CURRENT TRENDS IN THEORIES OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES: A CLUE TO PROLIFERATION OF RELIGIONS WORLDWIDE (Published)
The thrust of this paper is to unveil the current trends in the theories of religious studies since 1970 till date and to show how they have led to proliferation of religious groups worldwide. The presupposition here is that there has been existing theories in comparison to happenings in contemporary times. The existing theories include: (1) theories of religion propounded for the primitive period, which have a leaning towards distinguishing between the sacred and the profane; and (2) those for the Middle Ages that orchestrated polemic and apologetic writings as a result of the renaissance. Thus, the need for a comparative treatment of religion became clear, and this prepared the way for more modern developments that paved way for Pentecostalism, Spiritism sects, etc. The sacred defines the world of reality, which is the basis for all meaningful forms and behaviours in the society. The profane is the opposite of the sacred. By theories of religion one means a body of explanations, rules, ideas, principles, and techniques that are systematically arranged to guide and guard religious practices for comprehension. These theories are categorized into substantive theories, focusing on what the value of religion for its adherents is, and functional or reductionist theories, focusing on what it does. The method adopted to obtain the goal of this study is through library research. Selected theories of religions propounded by some scholars are discussed in this study and these include: Cognitive theory, Rational Choice theory, the Theory of Religious Economy, Sensitivity theory, and Phenomenology of Religion. In all these, their theories have coloration of their respective perspectives/disciplines. Four types of scholars were engaged in the rise of the study of religion—(1) those who see religion as a creative force that is important in the world today; (2) second type of scholars who, while being non-religious or irreligious, are still interested in the study of religion; (3) a third type of scholars who wish to remain solely at the level of scholarship without becoming involved in the religious or other concerns of the wider world; and (4) the fourth type of scholars who, engage in the wider study of religion as phenomenologist, historian, theologian, or whatever. From the perspectives of categorizing theories of religious studies, focusing on what religion is and does, the wide variety of theories here discussed in this paper and those not discussed, the current trend of religious movements, the diversified opinions of scholars about theories of religion indicate that there is a huge proliferation of religion and religious groups today. Thus it has been demonstrated in this paper that due to the plethora of opinions about what religion is and does, and the quest for man to satisfy his felt needs, spiritually, materially or otherwise, are the reasons for the proliferation of religions worldwide.