Comparative Analysis is a tool to find out what you believe and why. It’s a structured form of comparative religious study. See how examining your core beliefs is the key to growth.
“You don’t understand the basic assumptions of your own culture, if your own culture is the only culture you know.” ― Alan Watts
Mr. Watts uses the term ‘assumptions of your own culture’ to tell us most people are not aware of their biases and prejudices because they are a part of the norm. (1) Our cultural narrative is invisible—most are not aware of the other worldviews available for comparison. Therefore, we make assumptions out of ignorance.
He points out one of the primary reasons for studying our assumptions and understanding what we believe and why. Understanding core beliefs helps us to see more clearly.
What is Comparative Religious Study
Comparing belief systems from different religions illuminates many truths and fictions. Because it can be an emotional roller-coaster, using a process with structure helps to keep you on track.
We champion the idea of combining the structure of the scientific approach with the philosophical investigation of our worldview. A systematic approach helps us minimize the interference of any preconceived judgments. Some people refer to Comparative Analysis as a core beliefs test because you are testing your paradigm with others.
This approach begins with investigating our assumptions, bias, and prejudice. We find out quickly how these can skew our thinking. So, as we unearth them, we must decide whether to keep or discard them. As the research progresses from topic to topic, it becomes easier to leave behind those judgements that are harmful. The less interference, the easier it becomes to make an honest appraisal of our worldview.
This exercise provides us with a core beliefs worksheet which documents what we used to believe and what changes we have made. It provides a clear picture of what we think and why by exposing the programming of our thinking.
So, Comparative Analysis helps us take off our cultural narrative’s blinders. This process gives us a way to research with the least harmful interference. Let’s see how this works.
To understand a culture, you need to compare it with another. Comparison expands our perspective on the subject. So, understanding assumptions requires knowledge of two or more cultural elements. Your observational perspective expands in proportion to the number of worldviews you understand.
Comparative Analysis = Comparative Religious Study
You start this journey to discover new information. We take on the challenge of exploring other ideas and beliefs. This process is not only an analytical exercise. This journey also involves an inward journey when we open our minds to different ideas and perspectives while providing a catalyst for our spiritual growth.
The benefits of this study include:
- Greater bandwidth of perspective
- Understanding of our assumptions
- Enhancing our critical thinking skills
How to Create A Core Beliefs Worksheet
Always set goals for your research. For instance, your objective might be to find and compare a specific symbol in different religions. However, it is also a good idea to be flexible. The symbolism may lead you to other interesting data. It’s not uncommon for solid research to uncover other things worth investigating. You can set the new data aside for another research project.
Comparative Analysis is a method with six steps that keeps us on track, and it uses the scientific model. However, you don’t have to be a scientist to use these six steps. It’s logical and straightforward.
The scientific method is a process for developing new knowledge and theories. It corrects errors in previous hypotheses. It’s a proven method that uses common sense, logic, and verifiable data to arrive at conclusions. This approach promotes a healthy skeptical mindset. It helps us in understanding the assumptions that we may hold.
Six Steps of Comparative Analysis Understanding Core Beliefs
1. Pick Topic
Pick a subject for comparison, and then list your assumptions about each. Seeing your opinions in writing will help you identify your preconceived ideas. After selecting a topic, find several different sources for your data comparison.
Start by listing the beliefs that are most important to you, this is your sacred ground.
2. Gather Data
Next, gather the data. If you can, go to the library. Then, find data from valid sources. Use books from authors outside the worldview you are researching. Sources from the paradigm you are exploring are likely to have a biased opinion. You want data you can verify with independent sources.
Take your list of sacred ground and start researching it with a variety of sources.
3. Record Facts
Now record the facts and ask yourself questions about what it could mean. Don’t develop conclusions. List all the possibilities and brainstorm to find new connections and conclusions. It may require more in-depth study within the religions you’ve selected or you may expand your research when you discover new data provides. Go where the data leads.
