Comparing Religions is a next-generation textbook which expertly guides, inspires, and challenges those who wish to think seriously about religious pluralism in the modern world. A unique book teaching the art and practice of comparing religions Draws on a wide range of religious traditions to demonstrate the complexity and power of comparative practices Provides both a history and understanding of comparative practice and a series of thematic chapters showing how responsible practice is done A three part structure provides readers with a map and effective process through which to grasp this challenging but fascinating approach The author is a leading academic, writer, and exponent of comparative practice Contains numerous learning features, including chapter outlines, summaries, toolkits, discussion questions, a glossary, and many images Supported by a companion website (available on publication) at www.wiley.com/go/kripal, which includes information on individual religious traditions, links of other sites, an interview with the author, learning features, and much more
An Important Note to the Instructor xi A Comment on the Cover Image and the Paintings xv List of Illustrations xvi Acknowledgments xx Part I Prehistory, Preparation, and Perspective 1 Introduction: Beginnings 3 1 Comparative Practices in Global History: If Horses Had Hands 9 The Comparative Practices of Polytheism 11 The Comparative Practices of Monotheism: Early Judaism 16 The Comparative Practices of Monotheism: Early Christianity 20 The Comparative Practices of Monotheism: Early Islam 27 The Comparative Practices of Asia: Hinduism 33 The Comparative Practices of Asia: Sikhism 36 The Comparative Practices of Asia: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism in China 38 The Tough Questions 39 2 Western Origins and History of the Modern Practice: From the Bible to Buddhism 43 Deep Upstream: Mystical Humanists, Protesters, Rationalists, and Romantics 44 Mid-Upstream: “Not as Moses Said,” or the Biblical Beginnings of Critical Theory 54 Just Upstream: Colonialism and the Modern Births of Spirituality and Fundamentalism 58 The Immediate Wake: Counterculture, Consciousness, Context, and Cosmopolitanism 67 The Tough Questions 73 3 The Skill of Reflexivity and Some Key Categories: The Terms of Our Time Travel 77 The History of Religions 79 Patterns of Initiation 82 The Humanities: Consciousness Studying Consciousness 85 Cultural Anthropology and Initiation Rites 88 Working Definitions and Their Histories 89 The Uncertainty Principle: The Insider–Outsider Problem (and Promise) 103 Religious Questions as Ultimate Concerns 105 The Tough Questions 106 Part II Comparative Acts 109 4 The Creative Functions of Myth and Ritual: Performing the World 111 Myth: Telling the Story Telling Us 113 Ritual: Acting Out the Story Acting Us 116 Patterns in Myth 120 Patterns in Ritual 125 Comparative Practice: The Awakened One and the Great Hero in Ancient India 133 Beginning a Toolkit 138 The Tough Questions 139 5 Religion, Nature, and Science: The Super Natural 143 Religion and Contemporary Science 145 The Paradox of the Super Natural 146 Food and Purity Codes: “You Are What You Eat” 149 New Directions: Space Exploration, Dark Green Religion, and Popular Culture 154 Comparative Practice: The Human Plant 164 The Toolkit 172 The Tough Questions 173 6 Sex and the Bodies of Religion: Seed and Soil 177 In the Beginning … 178 The Social Body: Sexuality, Gender, and Sexual Orientation 181 Sex and Transgression 188 Super Sexualities 192 The Sexual Ignorance of the Religions 195 Comparative Practice: The Two Ann(e)s 198 The Toolkit 204 The Tough Questions 205 7 Charisma and the Social Dimensions of Religion: Transmitting the Power 209 Charisma and Community 211 The Institutionalization of Charisma: Passing on the Charge 215 Patterns of Special Institutions 221 The Miracle and the Saint: Signs of the (Im)possible 226 Comparative Practice: The Flying Saint and the Levitating Medium 229 The Toolkit 234 The Tough Questions 235 8 The Religious Imagination and Its Paranormal Powers: Angels, Aliens, and Anomalies 239 System and Anomaly: Paranthropology 241 The Sixth Super Sense 244 The Imaginal: Not Everything Imagined Is Imaginary 249 The Comparative Practices of Popular Culture 253 Miracles in the Making: The Fortean Lineage 258 Fact and Fraud: On the Trick of the Truth 259 Comparative Practice: Supernatural Assault Traditions 261 Adding to Our Toolkit 266 The Tough Questions 267 9 The Final Questions of Soul, Salvation, and the End of All Things: The Human as Two 271 Two Scenes 272 The Nature of Embodied Consciousness 275 Patterns of the Soul and Salvation in the History of Religions 276 Soul Practices 280 Traumatic Technologies of the Soul 284 Comparative Eschatologies 286 Comparative Practice: Re-Death, Near-Death, and After-Death Experiences 288 The Toolkit 294 The Tough Questions 296 Part III Putting It All Together Again 299 10 Faithful Re-readings: Exclusivism, Inclusivism, Pluralism, and Justice 303 The Task of Theology: Relating Reason and Revelation 306 Excluding the Other Religious Worldview from One’s Own 313 Including the Other Religious Worldview within One’s Own 315 Encountering the Sacred within and beyond All Religious Worldviews 318 Comparison Is Justice: Liberation, Black, Feminist, and Queer Theologies 321 Nuances: Faith and Scholarship 331 The Tough Questions 331 11 Rational Re-readings: Masters of Suspicion, Classical and Contemporary 335 When Religion Doesn’t Work 336 On the Heart of Reductionism: “There Is No Gap” 337 Sigmund Freud: Religion Is a Childish Illusion 340 Émile Durkheim: Religion Is Society Worshipping Itself 344 Postcolonial Theory: The Gaze of Empire 348 On Spirit and Spandrels: Cognitive Science, Evolutionary Psychology, and Cultural Evolution 350 The Study of Religion and Violence before and after 9/11 357 The Tough Questions 361 12 Reflexive Re-readings: Looking at the Looker 365 The School of the More 366 Four Exemplars of Reflexive Re-reading 368 The Phenomenology of Religion: What Is versus What Appears 371 Reflexively Re-reading Miracle: The Man in the Door 372 The Filter Thesis: The Door in the Man 379 Neuroscientists at the Cusp 383 Concluding Thoughts: Culture, Cognition, and Consciousness 389 The Tough Questions 392 … and Cosmos: Epilogue from Houston 397 Glossary 401 Index 413
