Brian Bocking and the defence of study of religions as an academic discipline in universities and schools

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Date
2016
Authors
Cush, Denise
Robinson, Catherine
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ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork.
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Abstract
In this article we will explore the contribution made by Brian to establishing and defending study of religions as a discipline in its own right and argue for the importance of a holistic and polymethodic approach to studying religions as the most appropriate way forward for programmes for undergraduates at university and students in schools. We will include the major contributions made by Brian in the institutions in which he has taught, with particular attention to our own Bath Spa University. The title "study of religions" - contributed by a student of Brian's - implies something about both content and methodology as well as his attitude towards students as co-participants and potential colleagues. The content is determinedly plural, acknowledging the diversity of religious (and perhaps non-religious) worldviews in the contemporary world. The approach is open and non-confessional, a study rather than endorsement or refutation of the claims of religions. The methods of study are multiple, prioritising neither textual and historical, nor philosophical or theological, nor social scientific approaches. Following in a tradition associated with the name of Ninian Smart among others, we argue that an understanding of religions can only be gained by seeing the relationship between theory and practice, text and context and official doctrines and vernacular custom. Hence Brian and Bath Spa continued to be committed to our students being exposed both to primary texts and direct encounters with living religious communities. Moreover, these polymethodic studies should be undertaken from a global rather than narrowly "Western" perspective, building upon Brian's own specialism in Japanese Buddhism and entrepreneurial international links.
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Keywords
Methodological agnosticism , Pedagogy , Phenomenology , Religious education , Religious studies , Ninian Smart
Citation
CUSH, D. & ROBINSON, C. 2016. Brian Bocking and the defence of study of religions as an academic discipline in universities and schools. Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions, 3(1), 27-41.
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(c)2016, The Author(s).