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Gustavo Benavides

Gustavo Benavides

Abstract

The extreme character of western modernity is the result of the interaction of two contradictory processes. On the one hand, the cultivation of interiority, reflexivity, and thus of subjective freedom, which antedates Christianity, and which is also found in other cultures, but which Christianity intensified by equating religion with 'faith.' On the other, the need to assert one's freedom against the attempts on the part of a church, which, while promoting the exploration of the sinful subjectivity of all Christians—understood primarily as believers—sought to control all of reality, external and internal. While the emergence of a reflexive, tolerant self has led many in the West to the abandonment of its traditional institutional religion, that same tolerant reflexivity renders difficult dealing with the demands of groups—Christian and non-Christian—that seek to abolish modernity.

Gustavo Benavides

Abstract

This paper offers a series of critical observations on the essays that emerged from the roundtable co-sponsored by the North American Association for the Study of Religion and the Critical Theory and Discourses in Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion. Rather than simply responding to each paper, the essay takes these essays to provide a small but suggestive window into the work of theoretically-minded scholars of religion.

Gustavo Benavides

Abstract

Research on the emergence of the configuration known as “religion” requires tracing the articulation among biological, psychological and social processes. This research must take into account evolutionary approaches; first, in terms of hominid evolution, for it is only by taking into consideration work on symbolization, language development, the capacity to engage in metacognition and cooperation, the tendency to form hierarchies, engage in violence, sexual differentiation, and related topics, that one can hope to trace the emergence of certain relatively stable features of human behavior. But since symbolization and the other capacities mentioned above are exercised in specific social circumstances—which themselves could not have come into existence were it not for the exercise of those capacities—it is essential to consider social evolution, especially insofar as this evolution leads to the appearance of stratified societies and to the kind of labor that prevails in them.