chapter  9
15 Pages

How Religion Works: Authenticity

For centuries, religious practitioners have claimed a special power or special authority for their own beliefs and practices by claiming that they have the real or authentic ones. The contrast between "authenticity" and its opposite lines up with all the other pairs of words that people use to distinguish what they think is real from what they think is false or illegitimate: right/wrong good/bad true/false real/fake orthodox/heretical. Authenticity rhetoric can do two different things. On one hand it can be used to award a special authority to one's own group; on the other hand, authenticity rhetoric can be used to distance oneself from others who claim to be like you, and maybe even claim authority over people. This chapter argues that the work of sorting out who is authentically a member of a group and who is not cannot be done from an academic perspective because essences do not make themselves available for scholarly study.