Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Vol 44, No 4 (2015)

When Is a Religion Like a Weed?: Some Thoughts on Why and How We Define Things

Nathan Rein
Issued Date: 15 Jan 2016


Caroline Schaffalitzky de Muckadell's 2014 article, "On Essentialism and Real Definitions of Religion," offers a comprehensive rationale for the use of real, essentialist definitions of religion in the field of religious studies. In this article, I examine her arguments and the proposed definition she supplies. I argue that a close reading of Schaffalitzky's piece, concentrating especially on the way she uses examples, helps to demonstrate that she and her anti-essentialist opponents view the field of religious studies in incommensurable ways. While Schaffalitzky views definitions as serving the analytical study of religion as an object, her opponents view definitions primarily rhetorically and seek to focus attention on the process of defining.

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DOI: 10.1558/bsor.v44i4.27760


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