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Circling the ElephantA Comparative Theology of Religious Diversity$
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John J. Thatamanil

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780823288526

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823288526.001.0001

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Comparative Theology After Religion?

Comparative Theology After Religion?

(p.108) 4 Comparative Theology After Religion?
Circling the Elephant

John J. Thatamanil

Fordham University Press

This chapter employs genealogy of religion, critical race theory, and Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka Buddhism to call into question the way in which uninterrogated notions about “religion” and “religions” compromise theologies of religious diversity. At the heart of the argument is the claim that both the categories “religions” and “races” were invented to reify traditions and peoples over against each other and to develop hierarchies of valuation. Reification is the precondition for ranking, and where there is reification there can be no learning. These reifications persist and complicate and compromise theologies of religious diversity and comparative theology. If Christian theology is to take up the project of interreligious learning, then a variety of extant theories of religion must be called into question. Nevertheless, the chapter concludes that there is no way to simply jettison “religion” and “religions.” These categories must be given new meaning.

Keywords:   Talal Asad, Robert Campany, critical race theory, genealogy of religion, Peter Gottschalk, Arvind Mandair, Nagarjuna, Hugh Nicholson

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