Be sure you record facts and not your opinion about the facts.
4. Form Initial Hypothesis
Form a hypothesis. Again, brainstorm on the implications of the verifiable data. What story does it tell? List all the possibilities. List the most probable and the least. Please don’t overlook the importance of this step, and it is a high predictor of validity.
What is possible is entirely different from very probable. For example, confidence that the sun will rise tomorrow is highly likely. It’s a conclusion based on all the previous days where the sun has risen. The probability that your imaginary friend, your God, actually exists is the least likely assumption.
5. Core Beliefs Test of the Initial Hypothesis
Time to test the various hypotheses. Ask yourself, does your hypothesis reflect the facts and the logic of the argument? What is most likely and least likely? Is the theory of an imaginary friend logical? What are the sources of the data? How many sources are you using? What does the data say?
Our example above with a higher power is an excellent place to start. What is more or least likely to be true? All the arguments used to prove the existence of one God apply to them all.
The same arguments for existence for Odin are the same for Jesus, or any other God. They both use historical documents and the number of people who believe in their stories as anecdotal proof, etc. By now, you can see why some call Comparative Analysis a core beliefs test. You will tread upon your sacred ground, perhaps you even dig a few holes in it as well.
This kind of analysis teaches us some fundamental truths about reality. So, it’s important to go slow and take emotional check in breaks regularly. We recommend stopping to assess your emotional equilibrium every 30 minutes.
When our eyes are open to the hypocrisy and contradictions of religion, it can be upsetting if you have your identity wrapped up in a mythology. We learn from this short example that if belief equaled fact, all gods would be real, and that really undermines the dictates of each religion which believes that theirs is the only correct God. You can see how this doesn’t make logical sense.
6. Develop Conclusions — The Core Beliefs Worksheet
The last step is developing your conclusions. What does the data support? What new questions does this raise? Do we need more data? Does this help in understanding assumptions I hold?
These six comparative analysis steps either confirm one or more hypotheses or prompt us to ask other questions. Remember, a skeptic is a Freethinker guided by common sense and logic. Don’t skip steps. Don’t rush to conclusions until you complete your due diligence.
While engaging in this process, be sure to stop every 15 to 20 minutes. Check your emotions. Emotional checks will help you do more accurate research with less emotional stress. If you are not familiar with this type of quality check, follow the link to learn more.
Believe it or not, this can be some intensive inner work. It is especially true if you deal with topics related to your own beliefs. So, please stop and assess your emotional equilibrium.
Write about what you believe and why. Then, ask yourself whether it makes sense. Here’s a core beliefs worksheet example:
- I believe in a God. Why? Because that was a part of our family culture, that’s what the Bible says. Does this belief make sense? We’ll not.
- I believe Aliens visit our planet, maybe even helped build some monuments like the pyramids on the Giza Plateau. Why? Because it’s hard to explain how primitive people built the pyramids without knowledge of the engineering techniques clear and heavy equipment. Does it make sense? I’m not sure, but I don’t see a better explanation. The core beliefs test shows me I should examine other options.
The Benefits of Comparative Analysis
Understanding Other Worldviews
Exploring the beliefs of a foreign system is more accessible than investigating our own. That’s because looking at other belief systems does not threaten our sacred ground. And so, this is the value of undertaking a comparative religious study. We learn to see our holy ground from a different perspective.
Gaining a new perspective is essential for any religious devotee. It will keep you from slipping into extremist views that are harmful to others. It isn’t a coincidence that people have the same religion as their parents. The strategy of most religions is to indoctrinate children early in life. So, they have no other narrative to compare it with their paradigm. They learn not to question our cultural folklore.
If you study only one religion, you are a customer for life. But, if you investigate more than one, you are less likely to become a believer of any. That is the power of knowledge. Knowledge of other systems helps us to understand our own.
