RELIGIOUS experience has been a profound phenomenon in human history in terms of holding beliefs, adopting a religious language, and interpreting the mundane and sacred. There is no one type of experience all religions universally acclaim, but a “variety of religious experiences”, as William James rightly demonstrates.
Therefore, studying a religion, let alone a comparative study of religions, is a hugely complex phenomenon, requiring a multidisciplinary approach and skills. Due to increased interaction among the diverse communities of faith today, it has become imperative to reflect on how faiths can communicate with and enrich each other by developing a shared language of respect and a pluralistic mindset.
The comparative study of religions is concerned mainly with the comparative study of the doctrines and practices of different faiths. In general, this comparative study yields a deeper understanding of the foundational philosophical concerns of religions, such as ethics, metaphysics, eschatology, and axiology. In many universities today, thankfully, the comparative study of religions is taught as a subject exposing the students in an “interdisciplinary manner to a broad history [of the birth] of the religions by investigating the crossroads between history, literature and religion”.
There are often two kinds of approaches to studying another faith, tradition or a community: outside-in and inside-out. The outside-in can also be of two kinds: phenomenological — seeing the faith as it is practised and understood, not as it should be — while the other is the judgemental approach, which tends to look at another faith by keeping some criteria in mind, and judging it from that perspective.