Sociology and Anthropology


This article queries the history of the study of religion, asking three sociological questions. First, I briefly visit the history of the definition of ‘religion’, to see what that tells us about the circumstances out of which the study of religion emerged. Second, I look at the changing organizational location of the study of religion, specifically as it has moved from churches to the academy. I shall ask such questions as: What has been the effect or influence of this changed location on the identities and loyalties of those doing the studying? How has this changed the questions such scholars ask? How have these new questions reflected religious change? And how, perhaps, have they changed religion merely by being posed? Third, I explore another set of questions that parallels this one, though from a cultural rather than from an organizational perspective: What has been the effect or influence of changed cultural identities and loyalties on the study of religion? How have these changed scholars’ questions? And what has been the relationship between these changed questions and religious change?

For brevity, the article focuses these questions on the definitional, organizational and cultural correlates of some of the major views of what is happening to religion at the end of the 20th century.

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Publication Title

Chaos – skandinavisk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studie

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The article was published in Danish, translated from English by Hans Raun Iversen and Ole Riis. This is the authors final version, as submitted, before copy-edting and translation.