Religion in 50 Words : A Critical Vocabulary book cover
1st Edition

Religion in 50 Words
A Critical Vocabulary

ISBN 9780367690472
Published September 16, 2021 by Routledge
332 Pages

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Book Description

Religion in 50 Words: A Critical Vocabulary is the first of a two-volume work that seeks to transform the study of religion by offering a radically critical perspective. It does so by providing a succinct and critical examination of the key words used in the modern study of religion. Arranged alphabetically, the book explores the historic roots, varied uses, and current significance and utility of the technical terms used within the current field of religious studies. These are the terms that both students and scholars routinely deploy to think about, describe, and analyze data—sometimes without realizing that they are themselves technical tools in need of attention.

Among the topics covered:

  • Belief
  • Critical
  • Culture
  • Definition
  • Environment
  • Gender
  • Ideology
  • Lived religion
  • Material religion
  • Orthodoxy
  • Politics
  • Race
  • Sacred/profane
  • Secular
  • Theory

This book submits all of its terms to a critical interrogation and subsequent re-description, thereby allowing a collective reframing of the field. This volume is an indispensable resource for students and academics working in religious studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A User’s Guide

1. Affect

2. Authenticity

3. Authority

4. Belief

5. Canon

6. Classification

7. Cognition

8. Comparison

9. Critical

10. Culture

11. Definition

12. Description

13. Diaspora

14. Environment

15. Essence

16. Experience

17. Explanation

18. Faith

19. Function

20. Gender

21. History

22. Identity

23. Ideology

24. Indigeneity

25. Interpretation

26. Law

27. Lived Religion

28. Material Religion

29. Method

30. Methodological Agnosticism

31. Origin

32. Orthodoxy

33. Phenomenology

34. Pluralism

35. Politics

36. Power

37. Practice

38. Primitive

39. Race

40. Redescription

41. Religion

42. Religious Literacy

43. Sacred/Profane

44. Secular

45. Society

46. Status

47. Text

48. Theory

49. World Religions

50. Worldview

Appendix: A Word on Etymologies


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Aaron W. Hughes is the Philip S. Bernstein Professor in the Department of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester, USA.

Russell T. McCutcheon is University Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, USA.


"Covering an essential set of concepts, Religion in 50 Words offers vital grounding for the study of religion—helping readers to understand what we often overlook: how we secure and what we mean by the words we use when studying religion. They name and tackle the fundamental question: what do words have to do with the study of religion? I highly recommend this book." Anthony B. Pinn, Rice University, USA

"This substantive and singular guide describes and analyzes the embedded and extended meanings of the categories and terms used in the contemporary study of religion. Written in an informative rather than normative tone, it will help students of religion clarify our thinking and say what we mean." William Scott Green, University of Miami, USA

"A scholar is only as good as her tools, and with this volume Hughes and McCutcheon have provided scholars of religion with a metaphorical whetstone on which they can sharpen their most important tools: their concepts. In each of these fifty chapters, Hughes and McCutcheon outline the contours of the fault lines in the field, show how different scholarly approaches utilize broadly shared concepts but often for competing purposes, and evaluate the relative merits of rival approaches. This volume will be of interest to both seasoned scholars and students new to the field looking for a survey of our field’s contested vocabulary." Craig Martin, St. Thomas Aquinas College, USA

"Religion in 50 Words is not just another collection of useful (or useless) words for studying religion. It is a masterful introduction to the critical use of terms in the academic study of religion. Written by two of the most qualified scholars to undertake such an endeavour, this volume opens up the interdisciplinary 'field' that is the study of religion." Kocku von Stuckrad, University of Groningen, The Netherlands