What is the science of religion?

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Some people think that religion is contrary to science because religion insists on faith, while science stresses reasoning and proof. But there is something like the science of religion. It includes two things: a general history of religions and the developments of a particular faith. While the science of comparative religion seeks to assess the varieties of religious experiences and a systematic analysis of their development, the history of a particular religion reveals the special features and deeper issues of an individual faith. It studies in depth the change in the forms and expression of a particular religion, the psychological development of particular communities in the matter of dogma and ritual. Connected with the science of religion are the sociological studies of the influence of social forms on the development of religion and psychology of religion which determine the palce of religion in human life.

Theology must be distinguished from the science of religion. While the first is the pursuit of knowledge in the interests of a creed, the latter is a factual study of religious experience. Theology is based on the church, on the dogma. The religious scientist is objective and dispassionate. Religious science in its broadest sense is a history of ideas and therefore, has to find general answers to the common problems of life. One of the important ideas is holiness: what is holy as opposed to profane? Holiness creates reverential awe: The fear of God. An understanding of the basic concepts of religion has to be linked up with the practical demands of active and purposeful living. Metaphysics and the supernatural are beyond the realm of evidence. Their appreciation will largely depend on the widening of the frontiers of human knowledge and experience.

The inter-relationship between science and religion has been summed up by Prof. A. Toynbee as under:

“Science must be based on religion and religion must include scientific rationality. I think that the words of Albert Einstein. ‘Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind’, are of even greater importance now than when he uttered them”.

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