AN ACADEMIC APPROACH TO THE STUDY OF RELIGION
Healthy academic disciplines are characterized by vigorous debate. Look up any reader in Anthropology, History, Psychology, Sociology, or even Zoology and you will find conflicting theories and dissenting views. What is clear to one scholar is rubbish to another and in the journals people do not hesitate to criticize the folly of others. Indeed in some fields, such as History, entire libraries of books are devoted to such issues as Problems in European Civilization where the student is presented with a series of conflicting views that are expected to expose them to important academic debates with which any educated member of the profession ought to be familiar.
When one turns to Religious Studies, however, a very different picture emerges. With few exceptions the writers of monographs and textbooks in Religious Studies are very nice people who want to give every possible viewpoint a fair hearing. Such liberality is commendable in situations of religious intolerance and dogmatism and was justified twenty‑five years ago when few Europeans or North Americans were familiar with religious traditions other than Christianity. At the time, against a background of a monopolistic Christianity, the need to develop sympathetic insight was essential. But, things are very different today.
Today we face a different situation. Many students know more about Buddhism than Christianity and are certainly far more sympathetic to Eastern religions than they are to their own Western tradition. Therefore, the old liberal approach is an anachronism. As a result this bibliography aims at presenting controversial books that students might otherwise overlook. It is provided in the hope that it will provoke a stimulating academic debate.