“This volume is highly recommended for undergraduates, and even graduate students and general readers.” (Religious Studies Review, 1 September 2014)
Jeffrey J. Kripal is the J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. His most recent publications include Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal (2011); Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred (2010); Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion (2007); and The Serpent’s Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion (2007).
Comparing Religions is a next-generation textbook that teaches the art and practice of comparison as a vital skill in our modern globalizing world. Using a three-part "initiatory" structure, the book provides the reader with a map and an effective process through which to understand and practice the comparative analysis of religion. The three-part structure leads readers through: an historical outline of comparative practices, both in world history and in the modern West, demonstrating that comparative forms of understanding religion are ancient and global six chapters focusing on classic comparativist themes, exploring and modeling the nature of responsible com parativist practice the exploration of a number of key strategies through which to understand, analyze, and re-read religion with a sense of accomplishment and closure The result is a fascinating, wide-ranging, and genuinely exciting book that will inspire as well as guide readers who wish to think seriously about religious pluralism in the modern world. By embracing the last three decades of comparative work and critical theory, the book strikes a new balance and offers a positive vision of the field’s most promising future. Throughout, the impact of comparativist practices on individuals is fully acknowledged and worked with. Toward this same end, the book contains numerous features to help students, professionals and interested readers understand this challenging but extraordinarily rich area of critique and wonder. The supporting website features numerous additional resources, including information on individual religious traditions, images, a glossary, discussion questions, links to other sites, and an interview with the author. These resources are available at www.wiley.com/go/kripal.
“This book offers the most original and provocative recasting of the comparative study of religion in decades, and it’s aimed just where we need this rethinking the most: the classroom. Other textbooks tend to work with a checklist of subjects as they summon the major religions serially to the stage. Kripal starts instead with the mystery of the comparative act itself, allowing that to determine what he brings forward for our attention. So it’s charisma, sex, the paranormal, and ‘soul practices’ more than it’s Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam. Kripal recognizes the comparativist in each of us and urges us to take it seriously. The result is deep and wide, and excitingly open-minded.” John Stratton Hawley, Barnard College, Columbia University “Armed with an extensive array of case studies and a richly diverse portfolio of illustrations, Kripal not only provides a lucid survey of the ‘facts’ of the world’s religions, but inspires us to embrace the fundamentally transcendent nature of the religious experience in all of its manifestations, both ordinary and uncanny, and to confront the inherent challenges of studying religion in a responsibly comparative manner. Comparing Religions is a masterly example of how a book intended for the classroom can be an invigorating stimulus toward new ways of thinking about a phenomenon that pervades every aspect of our world.” Sarah Iles Johnston, The Ohio State University “Kripal is at his very best in this exceptional introduction to the study of religion. After a self-reflexive journey through the religious realms of myth, ritual, nature, science, sex, charisma, soul, salvation, and the imagination and its paranormal powers, we are guided to put it all back together with an eye to religious tolerance, freedom, and pluralism. This book is the red pill. Ingest it and you will be enlightened.” April D. DeConick, Rice University “Comparing Religions is a lucid, entertaining, and even fun introduction to the comparative study of religion. It will be effective with its target audience, young people and the undergraduate classroom, because, while they must wrestle with the way scholars deconstruct and reduce to social or evolutionary functions such phenomena, Kripal never loses sight of the experiences and meanings of those transformed by, engaged in, and mobilized through it. There is no better single volume to entice students into the fraught and fascinating study of religion.” Bron Taylor, author of Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future and editor of The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature “Jeffrey Kripal provides a thoughtful and compelling discussion of key themes, ideas, and challenges that ground the study of religion across traditions and geographies. It is a layered and textured treatment that will capture the imagination and engage students from start to finish. This important and timely text is not to be missed.” Anthony B. Pinn, author of Introducing African American Religion
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