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date: 21 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Belief is a central shaping category in the study of religion. Owing to its continued scrutiny, belief is both an analytic device and a conceptual prism through which to assess changes in the study of religion. While it is difficult to write about ‘belief’ outside the category’s well-known critical interrogation, engagement with the complexities of lived religion shows ineluctably how belief takes numerous and multivalent shapes that point beyond such critiques. This chapter first describes some of the complexities of ‘belief’ as a concept in the study of religion, and it briefly considers three examples—New Age, Hindu, and Christian—to illustrate some of these complexities in context. A review of discussions in the history of the discipline highlights both the core of recent critiques that a focus on belief has obscured practice and recent possibilities for reassessing ‘belief.’ The chapter concludes by assessing recent related developments.

Keywords: belief, religion, spirituality, New Age, Hinduisim, Christianity

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