Niels Reeh

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 1995). 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.

Niels Reeh

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.