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Enemy Brothers: Gary Lease and the Scholarship of Religion

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Author: Nathan Rein1
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  • 1 Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Ursinus College
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Abstract

Gary Lease, a controversial figure in the study of religion, was best known throughout his long career for his uncompromising antipathy towards theologically and phenomenologically-oriented approaches to the field. Lease developed his analytic perspective on religion around a set of broad, global assumptions about human nature, the mind, and society. These assumptions lie at the root of those provocative positions which have come to characterize Lease's work. This paper argues that those assumptions, which center primarily on his understanding of human thought as sharply and inescapably limited by biological, cognitive, and historical constraints, form the basis for a distinctive and robust framework for the study of religion. This framework posits, among other things, a fundamentally agonistic relationship between the religion and the study of religion.

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