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date: 18 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers recent debates about the relevance of the academic study of religion. The question “Why study religion?’ opens onto a broad debate about the value of the liberal arts. Given claims that these seem not to have direct economic utility, it is useful to recall the three most common defenses of the study of religion as an example of the liberal arts: studying religion advances knowledge; it enriches individuals; and it improves society. This chapter first classifies and assesses these defenses. It concludes by proposing how we might refine the arguments by emphasizing that judgments about relevance always are made in particular contexts and for particular ends: scholars of religion might make those arguments more effective by acknowledging guiding values, considering local contexts, and recognizing multiple goods.

Keywords: humanities, liberal arts, religious studies, study of religion, universities

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