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ThingsReligion and the Question of Materiality$
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Dick Houtman and Birgit Meyer

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823239450

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823239450.001.0001

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Introduction: Material Religion—How Things Matter

Introduction: Material Religion—How Things Matter

(p.1) Introduction: Material Religion—How Things Matter

Birgit Meyer

Dick Houtman

Fordham University Press

The rise of religion as a modern category, with Protestantism as its main exponent, has introduced a set of oppositions that privilege spirit above matter, belief above ritual, content above form, mind above body, and spirituality above materiality. This has ever since entailed a devaluation of religious material culture, and materiality at large, as lacking serious empirical, let alone theoretical interest. Today, these modern binaries still linger on in everyday parlance in Western societies, with believers and (atheist) opponents alike embracing the notion that spirit and matter are mutually exclusive. The emerging academic critique of this conceptualization raises major issues for the study of religion, issues that are addressed in the book that is introduced by this chapter: how to approach, study, and speak about religion in new, critical ways, from a position beyond the established and worn-out concepts?

Keywords:   Modernity, Religion, Protestantism, Materiality and immateriality, Spirit and matter, Material culture

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