East African Religious Pluralism

An Urban Coastal Case Study

In: Journal of Religion in Africa
Blair Alan Gadsby Adjunct Faculty Religious Studies Modern Languages and Humanities Division, Chandler-Gilbert Community College Chandler, AZ USA

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For many recent generations the city of Mombasa, Kenya, on the east African coast (pop. 1.2 million) has been a cosmopolitan racial-cultural-religious milieu of the African, Arab, Indian-Asian, and European. The purpose of this paper is to clarify religious pluralism (r/p) in this urban context to see if there are any instructions to be drawn for the academic understanding of religion in keeping with the methodologies of Religious Studies (RS). Especially of interest here is the effectiveness of the sociological theory of religion developed in the 1987 book A Theory of Religion (ATOR) by Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge to (de)problematize religious behaviour as distinct from political behaviour, which too often become confused and misappropriated as causes. In addition, ATOR provides the terminology for a more critical theory of religion whereby the state’s involvement can be accounted for by examining its use of the cultural means of coercion, thereby clearing the way for a typology of east African r/p to emerge.

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