The Western Construction of Religion: Myths, Knowledge, and Ideology

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In this book, anthropologist and historian of religion Daniel Dubuisson contests Mircea Eliade's theory of the existence of a universal Homo Religiosus and argues that religion as a discrete concept is a Western construct, an invention of nineteenth-century scholars who created it as a field of scientific study. Before that time, there was little attempt to step outside religious experience and objectify it. In fact, the difference between secular and religious as understood in the West is meaningless in many non-Western cultures. While Dubuisson still regards the study of beliefs and belief-systems as legitimate, he argues that the word religion is too fraught with ideology and too Western in its associated meanings to be useful. Instead, he proposes the term cosmographic formation, which would speak to a more universal human response to the congeries of experience we call Being, the Sacred, or God. Challenging readers to examine notions of what religion is, this book is sure to generate disagreement and controversy. The Western Construction of Religion not only provides a critical assessment of the whole history of religion as it is understood in the West but also offers better ways of constructing the study of this central part of human experience.