Jonathan Z. Smith’s essay “Religion, Religions, Religious” is a foundational essay in the study of “religion” as a taxonomic category. The essay itself makes three interrelated arguments that situate religion in Western intellectual history and argue that “religion” is a term scholars define to suit their own intellectual purposes. Though the essay, and Smith’s work overall, have had a major influence in religious studies, that influence has not reached deeply into the study of American religious history. Using Smith’s essay as a guide, this essay offers a brief application of his arguments in “Religion, Religions, Religious” to American religious history and, specifically, to the category “evangelicalism.”
The publication of The Norton Anthology of World Religions and the subsequent massive free exam copy mailing campaign by W. W. Norton requires an explanation. Why does the field of religious studies need such an anthology? What has led us to the place where such an anthology even makes sense? This essay examines the explanations General Editor Jack Miles gives for why The Norton Anthology of World Religions arrived in faculty mailboxes all over the country in the spring of .