Taves’ Religious Experience Reconsidered
I recently read Ann Taves’ new book, Religious Experience Reconsidered. There were some things I liked, and some things I didn’t like. (The latter might be a narcissism of minor differences sort of thing; I’m definitely on her side of the fence in the field of religious studies in general.)
She is very anti-essentialist when it comes to “religion”; she takes up a way of talking that I’d already independently arrived at: instead of saying some thing (a ritual, a text, an experience) is “religious,” she refers to them as things deemed religious, which draws attention to the fact that labeling something religious is a first-order practice worth investigating in its own right. For some time I’ve been referring to things “colloquially called religious,” which I presume is designed to serve the same purpose.
There was one thing she insisted on that I thought was sort of weird. She implied that it makes sense to talk about a religion or religions, but not religion itself. I heard someone say the same thing about the term “body” at a conference: there can be a body, or bodies, but “the body” doesn’t exist.
My response was: duh.
What do you think? Is that a deep or a superficial point?