Vocabulary for the Study of Religion

Get access Subject: Religious Studies
Edited by: Robert A. Segal & Kocku von Stuckrad.

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The Vocabulary for the Study of Religion offers a unique overview of critical terms in the study of religion(s). This first dictionary in English covers a broad spectrum of theoretical topics used in the academic study of religion, including those from adjacent disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, historiography, theology, philology, literary studies, psychology, philosophy, cultural studies, and political sciences.

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(2,635 words)

Author(s): Anders Klostergaard Petersen
Abstract: Despite its absence from the stock vocabulary of the study of religion, polemics is a key phenomenon in the study of religion. Although an intrinsic connection exists between polemics and t…

Politics / Political Science and Religion

(3,625 words)

Author(s): Jeffrey Haynes
Abstract: It was once taken for granted that modernization would lead inevitably to religious privatization and to secularization. It was also thought inevitable that over time the political importan…
Date: 2014-09-16


(3,545 words)

Author(s): David Penchansky
Abstract: Polytheism, the belief that multiple supernatural powers exert their influence on the human and natural world, must be understood in relationship to its opposite, monotheism. Many have clai…

Popular religion

(3,024 words)

Author(s): Stephen Sharot
Abstract: The meanings attributed to “popular religion” vary according to the point of contrast (the “non-popular religion”) with which it is compared. It has been understood as the religion of peopl…


(3,772 words)

Author(s): Paul Christopher Johnson
Abstract: Few issues were more central to the history of anthropology, or the study of religion more broadly, than the ungainly catch-all “spirit possession,” a phrase that long ago became second nat…


(2,504 words)

Author(s): Colin Campbell
Abstract: The term “postmodernism” originally referred to a specific form of architecture but has long since come to refer to a set of philosophical positions as well as to the most recent period in …
Date: 2014-09-16


(3,369 words)

Author(s): John Veit-Wilson
Abstract: People are said to be in poverty when they live below what their society recognizes as a decent minimum. This inherently social judgment can never be absolute but is always relative to the …


(4,329 words)

Author(s): Göran Larsson
Abstract: This entry deals with the elusive, complex and vague term “power.” Even though a notion of power is often linked to both popular and academic discussions concerning religion and theology — …


(3,887 words)

Author(s): Thomas Oberlies
Abstract: Prayer is one of the typically religious forms of communication. With prayer, a person turns to the gods and other “supernatural” beings. In conformity with the emphatically asymmetrical re…


(1,300 words)

Author(s): Jesse Couenhoven
Abstract: Doctrines of predestination might appear to be fatalistic or to implicate God in evil. However, predestinarians are not helpless against these charges. Their belief that God is the ultimate…
Date: 2014-09-16


(2,900 words)

Author(s): Werner Bergmann
Abstract: This entry presents a short overview of the main theoretical approaches to prejudice, followed by five aspects of the relationship between prejudice and religion: the influence of differing…
Date: 2014-09-16

Priest / Priestess

(2,475 words)

Author(s): Michael Hundley
Abstract: “Priest” is an important term in religious discourse that, like many others, lacks a clearly agreed upon definition.  This entry addresses the term’s context-specific variability, evident e…

Primal religions

(3 words)

Indigenous Religions

Private and Public Religion

(2,989 words)

Author(s): Siobhan Chandler
Abstract: In the sociology of religion the terms public and private religion refer to the shift in religion from the public sphere to the private one. The cause is modernization. Since the Enlightenm…
Date: 2014-09-16


(3,822 words)

Author(s): Graeme Hodge
Abstract: Privatization covers a wide range of activities. This entry considers four crucial themes: the sale of enterprises (famous through Margaret Thatcher’s sales program in the United Kingdom), …

Profane / Profanation

(7 words)

 Sacred (the); Sacred and Profane


(1,676 words)

Author(s): Jan J. Boersema
Abstract: Progress is one of the core ideas of Western thought. Some hold it a modern invention, notably of the Enlightenment period, but the seeds of this idea were sown by philosophers of classical…


(3,401 words)

Author(s): Stephen Thornton
Abstract: The projection theory of religion focuses on the notion of a personal God and the attributes in terms of which a personal God is to be conceptualized; the problematic relates to the anthrop…
Date: 2014-09-16


(2,831 words)

Author(s): Graham Oppy
Abstract: Debate between realists and nominalists about the nature and existence of universals was all the rage in the late medieval period. Subsequent centuries saw the terms of this debate expanded…
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