2. The Irony of Religion
Jesus and Addiction to Origins - Toward an Anthropocentric Study of Religion - Willi Braun
Willi Braun [+]
University of Alberta
Willi Braun is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of History and Classics and the Program in Religious Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada. He is the former President of the North American Association for the Study of Religion and also the past President of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies. Although a specialist in the writings and social formations of earliest Christianities in the Roman empire, his work also focuses on the methods and theories of the academic study of religion itself. He has published and presented his work widely and served as editor of a variety of books and journals, including his longtime role as editor of Method and Theory in the Study of Religion; most recently, he co-edited Reading J. Z. Smith: Interviews and Essay (Oxford, 2018).
Co-authored with William Arnal, this chapter further explores the basis for an anthropocentric study of religion by arguing that the category religion, as a framework for a non-theological, academic discipline is an ironic term inasmuch as it is most often defined precisely by its theological content (e.g., unique beliefs in the gods). The chapter therefore concludes that there is a futility in perpetual efforts to distinguish the study of religion from theology when theology is understood to set the terms in which the academic field operates.