moslems, there is the Quran. Both agrees in the sayings of these books that there is only one God and that no one shall be praised except Him. In this regard, we can see the mutual belief of these two religions to a single God and the act of praising only one God. Also in the belief of these Gods as divine beings and the person highest above all creations. The only differences between both religions are the names of their God- in Christianity we refer to Him as Jehovah and in Islam we refer to him as Allah.
Also, in terms of their God, there is another significant similarity between these two religions in the person of Jesus Christ and Mohammed- where both, at one point in history acted as the mediator between God and humankind.
Another very important aspect between these two religions which we should not take for granted are the values which they teach. Values which are common in both but only differ in the terms by which people refer to them. Values such as humility which entails the attitude of being humble to the God they praise and also to other persons. Another is the value of charity which promotes the act of altruism and humanism by giving others what you have with all your heart and letting them share with you the grace of God which should be felt by all. Honesty which is the value of being truthful in everything you do and say is also common in both grounds. Another is the act of communion with God which is the ultimate goal of each person and the task which everyone is looking up to- growing towards the path of God.
Most of all, the primary concept which connects both religions is the idea of loving thy neighbor. This is probably the most unique and the greatest value which reflects both religion. Loving everyone which is equated to loving the God which they praise. Experiencing life with the loved-ones is also similar to experiencing a good life with God. The aspect of love plays a real big role in the enactment of the virtues and values being promoted in these religions. All other values promoted may not happen if not with the presence of love in the hearts of humankind.
EFFECTS OF COMPARATIVE RELIGION
It is blatant that the effects of comparative religion are very important to the society, to the world towards achieving the goal of peace foe humankind. First of all, the barriers which separate one group of people believing in one God from another would deteriorate. Making a person realize his similarities with others is a very good method of creating a harmonious life and opening your doors to people around you- people who, before, you think of as hostile persons who will never be in good terms with you.
Also, the sense of oneness would be felt by each person from opposite poles. The feeling that these people feel what you feel and aim what you want to achieve stirs up a sense of compatibility which would further open up your doors into welcoming them despite you cultural diversities.
Not only are these effects obvious between the Christians and Moslems, these may also be achieved speaking of other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and others. Breaking the barriers of cultural and religious diversities is the best way in promoting world peace, for in it, people come to the idea of welcoming all others into their community and their life as neighbors who also shares the same feelings and aspirations as you do.
Indeed, comparative religion is one of the best ways which can help people achieve the long-dreamt-of peace. Through this certain discipline, many people would be enlightened, eradicating the misconceptions and negative notions towards other religions and beliefs.
- CIA. 2007. World Religion Statistics.
- Ols, Bas Rijken. 2006. Max Müller and H. P. Blavatsky —Comparative Religion in the 19th Century. Sunshine Magazine.