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date: 22 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The emergence of religious studies as a discipline was part of a quest to approach religious diversity in a way that ensures that we explore “the other” in a way that does not misrepresent it. This article first looks at the traditional approach to the study of religion and then examines some of the contemporary questions and debates in this area. While conversion, confessionalism, and missiology all start within a discourse of a particular tradition, the religious studies approach starts from outside the particular traditions. It is shaped by one primary value: to be fair to the other. In short, the religious studies approach seeks to understand other faith traditions on their own terms. Many of the key people in the development of this tradition emerge from the European Enlightenment, including Max Müller, William Robertson Smith, Edward Burnett Tylor, Emile Durkheim, and Ninian Smart. Advocates within religious studies tended to be more sympathetic to either the historical-comparative method or the phenomenological method.

Keywords: Ninian Smart, religious studies, European Enlightenment, Ninian Smart, phenomenological method, religion, conversion, confessionalism, missiology, Emile Durkheim

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