Department of Comparative Religion

General Characteristics of the Department

The department’s main mission is to do research into world religions and mythologies. Its explorations are independent of any worldview or religion. Comparative Religious Studies takes religion as an object of study and therefore makes no evaluative comments on it. As an academic discipline, it attempts to understand and explain people’s religious behaviour and thinking in different cultural and historical contexts. The department also trains students in the critical study of religions.

History of the Department

The Department of Comparative Religious Studies at the Faculty of Arts is a relatively new department. Its history is short mainly due to the fact that the overall socio-political climate in Slovakia in the past did not favour the independent scholarly study of religions. Neither the 19th century, when religious studies established themselves internationally, nor the first half of the 20th century created suitable conditions for the development of the discipline. A strongly Catholic and conservative environment did not simply provide room for independent and critical study of religions. In the second half of the 20th century the situation was reversed, yet it made no difference. The atheization of society and dismissal of religion as a decadent phenomenon did not allow for pursuit of an academic discipline whose primary goal was to study religion independently. Nevertheless, this period brought the emergence of the first Slovak scholars who attempted such an approach. One of them was Rudolf Macúch, who was forced to emigrate and later became a recognized expert in Iranian Mandaeism. Another scholar, Ján Komorovský, who had constituted the discipline of religious studies in seclusion, was excluded from academic life first in the 1950s and later in the 1970s.

It was only the revolutionary events of 1989 that prepared the way for Prof. J. Komorovský’s return. In 1990 he started teaching courses in religious studies and in 1992 he constituted Religious Studies as an independent academic discipline and obtained accreditation for study programmes at all levels. In terms of internal structure, Religious Studies formed a section within the Department of Ethnology and later the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology. Their roughly 10-year-long co-existence was based on mutually beneficial collaboration and support. After Prof. J. Komorovský retired, the charge of the department was handed over to his disciple, Mr. M. Kováč, who succeeded in bringing to completion efforts stretching over nearly two decades to establish an independent Department of Comparative Religious Studies.