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date: 19 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Belief is not the same as religion, although the two words are often used as synonyms. Instead, beliefs may pertain to any aspect of how the world is known and understood and are the frameworks upon which we—in the past and in the present—make sense of our worlds. This chapter considers the nature of belief and its relationship to religion. It advocates the study of belief discourses and above all emphasizes that beliefs about death and the dead may be multiple and complex and will be contradictory. Contradiction and plurality is part of the way belief operates and should not be an invitation to sort out which is the single right interpretation, or to find ways of reconciling apparent incompatibilities. This theme is explored through a discussion of the treatment of the dead body in Scotland in the period between 1560 and 1850.

Keywords: belief, religion, post-medieval, Scotland, folklore, discourse

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