HIST 2155 The Invention of Religion

HIST 2155 The Invention of Religion (also JWST 2155, RELST 2155) (GB) (ETM-AS, HST-AS)  (HPE, HEU)

Monday and Wednesday: 2:30-4:10

Professor Olga Litvak

Religion is a term with a rich history but without a precise definition. Everyone can describe a religious idea or a religious experience even though there is no agreement about what it is that makes an idea or an experience religious. How did this state of things come about? What is it that makes religion both one thing and many things? Why do we apply this concept to Christianity, Islam and Judaism and to the deep feelings we associate with secular forms of devotion and enthusiasm — for food, for love, for family, for art, for sport? In this seminar, we will discover that religion is a distinctly modern concept, developed to address the psychological and social needs of Europeans increasingly adrift from the traditional communal practices and moral commitments of their parents and grandparents. Tracing the history of “religion” — rather than the history of religions — from the age of Immanuel Kant to the age of Emmanuel Levinas, we will examine paradoxical connection between the rise of religion and the decline of faith.

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