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Explaining and Interpreting Religion

Essays on the Issue


Robert Segal

This collection of recent essays on the social scientific study of religion makes the fundamental claim that on the one hand social scientists cannot be facilely grouped into «explainers» rather than «interpreters» of religion and that on the other hand scholars of religious studies - religionists - cannot fend off the social scientific challenge by rejecting explanation for interpretation. Not only are the concepts of explanation and interpretation defined differently in different fields, but by most definitions of the terms religionists and social scientists alike both explain and interpret religion. An acute hiatus between religionists and social scientists remains, but it is over how, not whether, religion gets explained and interpreted.
Contents: This book of essays challenges the conventional view that social scientists «explain» religion and that, by contrast, scholars of religions studies - religionists -interpret it. Both groups turn out to explain and interpret religion alike.
OR: This book of essays demonstrates the disparate uses of the terms «explanation» and «interpretation» in the study of religion. It then considers the implications of those uses for the reconcilability of a social scientific approach to religion with a religionist one.