The Sacred Is the Profane: The Political Nature of "Religion"

Overview

The Sacred Is the Profane collects nine essays written over several years by William Arnal and Russell T. McCutcheon that share a convergent perspective: not simply that both the category and concept "religion" is a construct, something that we cannot assume to be "natural" or universal, but also that the ability to think and act "religiously" is, quite specifically, a modern, political category in its origins and effects, the mere by-product of the modern state.

These collected...

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Overview

The Sacred Is the Profane collects nine essays written over several years by William Arnal and Russell T. McCutcheon that share a convergent perspective: not simply that both the category and concept "religion" is a construct, something that we cannot assume to be "natural" or universal, but also that the ability to think and act "religiously" is, quite specifically, a modern, political category in its origins and effects, the mere by-product of the modern state.

These collected essays, substantially rewritten for this volume, advance current scholarly debates on secularism-debates which, the authors argue, insufficiently theorize the sacred/secular, church/state, and private/public binaries by presupposing religion (often under the guise of such terms as "religiosity," "faith," or "spirituality") to historically precede the nation-state. The essays return, again and again, to the question of what "religion"—word and concept—accomplishes, now, for those who employ it, whether at the popular, political, or scholarly level. The focus here for two writers from seemingly different fields is on the efficacy, costs, and the tactical work carried out by dividing the world between religious and political, church and state, sacred and profane.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This hard-hitting collection overturns common ideas about religion. Arnal and McCutcheon argue that 'religion' has no independent existence but is rather the unstable creation of political and economic forces. These two prominent critical theorists call for far-reaching reform of the study of religious traditions so that the concepts of nation-state, citizenship, and secularism can be productively transformed. Their compelling work will have profound effect on both specialists and general readers."—Naomi Goldenberg, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Ottawa
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199757121
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/29/2012
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

William E. Arnal is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Regina.

Russell T. McCutcheon is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama.

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Table of Contents

Sources
Introduction: On the Persistence of Imagining Religion
Chapter One: On the Definition of Religion
Chapter Two: Words, Words, Wordbooks, Or Everything Old is New Again
Chapter Three: Contemporary Reinventions of Religion: Disney and the Academy
Chapter Four: ''Just Follow the Money'': The Cold War, the Humanistic Study of Religion, and the Fallacy of Insufficient Cynicism
Chapter Five: Will Your Cognitive Anchor Hold in the Storms of Culture?
Chapter Six: Maps of Nothing in Particular: Religion as a Cross-Cultural Taxon?
Chapter Seven: ''They Licked the Platter Clean'': On the Co-Dependency of the Religious and the Secular
Chapter Eight: The Origins of Christianity Within, and Without, ''Religion'': An Exploration and Application
Afterword
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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