Once we acknowledge that the invention of religion as a universal category and its subsequent critique by the forces of secularism took place under a certain Western provenance, why would we continue expanding the scope and reach of the world religion paradigm?
Challenging this simplistic conception of religion and its consequences lies at the core of the Critical Religion movement. Schaefer’s interview is an invitation to explore how we can do that most effectively. How do we translate critical insights that have significant real world implications into ideas that can easily be transmitted to students and the wider public?
Discussion starts with the entanglement of the concepts ‘religion’ and ‘secularism’, a brief discussion of the problems associated with the World Religions Paradigm, and then moves to the pedagogical merits and challenges of teaching ‘secularism/s’ within a World Religions model. We hope you enjoy this experiment!
In the latest #RSPpod from our friends in Australia, Dr Jack Tsonis gets fired up about the “Axial Age” as well as the difficulties the immediate post-PhD years.
Increased attention to religion by international governments and NGOs has not necessarily resulted in less problematic models of religion being used by these governments and groups.
A while back a few of us gathered for what became the first of a ‘successful’ bout of roundtables conducted by a cadre of ‘amazing people’ with differing and ‘unique’ opinions. In that first ‘test’ for the ones that would follow, six of us gathered together to discuss the ‘future of religious studies.’
“Pretty much unprepared for the sensory feast of a Santo Daime ritual, I was visually struck by the colourful ‘uniforms’ and brightly decorated ceremonial space. The strongly rhythmical and fervently sung ‘hymns’ also made an impact, as did the powerful smell and bitter taste of the religious sacrament which practitioners call ‘Daime’. A psychoactive beverage more commonly known as ‘ayahuasca’, the sacrament of Daime and its psychotropic effects further added to the intense sensory stimulation which abides as an enduring memory of my earliest encounter with Santo Daime.”
In this week’s podcast, We discussed some of the problems with the World Religion paradigm, most notably its colonial heritage and Christocentrism. Given its dominance in the public perception of “Religion”, however, can we as teachers get away from it? Is there a pedagogical approach which focusses on issues of power and domination, and challenges, rather than reinforces, outmoded common-sense categorisations? In other words, can “Religion 101” ever be more than a survey of “the World”s Faiths”, and if so, what do we replace it with?
There can’t be many listeners who haven’t come into contact with the “World Religions” paradigm, either through the podcast or in their own undergraduate studies. Although, C. P. Tiele defined “World Religions” as those which had spread outside of their original cultural context, today the term is taken to mean the “Big Five”. Yet despite the fact that this approach originated in the Victorian era under the influence of colonialism, it is still the dominant framework in pedagogical approaches to the study of religions.