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In: Testing Pluralism
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Abstract

The article attempts to show that the modern notion of ‘religion’ is a construction that emerged in the context of inter-religious encounters following the fall of Constantinople and especially in the years around the Reformation. Hereby, the article argues that the modern notion of ‘religion’ emerged earlier than found by most previous studies, and that it was used in the legislation of the new Protestant states as well as in the modern (Westphalian) state-system, both of which it has been a part of ever since. The notion of ‘religion’ is, thus, not a scholarly invention (J.Z. Smith) or tied to colonialism (Timothy Fitzgerald) but rather a product of complex historical processes in which religious conflicts and the attempt to overcome these played a key role.

In: Journal of Religion in Europe
In: Testing Pluralism
In: Holy Nations and Global Identities
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Abstract

The article departs from the finding that religious texts and actors relate to other religions as for instance The Old Testament relates to Canaanites, the New Testament to Jews, Pagans etc. A consequence of this inter-relatedness of religion is that religion can be studied as a relational phenomenon and that religions are engaged in a more or less intense struggle against other competing religions. Further, using John Searle’s notion of collective subjectivity, the article posits that religions are in fact an example of such collective subjectivity (Searle ). In this perspective, a religion can be defined and studied as the result of complex set of dynamic relations, where a central tenet of a religion is that it relates to the significant religious other. As such religion is not a stable phenomenon but embedded in a dynamic historical process, which can explain the difficulties scholars have had in defining religion.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
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Abstract

This article argues that the problems that comparative religion encountered in the 1980s and onward did not arise from the comparative project as such, but rather from the fact that comparative religion was founded on an analytical strategy that relied on defining religion. In order to overcome these problems and critique of Jonathan Z. Smith, Talal Asad and others, it is proposed that the comparative study of religion could be re-established on the basis of a different analytical strategy and more specifically on the basis of a relational perspective, in which the crucial point of departure is the finding that religions in many periods and cultural settings seem to constitute themselves in relation to at least one significant other religion. In periods and cultural settings, where religions relate to each other, we do in fact have a commonality between all religions, namely the inter-religious relation. This relation can ensure that we are not comparing things that have nothing in common. If the inter-religious relation is the point of departure, the comparative study of religion can be transformed in such a way that it is not overturned by the social constructionism or post-modernism of J. Z. Smith, Talal Asad and others.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
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Abstract

The article firstly presents a modified version of a relational theoretical approach to the study of religions that can also be useful in the analysis of dynamic relations between religions and nonreligions. Nonreligious groups can be studied as relational collective groups that define themselves vis-à-vis other religious groups. Following this, the article suggests that scholars should take this relation between religions and nonreligions much further into consideration. Religious and nonreligious groups define themselves in a relation to what they perceive to be their most immediate competitors. Thus, the article posits that there is a social field of groups that relate and react to the other, and since we by convention know some of these groups as religions and nonreligions, we can study the set of interrelated groups as a social reality without the need of a definition. Instead of defining “religion” and “nonreligion,” the analysis can depart from the relation between the groups or the fact that both religions and nonreligions relate to and constitute themselves vis-à-vis other religions. In the last part, the article analyzes a piece of rare empirical evidence, namely, the founding event of a nonreligious group (i.e., the Danish Humanist Society). Here, the article shows how the Danish Humanist Society combined meaning and strategy in its relational struggle against its significant religious other, the Danish National Church.

In: Numen