The soul of religion

Kathryn Lofton’s Consuming Religion | Photo: Jonathan VanAntwerpen

“The idea of the study of religion was founded in a simple description of the religious not as something out there but as something in here, among us. When Durkheim said, ‘the idea of society is the soul of religion,’ he was speaking merely to the Aborigines that comprised his primary physical evidence. He was also asking us implicitly to name ours: to name our society by naming the soul that we thought guided it. We can divide the work of the humanities from that of theology, and we can imagine the study of religion is of them and not us. But then we may miss the very tools of our distinctions: the technologies by which we divide and hide, by which we commiserate and conjoin. If we are to understand what religion is, we must understand who we are in relation to it, in relation to what we define as our social life in this time we call secular.”

from Kathryn Lofton’s Consuming Religion



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Jonathan VanAntwerpen

Jonathan VanAntwerpen is a program director at the Henry Luce Foundation. Originally trained as a philosopher, he holds a Ph.D. in sociology from UC-Berkeley.