The Dwindling and Haunting Persistence of Ancient Religions

In: Religion and Theology
David Frankfurter Boston University Department of Religion USA Boston, MA

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Considering recent ‘Death of Religion’ literature, this essay concludes that ‘death’ is not a particularly helpful metaphor to describe historical changes in the area of religion. A human lifespan metaphor is inappropriate for understanding the transformation of religion on the ground. The question should rather center on the transformation of religion as a feature of real, historical cultures. This essay explores what this means for the study of transformations of religions in Late Antiquity by focusing on materiality of religion and the enduring agency of religious spaces. In the larger context of religious change in history, the ‘presences,’ the ghosts and powers, radiated by places – by temples and caves, hillsides and springs – should be given more prominence in this discussion of religious twilights and religious demise.

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