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"It's a Lie. There's No Truth in It! It's a Sin!": On the Limits of the Humanistic Study of Religion and the Costs of Saving Others from Themselves
Abstract

Juxtaposing two recent texts that each address the scholar's role when it comes to issues of difference, this essay investigates how members of our field's dominant liberal humanistic tradition address potentially competing systems of representation. After comparing the recent work of Robert Orsi with that of Paul Courtright, the essay concludes that, when it comes to those Others whose differences can easily be tolerated or overlooked with little or no cost, scholars in this tradition deploy a different sets of tools than when their work focuses on Others for whom they feel little affinity and whose interests conflict with their own. Failing to understand all scholarship as necessarily involved in acts of translation and redescription—acts that are all equally removed from some posited authentic source—the essay ends by suggesting that we risk the future of our field when we employ different methods for different people, all based on the degree of our personal identification with our subject matter.



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