The history of ‘religion’
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The history of ‘religion’ book
This chapter begins by acquainting ourselves with the history of the very concept ‘religion’, keeping in mind that knowing the history, development, and limitations of our tools may come in handy when we try to use them to name, organize, and move around within our worlds. Like all items of culture, words and the concepts they are thought to convey have a history; not only spelling and pronunciation but meanings and usages change over time and place. That many of the people a scholar might study certainly talk about their specifically religious beliefs and their religious institutions should be obvious to anyone. The English word ‘religion’ has equivalents in other modern languages, for example, in Germany the academic study of religion is known as Religionswissenschaft and in France it is known as les sciences religieuses. A quick comparison, therefore, reveals that languages influenced by Latin and, later, European cultures, possess something equivalent to the term ‘religion’.