Often repeated but little understood, the injunction to “take religion seriously” is as ubiquitous today as it is vague. As the phrase itself suggests, such a project is defined first and foremost by what it is not. It represents a reaction against a moment when religion was not “taken seriously” by historians, a moment when the dominance of Marxian approaches consigned religion to the status of an epiphenomenon whose truth lay outside itself—an expression of more fundamental social or economic forces. But beyond rejecting this form of demystification, what does it mean to “take religion seriously”? Does this entail an affirmation of the truth claims professed by the religious actors we study, or at least a “suspension of disbelief,” in the memorable words of Amy Hollywood?1 What political commitments, if any, are implied in the admonition to “take religion seriously,” and what role does it prescribe for religion in the presumptively secular public sphere? More vexing still is the question scholars of religion are now asking with increasing urgency: does the term “religion” in fact denote a coherent entity?2 Precisely what, in other words, are we being asked to “take seriously”?
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.