A century that began with modernism sweeping across Europe is ending with a resurgence of religious beliefs and practices throughout the world. Wherever one looks today, from headlines about political turmoil in the Middle East to pop music and videos, once cannot escape the pivotal role of religion in shaping selves, societies, and cultures. This book attempts to provide a revitalized, self-aware vocabulary with which this religious diversity can be accurately described and responsibly discussed. Scholars working in a variety of traditions demonstrate through their contributions that even our most basic terms for understanding religion are not neutral but carry specific historical and conceptual freight. Each of the essays in this text provides a concise history of a critical term, explores the issues raised by the term, and puts the term to use in an analysis of a religious work, practice, or event. The topics move across: Judaism; Christianity; Hinduism; Buddhism; Islam; and Native American and Mayan religions. Contributors explore terms ranging from experience, territory, and image, to God, sacrifice, and transgression.
Mark C. Taylor is professor of religion at Columbia University and is the founding editor of the Religion and Postmodernism series published by the University of Chicago Press. He is author of over two dozen books, including Last Works: Lessons in Leaving, Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left, and, most recently, Abiding Grace: Time, Modernity, and Death.