The study of religion as a scientific discipline : a comment on Luther Martin and Donald Wiebe's paper

Author: Seiwert, Hubert
Source document: Religio. 2012, vol. 20, iss. 1, pp. [27]-38
  • ISSN
    1210-3640 (print)
    2336-4475 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
The article discusses Donald Wiebe and Luther Martin's paper "Religious Studies as a Scientific Discipline: The Persistence of a Delusion". The central thesis of the two authors is that Religious Studies are not and probably can never be a "scientific" discipline. It is argued that the reasons given by the two authors to support their thesis are unconvincing and contradictory. Their suggestion that the study of religion should subscribe to an understanding of science that abandons the concept of agency and reduces human behaviour to "natural" causes is criticised on theoretical and methodological grounds. In fact, it is not possible to completely forsake hermeneutics and to study religion using the methods of the natural sciences because these methods do not allow us to identify religious behaviour. Therefore, the Study of Religion, of course, cannot be a discipline of the natural sciences. However, as a social science, the Study of Religion is no less possible than the social scientific study of any other subject.