The Politics of Wishful Thinking? Disentangling the Role of the Scholar-Scientist from that of the Public Intellectual in the Modern Academic Study of Religion
AbstractAlthough religion may well have relevance for various social, political, economic, cultural, and other related issues in society, I will argue here that this does not oblige the academic student of religion to become engaged with those matters. Indeed, to do so - not as a citizen but as a member of the academic guild which has responsibility to the field/discipline of Religious Studies and the modern research university at large - is to fuse and therefore confuse advocacy and scholarship. The task of the student of religion, qua scientist, is to seek to understand and to explain religion and religions, not to create the good society. I attempt to show here that with the infiltration of the ideal of the student of religion as public intellectual - whether as religious critic, critic of religion, or member of a new secular clerisy - the scientific agenda of seeking disinterested knowledge about religion and religions has been, and continues to be, eroded if not displaced.
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