Wittgenstein and Ascriptions of "Religion"

In Gorazd Andrejč & Daniel Weiss (eds.), Interpreting Interreligious Relations with Wittgenstein: Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies. Leiden, Netherlands: (forthcoming)
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Recent years have seen an increasing amount of studies of the history of the term “religion” and how it figures in conceptions of “the secular” and of cultural differences generally. A recurrent theme in these studies is that “religion” carries associations with Protestant Christianity and thus is not as universal a category as it might appear. The aim of this paper is to explore some resources in Wittgenstein’s philosophy to obtain greater clarity about the contexts of ascription of religion-status to various phenomena and thus to gain perspective on claims made by scholars who investigate the genealogy of the term. While there is good reason to be circumspect about uncritical use of the term “religion” (no less in philosophizing about religions or conducting interreligious dialogue), I argue that instead of abandoning the term or proffering a critical theory of religion, investigation of ascriptions of religion will help philosophers to perceive more clearly the social dynamics that have led to some- one or thing being called religious and thus avoid equivocations that could obstruct the ends of philosophical inquiry or dialogue.
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