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Theses on Method

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Chapter Summary

The conjunction "of" that joins the two nouns in the disciplinary ethnonym "History of Religions" is not neutral filler. Religion is that discourse whose defining characteristic is its desire to speak of things eternal and transcendent with an authority equally transcendent and eternal. History is that discourse which speaks of things temporal and terrestrial in a human and fallible voice, while staking its claim to authority on rigorous critical practice. History of religions is a discourse that resists and reverses the orientation of that discourse with which it concerns itself. Cultural relativism is predicated on the dubious, fetishistic construction of "cultures", as if they were stable and discrete groups of people defined by the stable and discrete values, symbols, and practices they share. Critical inquiry has become commonplace in other disciplines, but offends many students of religion, who denounce it as "reductionism".

Keywords: "History of Religions"; cultural relativism



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