On How Religion Creates New Life-stories
The book will be essential assigned reading in university courses in development studies, anthropology, and missiology.
Chapter 2. The Resurgence of Religion
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THE RESURGENCE OF RELIGION
When I studied social anthropology at the University of Oslo at the end of the 1980s, little attention was paid to religion. A few of the students had a Christian background and had also, like me, grown up overseas and had encountered religion in a Southern context, and we became interested in religion and religious faith and practice relatively independently of our curriculum and teachers. The reigning perception seemed to be that religion was a phenomenon on its way out, of less and less importance for the modern, enlightened human being, except for a few villagers in the western, southern and northern parts of Norway. Religion was included among our subjects, but usually this was in the context of anthropology’s interest in rituals, rather than tied to any existential dimension.
This was not particular to the social anthropology circle in Oslo. Academic environments, not least those in the social science sphere, have often been quite liberal and secular, without much close contact with religious life. In addition, social anthropology and sociology from the 1960s–80s gave prominence to the secularization theory, namely that the role of religion in modern society was in steady decline. This coincided with the strong influence of Marxist theory in social science and other academic fields during the same period. Marx thought of people’s religiosity as a product of unjust and← 15 | 16 → degrading social conditions, and although Marx’s critique of religion was...
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