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Religion as a Common Sense Category Public Deposited

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  • In the field of religious studies, it is common to separate meta theories about the concept of religion itself into two equally problematic categories that both make claims about the truth of religious doctrine. This is done by attempting to define religion by historically excluding non-Christian religious traditions from the category, ignoring cultural context and dismissing the ideas of actual religious practitioners. Inspired by the works of Wilfred Cantwell Smith and Johnathan Z. Smith, I suggest that epistemological questions of truth fall outside the realm of religious studies, which should be objectively concerned with the study of religions as they project themselves onto the world. Following this, the category of religion should be used only as a linguistic convenience, for legal purposes and the expedient delivery of information, whereby the contents of the category are determined in-the-moment by the speaker and receiver in their own unique context. Freed from the self-indulgent shackles of these fruitless mental exercises, scholars will then be able to study religions in a way that is: inclusive of religious individuals whose beliefs about religious truth are unaffected by the opinion of the researcher; more appropriately considers the cultural context behind the development of each specific religion; and is more sensitive to the historical biases that have plagued the discipline and contributed to the marginalization of many non-Judeo-Christian religions in the English-speaking academic community.
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  • Corvallis, Oregon, USA
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