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"They Licked the Platter Clean": On the Co-Dependency of the Religious and The Secular

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

This paper argues that a methodological puzzle that stands in the way of those who critique the adequacy of a secularist perspective for studying religion is that the modern invention that goes by the name of secularism is the only means for imagining religion to exist as an item of discourse. Drawing on a variety of efforts to move beyond the limits of binary thinking—efforts that invariably function to reaffirm one or the other pole by imagining it to predate its partner—the paper concludes that, for those interested in talking about such things as religion, faith, spirit, belief, experience, etc., there is no beyond to secularism, for it constitutes the discursive conditions by means of which we in the modern world think religion into existence. us, the now common effort to critique the adequacy of secularism for studying religion not only presuppose the idea of the nation-state but reinforce and extend it as well.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies, 212 Manly Hall, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0264


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