Theorizing Religion in Antiquity - Nickolas P. Roubekas

Theorizing Religion in Antiquity - Nickolas P. Roubekas

4. Imagining Religion in Antiquity: A How To

Theorizing Religion in Antiquity - Nickolas P. Roubekas

Kevin Schilbrack [+-]
Appalachian State University
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Kevin Schilbrack is Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at the Appalachian State University, USA. He previously taught at Florida International University, Wesleyan College, and Western Carolina University. He is the author of Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014) and of various articles on philosophy and the study of religion. He is the editor of Thinking Through Rituals: Philosophical Perspectives (Routledge, 2004), Thinking Through Myths: Philosophical Perspectives (Routledge, 2002), and The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religious Diversity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017).


J. Z. Smith raised the idea that religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s imagination in his widely read book, Imagining Religion (1982). Since the publication of that book, there has been a healthy growth of reflexivity in the study of religions, and many scholars have followed Smith’s call for more attention to the ways that the word “religion” is a product of modern European interests. This raises questions about the appropriateness of classifying other cultures with concepts they did not know. Is it appropriate to apply “religion,” anachronistically, to historical times and places when the concepts was not used? Arguments against imagining religion often raise interesting philosophical questions about the relationship between words and objects, the difference between classification in the natural sciences and the human sciences, and even about realism in general. In this paper, I defend the use of practice by raising and responding to three philosophically-informed reasons why scholars ought not use them, and by distinguishing two ways to read Smith’s famous proposal.

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Schilbrack, Kevin. 4. Imagining Religion in Antiquity: A How To. Theorizing Religion in Antiquity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 59-78 May 2019. ISBN 9781781793572. Date accessed: 24 Jul 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.27964. May 2019

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