Religion today: Themes and issues
Religion today: Themes and issues

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Religion today: Themes and issues

1.6 Sources of authority

A very useful way of gaining insight into a religion and seeing how it works is to examine its sources of authority: for example, whether authority is vested in scriptures, in religious specialists, in tradition, in personal experience or a combination of these. Even in traditions where there is some agreement on what counts as an authoritative text, there are still contested issues of how that text is to be interpreted, by whom, with what degree of literalness and in what context. Similarly, even where traditions have authoritative leaders or revered lineages of teachers, personal inclinations, experiences and circumstances will temper individual behaviour. What counts as authoritative might change over time or in different settings, as in the case of Buddhism in the West or of Christianity under different political regimes, as, for example, in the contexts of Poland and East Germany.

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