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date: 14 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter operates with a notion of ‘theory’ as an interconnected set of ideas or statements expressed in language that frames cognitive claims about some phenomenon. The distinction between data and theory is best conceived of in a relative sense: there is no qualitative abyss separating data and theory. The focus of this chapter is one segment of theory in the study of religion, namely theories of religion, i.e. theories that seek to account for religion by addressing the following set of questions: What kind of subject matter does religion constitute? What is the structure of religion? What is distinctive/specific about religion? What are the origins of religion? What are the effects, functions, or products of religion? There is unlikely to ever be a completely satisfying theory of religion. But ‘theory of religion’ can remain a regulative idea for the study of religion as a discipline.

Keywords: distinctiveness of religion, function of religion, metatheory, ontology of religion, origin of religion, religion, structure of religion, theories of religion

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