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In defense of "the Religion school": A response to Anthony J. Blasi

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Anthony Blasi (1995) argues that many scholars of religious studies misconstrue the sociology of religion, if not the whole social scientific study of religion. So zealous are these scholars to reject an apologetical, nonreductive approach to religion that they fail to recognize an approach to religion that is nonreductive yet nonapologetical: the approach of interpretive sociology of religion, as represented by the symbolic interactionist school of sociology. The scholars Blasi most castigates are the members of what he labels "the Religion school of thought". Because he cites but two persons in his essay- Thomas Ryba and me - it is hard to see on what basis he claims that this school even exists. Two citations do not a school make. Moreover, the essay of mine which he cites never even appeared in Religion, and Ryba's essay, which did appear in Religion, is only a long, and by no means uncritical, review of a book of mine. I will, then, forgo discussing the four planks of the Religion school's credo that Blasi extricates from what is really Ryba's summary, not endorsement, of my own position. Instead, I will focus on the three kindred issues that Blasi discusses most fully: interpretation versus explanation, empirical versus nonempirical, and explaining versus explaining away.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies, Lancaster University


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