Religion is sociologically interesting not because, as vulgar positivism would have it, it describes the social order (which, insofar as it does, it does not only very obliquely but very incompletely), but because, like environment, political wealth, jural obligation, personal affection, and a sense of beauty, it shapes it. Clifford Geertz, “Religion as a Cultural System” Religion is more complicated than it sometimes seems. Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, October 9, 2010 The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies comes at a critical and challenging time for the academic study of religion in the United States and around the world. The field of religious studies is at a crossroads, having embarked for the past two decades on a fundamental reexamination of its most basic ideas and terms, while the world at large has awakened to the enduring public salience of religion and to religion's importance to the everyday lives of much of the planet's population. Recent political events have given an anxious edge to this curiosity about religion, but religious conflict and violence, important and compelling as these are as subjects, do not exhaust the place of religion in the contemporary world, nor do they account completely for the intensified academic interest in the study of religion across the humanities and social sciences. Rather, people of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have turned out to be not nearly as disenchanted as earlier generations of thinkers about religion had predicted – just the opposite, in fact. The secular and the sacred are braided together today, sometimes in novel configurations and in unexpected places, and there are those who suggest that we have never been modern, never completely disenchanted. This has invited renewed attention to what religion is and what religion does to and for individuals and communities, social movements, global and national economies, and to the politics of nation-states and the relations between them.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities(all)