Critique of Johnathan Z Smith

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First Reading Response
Whether analysed on a personal or public level, the subject of religion assumes a significant role within the 21st century. According to Malory Nye in his book Religion The Basics, “Religion is everywhere in today’s world…” (8) and involves everyone via world events such as “the war on terror, abortion clinic killings, Jonestown mass suicides…” (11). By simply reading the newspaper, or turning on the television, one is actively engaging with religion. However, Jonathan Z. Smith suggests that “Religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study. It is created for the scholar’s analytic purposes by his [or her] imaginative acts of comparison and generalization. Religion has no existence apart from the academy” (Smith 1982: xi). It is important to distinguish between two common uses of religion, one being as a category used by scholars to analyze aspects of different societies and two being the idea of religion which is publicized in the media and exposed to the general public. However, the term religion itself cannot be defined by one person and one view. Religion requires the knowledge and experiences of individuals in order to diversify the current culture and society. As highlighted by Nye, religion is used profusely by people all over the world, not only scholars; therefore, the study of religion cannot be limited to the interpretation of scholars because it primarily concerns people and their cultures (12). The 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center marked the involvement of almost every citizen of the world and soon enough religion became a phenomenon. The 9/11 terrorist attack initiated a movement for the current generation to separate the traditional view of religion and incorporate a modern and insightful approach to religion. Limiting the discussion of religion to scholars is illogical. Granted scholars such as anthropologists and sociologists can provide a refined history and factual evidence in regards to religion...
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