The future of the past : the history of religions and cognitive historiography

Source document: Religio. 2012, vol. 20, iss. 2, pp. [155]-171
  • ISSN
    1210-3640 (print)
    2336-4475 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
The proposal for a scientific study of religions (Religionswissenschaft) was born of the scientific impulse that swept Europe from the mid-nineteenth century and that gave birth to the study of history itself as a scientific and autonomous discipline. Increasingly, however, historians of religion abandoned historical methods altogether and the study of religion became associated with an a historical approach in which "history of religions" became a synonym for assembling a phenomenological corpus of truncated and decontextualized cultural data, the temporality of which was disregarded in favor of claims to their being manifestations of a sui generis sacrality. A history of religions, informed by the insights of the new cognitive sciences, can draw upon well-founded theory that can supplement and provide correctives to traditional historiographical tools. Nevertheless, the weight of the 150 history of the study of religion suggests that the future of the study of religion will inevitably differ little from that of its past.