"Seven Ways of Looking at Religion" by Benjamin Schewel

Seven Ways of Looking at Religion The Major Narratives Benjamin Schewel

Publication date:
19 Sep 2017
Yale University Press
248 pages: 235 x 156mm

Western intellectuals have long theorized that religion would undergo a process of marginalization and decline as the forces of modernity advanced. Yet recent events have disrupted this seductively straightforward story. As a result, while it is clear that religion has somehow evolved from its tribal beginnings up through modernity and into the current global age, there is no consensus about what kind of narrative of religious change we should alternatively tell. Seeking clarity, Benjamin Schewel organizes and evaluates the prevalent narratives of religious history that scholars have deployed over the past century and are advancing today. He argues that contemporary scholarly discourse on religion can be categorized according to seven central narratives: subtraction, renewal, transsecular, postnaturalist, construct, perennial, and developmental. Examining the basic logic, insights, and limitations of each of these narratives, Schewel ranges from Martin Heidegger to Muhammad Iqbal, from Daniel Dennett to Charles Taylor, to offer an incisive, broad, and original perspective on religion in the modern world.

Benjamin Schewel is a fellow in the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain at the University of Groningen and an affiliate scholar at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

“Benjamin Schewel delivers what may be the most teachable and quotable effort to date to orient conversations about religion after secularization.”—Peter Ochs, University of Virginia 

“Accessible yet deeply learned, Benjamin Schewel’s book lucidly exposits an impressively wide range of views, often using underappreciated or unknown figures to exemplify those views.  He offers an interesting and constructive argument about the likely career of “religion” in the centuries to come.”— Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia

“When people think about the place of religion in human history, they often assume a narrative framework without recognizing it. In this original and valuable book, Benjamin Schewel uncovers those frameworks and holds them up to critical inspection.”—Kevin Schilbrack, Appalachian State University