Rethinking the relationship between the study of religions, theology and religious concerns : a response to some aspects of Wiebe's and Martin's paper

Author: Bubík, Tomáš
Source document: Religio. 2012, vol. 20, iss. 1, pp. [43]-53
  • ISSN
    1210-3640 (print)
    2336-4475 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
This response deals with some aspects of Luther Martin and Donald Wiebe's paper "Religious Studies as a Scientific Discipline: The Persistence of a Delusion". The authors think that the human mind in general constantly tends towards religiousness and thus comprehensive scientific inquiry into religion is actually impossible. They argue that "such study is not ever likely to occur in that or any other setting" (p. 9). They also stress that they were deluded in the past and argue that especially (or only) the cognitive approach can help us to elucidate the proclivity towards religiousness. I partly agree with them, particularly that the promotion of "extra-scientific" agendas in Academia is questionable, but I do not see it as such a serious problem. The reduction of the biases to only "religious" agendas is mistaken. The history of the field is a history of diverse "extra-scientific" agendas which change in accordance with social development and prevailing political interests. I present the situation from a central and eastern European point of view. At the same time, I argue that many scientific fields deal with the same issue, even if not to such an extent. This is because religious studies, more than other disciplines, attracts scholars with a special inclination toward religion. I also argue that scholarly results are much more important than "personal" agendas. Also, the aspiration of religious studies as presented by Martin and Wiebe seems to me too idealistic, perhaps utopist and thus unrealizable.
  • The text is one of the outcomes of the international grant project "Development of the Study of Religions in Central and Eastern Europe in the 20th Century" (GACR P401/10/0311) financed by the Czech Science Foundation.