Sic et Non
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A Shinto jinja, or shrine, at sunset
This weekend’s bi-weekly Hamblin/Peterson Deseret News column is up:
Posted from St. George, Utah
Jonathan Z. Smith makes a very profound statement in his book,”Imagining Religion.” He argues that religion doesn’t really exist, it’s all only culture.
“While there is a staggering amount of data, phenomena, of human experiences and expressions that might be characterized in one culture or another, by one criterion or another, as religion — there is no data for religion. Religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study. It is created for the scholar’s analytic purposes by his imaginative acts of comparison and generalization. Religion has no existence apart from the academy.”
The First Amendment of ther US Constitution sdays that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” Clearly Congress and the state legislators who voted in favor of the Bill of Rights thought they knew what all of these words meant, including “religion”. The term “establishment of religion” referred to the official churches of several of the states, which were supported by special privileges from their states and in some cases state financial support. People in 1789 knew what a “religion” was.
Raymond wrote: “People in 1789 knew what a “religion” was.”
Actually, just like academics and legal scholars today, the people in 1789 would have been hard-pressed to provide an adequate definition of religion too.
Indeed, one of the points of the article is that people have always, and unfortunately will always, struggle to provide an all-encompassing definition of religion.
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