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Can One Be a Critical Caretaker?

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There is a movement in the field of religious studies today which questions whether scholars of religion should have any interest in questions regarding the truth and value of religion. In this paper I critically examine the views of one of its leading figures, Russell T. McCutcheon, and argue that his views on the nature and study of religion are problematic in several key respects. Specifically, I argue that McCutcheon's basic methodological and theoretical claims are untenable, as is his well known distinction between "critics" and "caretakers" of religion. Having called into question McCutcheon's claim that being a critical scholar of religion is incompatible with being a "caretaker" of religion, I conclude with a brief reflection on his corollary claim that there are (or should be) "discursive constraints" on inquiry in public institutions of higher learning.

Affiliations: 1: University of Oregon, Department of Religious Studies, 1294 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1294


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