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Approaches to the Study of Religion

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Autor:   •  December 5, 2017  •  Essay  •  1,082 Words (5 Pages)  •  185 Views

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Debbie Cooper

Dr. Daily

Approaches to the Study of Religion

September 4, 2017

Religion, Past or Present?

With the approaches to the history of religion many scholars have attempted to define the progress of religion in terms of a “natural event” within the human past. Nongbri has studied this approach, found it lacking in certain areas of thought and has discovered that exploration into other dimensions of religion, especially significant historical instances and narratives are used to validate this modern theory of religion. Nongbri believes that all modern theories are related to ancient era. Is Nongbri right? Is religion a modern invention, term? Or does one revert back to the scholars and believe that it is a “natural event” within the human past?

Modern Terms

Nongbri addresses the core term in religion, what does religion in the modern era mean; in a way that will cover more than “I know it when I see it” (Nongbri). While investigating the term religion, Nongbri had to return to the past to understand what he was trying to find. One has to dig in the past to sometimes find the answers to the present or the future.  Nongbri contends that contemporary scholars define religions based upon human history and he finds that problematic. Nongbri’s less no-nonsense method to characterizations that he has explored, stating that “religion is anything that significantly resembles modern Protestant Christianity” vast (Nongbri).  His three points about the classification of religion in modern theories:

  • Religion is a private and individualized concept
  • It is predisposed refer to a genus of a range of world religions believed to be conveying some type of ultimate disquiet
  • In intellectual circles use of it as both portraying the authentic native interests of the culture and employing a non-native prototype to decipher a sensation is obscured.

These points used in religion in modern frameworks are valuable because it points to vast capability and present-day procedural concerns in academic writing.

        John Locke raised questions of such, who chooses what will constitutes what religion will eventually look like?  For what reasons? These are valid questions, ones that answers to will continually be answered in the future. These are questions that have fluid answers as the answers will be vastly different for each region, individual, etc.. and they will change depending upon the changing individuals and regions etc.. Classifying religion is not natural or neutral, but doing so is fully a result of political factors. Today religion is defined in experimental terms. In the twentieth  century religion was defined in philosophical and psychological terms. “With this portrayal of “the religions” as convictions, privately held by individuals, that constitute multiple valid paths to salvation, we have arrived at something like the modern, liberal concept of religion and the religions” (Nongbri).

        Nongbri is not suggesting that one abandon the term religion, he suggestion is that one use the term descriptively and rhetorically as it applies to one’s own standards. Use the term without taking into deliberation the ancient era concepts and their contrasts with others. Nongbri is not asking for a creation of a “new religion”, but rather a technique that fascinates inherited ritual.

Pushing Back

        Nongbri argues against the ideas brought forth by Wilfred Smith, Mary Beard, Daniel Boyarin, and Lewis Bernard. He states that Smith, Beard, ad Boyarin’s common ideas of the premature birth of the modern sense of religion was confusing, not an idea, an, Nongbri intended to create an ethnic map. With Bernard, Nongbri pushes back against the idea that Islam was the first self-recognized religion by focusing solely on the action of one Muslim. Nongbri also show how religion brings baggage with one into relationships. This baggage is expressed in how one practices in their beliefs which can blur relationships. Emotions, practices, and beliefs become entangled and can cause potential opposition in various ways.


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