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A critique of "religion" as a cross-cultural category1

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

This article has three related purposes. One is to argue the inadequacy of the concept of religion as an analytical concept. I point to vagueness and imprecision in the use of the notion of religion in religious studies texts and I also refer to my own research in India and Japan to substantiate my claim that religion is virtually useless as a cross-cultural analytical concept. The second purpose is to suggest ways of representing and re-representing the extensive and important work which is being produced by scholars who work in religion departments. I also try to place my argument in a wider context of western ideology. I conclude that the confusion generated by the concept of religion cannot be explained only as a category mistake. Instead, it is better understood as a form of mystification generated by its disguised ideological function.

Affiliations: 1: Aichigakuin University, Japan


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