The Invention of Religion: Rethinking Belief in Politics and History

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Derek R. Peterson, Darren R. Walhof
Rutgers University Press, 2002 - Religion - 221 pages

Is religion an obstacle to enlightenment? Popular and scholarly opinion says that it is. In a world gripped in a clash of civilizations, the virtues of tolerance, reason, and freedom seem to be under siege by religious absolutism. This collection of historical essays argues that the conventional wisdom on religion makes sense only as a strategy of intellectual and political control. The authors study how nationalists, state officials, missionaries and scholars in the West and in the colonized world defined and redefined the relationship between the political and the religious. Recasting and representing religious beliefs and practices, the authors show, was for modernizing elites a means of consolidating new political communities.

Part 1 of the book examines the political and scholarly stakes involved in defining Buddhism, African traditional religion, and fundamentalist Judaism as subjective and apolitical belief systems. Part 2 takes up the relationship between religious reform and nationalism, asking how the formalization of religious practices in the nineteenth century Ottoman Empire, Japan, and India helped define nationalist ideologies. Part 3 turns to religious exhibits in Turkey and the southern United States, exploring how pilgrims and tourists convert museum displays into objects of religious veneration.

By treating religion as a contested social space, this book brings philosophy, theology, history, and political science together to show how struggles over religious practices are bound up with colonial and national politics around the world.

 

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Contents

Rethinking Religion
3
Why Study Indian Buddhism?
19
Rethinking Religion
37
Intertextuality
59
Modernity Religion
79
Islam in Museums from
133
Ozark
156
World Religions and Secularization from
179
Selected References
209
About the Contributors
215
Copyright

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