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Religion Enters the Academy

Religion Enters the Academy: The Origins of the Scholarly Study of Religion in America

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  • Book Info
    Religion Enters the Academy
    Book Description:

    Religious studies-also known as comparative religion or history of religions-emerged as a field of study in colleges and universities on both sides of the Atlantic during the late nineteenth century. In Europe, as previous historians have demonstrated, the discipline grew from long-established traditions of university-based philological scholarship. But in the United States, James Turner argues, religious studies developed outside the academy. Until about 1820, Turner contends, even learned Americans showed little interest in non-European religions-a subject that had fascinated their counterparts in Europe since the end of the seventeenth century. Growing concerns about the status of Christianity generated American interest in comparing it to other great religions, and the resulting writings eventually produced the academic discipline of religious studies in U.S. universities. Fostered especially by learned Protestant ministers, this new discipline focused on canonical texts-the "bibles"-of other great world religions. This rather narrow approach provoked the philosopher and psychologist William James to challenge academic religious studies in 1902 with his celebrated and groundbreaking Varieties of Religious Experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3966-5
    Subjects: Education, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)

    The material in these chapters was originally presented as the 2010 George H. Shriver Lectures: Religion in American History at Stetson University, February 9–10, 2010. The Shriver Lectures were established by Dr. George Shriver, an alumnus of Stetson University and professor of history emeritus at Georgia Southern University. After receiving a bachelor of arts degree in both history and English at Stetson, Dr. Shriver later earned a doctor of philosophy degree in religious historical studies from Duke University. A noted scholar both in and out of the classroom, Dr. Shriver won several teaching awards during his career and is...

    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Dog That Didn’t Bark: The Study of Religions in America to circa 1820
    (pp. 1-31)

    No one would recoil in shock if, while scrolling through a university’s Web site, she found a department of religious studies. The religion department routinely steps up to the plate in the batting order of the humanities today. The academic study of religion first appeared in American higher education during the same formative period as the other modern humanistic disciplines; that is, the latter half of the nineteenth century.¹ Religious studies got into the game a little later than history and literature but about the same time as art history and anthropology. (Cultural and social anthropology today usually get grouped...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Comparing Religions in an Age of Uncertainty, circa 1820 to 1875
    (pp. 32-55)

    By the 1820s Americans had accessible many more particulars about non-European religions; they also then discovered specifically Christian reasons to care about them, going beyond generalized Enlightenment curiosity about other cultures. Broadly speaking, an unpredictable new factor—unpredictable when Hannah Adams first published—led eventually to the creation in America of an academic discipline dedicated to studying all religions. This wild card was the self-conscious development in the United States (as elsewhere) of an increasingly liberal version of Protestant theology. This heterodox theology provided the matrix for a surge of interest in those non-European religions that shared with Christianity both...

  7. CHAPTER THREE William James Redraws the Map
    (pp. 56-82)

    In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, a new humanistic discipline devoted to the study of religion took shape in the United States. To be sure, the academic discipline did not stem a continuing current of popular interest, on which drifted a motley flotilla of old-fashioned, unscholarly texts.¹ And while the university set a more professional standard, it could not agree on a name for the new studies. Many of the first scholars in this new discipline called their field ‘history of religions.’ ‘Science of religion’ also enjoyed some currency. In the course of the twentieth century, ‘science of...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 83-108)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 109-114)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 115-115)