RELIGIOUS STUDIES 200
WILLIAM ARNAL continued, BRUCE LINCOLN, RUSSELL MCCUTCHEON
Functionalist definitions can be too broad.
For Arnal, neither substantive or culturalist definitions are really not all that
serviceable. They all rely on us already knowing what religion is in the first place.
They do not describe, but just re-entrench what we already knew. If we didn't know
what religion was in the first place, these definitions would tell us anything.
We can treat religion as an arbitrary category of the scholar's invention, created for
its usefulness. (infamous J.Z.Smith quote)
The only reason we want to define religion in the first place is because it is so
important to some kinds of everyday discourse.
Divorcing our definitions from everyday life ignores why we want to explain it in the
Sometimes actual believers (emic) take up our definitions and read them back onto
Treat "religion" as a concept we need to explain, not as the way we can undertand
things we call religion.
HERMENEUTIC reading of the use of the word "religion"
- product of the enlightenment
- political tool to separate traditional powers legitimated by religion from the
"public sphere" in order to empower different people with different legitimacies for
every kind of definition reflects the will of the definer, to their context, and their
narrative that they're pushing. ie marx, freud, durkheim, or enlightenment thinkers
LOOK AT RELIGION AS A COMMON SENSE CATEGORY ONLY, AND EXAMINE HOW IT GETS USED, BY
WHOM, WHEN AND WHERE IT GETS USED, ETC.
Bruce Lincoln, Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Religions, University
of Chicago Divinity School.
Bruce Lincoln Thesis on Method
1. history of religion: history is the method, religion the object
2. religion is all about t