Knowledge of several systems will open your eyes to the historical context, the similarities, and the contradictions. Understanding assumptions is a huge benefit. It will help you see ethnic, racial, and gender prejudices. It will help you become a freethinker in a world full of followers. The value of conducting a comparative religious study is to open your mind to other possibilities.
Safe Place Tread on Your Sacred Ground
The six steps of comparative analysis help view other belief systems without judgment. It helps us examine our sacred ground without emotional attachment. One of the main obstacles to spiritual exploration is our bias. Our ability to learn is directly proportional to our ability to embrace new ideas.
We all have a dominant cultural narrative. Religious beliefs often dominate our cultural folklore. These control the bandwidth of our ability to see the value of new ideas. This type of study enables us to discuss our closely held beliefs in safety.
We can explore ideas and beliefs outside our worldview. This type of study will give people practical experience understanding assumptions. It is easier to see the assumptions of others first. We can do this without emotional attachment. This perspective enables us to see our beliefs with more clarity.
It can help us unplug the emotional ties surrounding our own religious beliefs. It allows us to weigh them with common sense and logic and keeps our prejudices from holding back our progress.
Enhancing Critical Thinking
When you use a process like the six steps of Comparative Analysis, you enhance your logic and common sense. Understanding our minds is an extra benefit.
Tips to Conduct Independent Research
Pick a subject and then at least four different beliefs for comparison. Start with the chosen topic in your belief system. Then pick at least three from other belief systems.
For example, many people believe in a sect of the Abrahamic religions (2). These are the Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. If you are a believer in a branch of these religions, then pick three others.
Then pick at least one from Eastern-based traditions. Eastern religious traditions come from two main lines, India and Asia.
- The Indian line of traditions includes Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.
- The Asian group of religions includes Taoism, Shinto, Confucianism, and East Asia Buddhism.
Then, pick one belief system from the earlier roots of the Abrahamic tree.
- These are Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Assyrian mystery religions circa 1 BCE.
If you want to expand the comparison, pick one of the Pagan systems like Wicca. Then, finish with non-religious approaches to Atheism and Agnostic thought.
Some Things You’ll Likely Discover
First, the more studies you complete, the more you value understanding our assumptions. You will spot the assumptions as bias and prejudice. It will also make your preferences clear. Understanding core beliefs gives you the power to change those which you find to be harmful.
Second, the most successful rebranding effort is the Abrahamic traditions. These are the modern religions of Semitic origin, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, you won’t hear this from them unless to do some research. They are rebranding Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Assyrian mystery religions. One source of this data comes from their internal documents. The Catholic Encyclopedia from 1907 is one of the best resources to find information not meant for public consumption.
Admission of Pagan Origin
“Symbolism in a greater or lesser degree is essential to every kind of external worship, and we need not shrink from the conclusion that in the matter of baptisms and washings, of genuflection’s and other acts of reverence, of lights and sweet-smelling incense, of flowers and white vestitures, of spiritual unction’s and the imposing of hands, of sacrifice and the rite of the Communion banquet, the Church has borrowed without hesitation from the common stock of significant actions known to all periods and all nations. In such matters as these, Christianity claims no monopoly or originality.” ― The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 14 (1907).
Belief Systems, Gods and Religions for Study
Here are some examples of our favorites. It is not an exhaustive list, just examples: Aladura, Asatru, Bahā’ī Faith, Buddhism, Cao Dai, Chinese Religion, Christianity (5,000 + variations and growing), Confucianism, Druze, Eckankar, Epicureanism, Falun Gong, Gnosticism, Greco-Roman religion, Hare Krishna, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Judaism, Mayan religion, Mormonism, Mithraism, Nation of Islam, New Age, New Thought, Olmec Religion, Paganism, Rastafarianism, Scientology, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Shinto, Sikhism, Spiritualism, Taoism, Unification Church, Wicca, Witchcraft and Zoroastrianism.
Examples of Topics for Research
(1) Alan Watts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Watts
(2) Abrahamic Religions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions