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A Challenge for the Academic Study of Religion: No Such Thing as ‘Sacred’ Cows, Right?

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Teaching religion in public education can benefit from the discourse in Religious Studies (RS) around the problem/problem of defining religion. This is nowhere truer than in community college (CC). However, the notion that the term ‘religion’ is of limited value (represented here as problem) is of not-much-use in CC due to religion’s perceptible nature. It is evident to citizens that there is ‘religion’, and while not-much-clear about it by way of RS definitions, it is an identifiable and operative category. I cite the incident of Frank Roque the “9/11 Revenge Killer” to show that there is such a category in the minds of the public and utilize Stark and Bainbridge’s A Theory of Religion to focus the discourse beyond the problem to the pedagogic and heuristic potentials of the problem for educators and ultimately citizens. The challenge for RS is to find ways for its analyses of religions to have a better effect in society. Otherwise, the category will be shaped by other forces as revealed in the words of the murderer regarding his Sikh victim, “I just viewed them all as just hateful Muslims.”

Affiliations: 1: Mesa Community College Mesa, Arizona


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1. bbc News 2001"us ‘Revenge Attacks’ Alarm India" 17 September
2. bbc News 2003"us 9/11 Revenge Killer Convicted" 1 October
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20. Wiebe Donald 2005"The Politics of Wishful Thinking? Disentangling the Role of the Scholar-Scientist from that of the Public Intellectual in the Modern Academic Study of Religion" TemenosVol 41 1 7 38

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