Transcending Dichotomies in History and Religion

At first glance, to speak of "history and religion" presents no problem. We merely identify two items to discuss in the same study. We quickly discover, however, that since at least the twentieth century the pair "history and religion" has tended to operate as a dichotomy. Within the dominant traditions of discourse originating in Europe, over many centuries, the verbal pair "history and religion" became a dichotomy encoded as the dichotomy "secular and religious," signifying the opposition "not religious and religious." This dichotomy does not usually appear alone, but commonly comes associated with other dichotomies whose terms align with either history or religion. The short list of associated dichotomies includes: temporal and spiritual, natural and supernatural, reason and faith, public and private, social and personal, scientific and theological, objective and subjective, rational and emotional, and modern and medieval. The opposing parts come gendered as masculine and feminine. Usage of the dichotomies creates tensions with practitioners of virtually all religions in all regions of the world. Rigorous and consistent users of the dichotomies misunderstand the character of religions as ways of life, fail to account for the persistence and revival of religion in the twenty-first century, and overlook the intrinsic manner in which history manifests religion and religion manifests history. The defective outcomes prompt a number of constructive suggestions for transcending dichotomies in history and religion. These reflections on dichotomies refer to several varieties of Christianity, the emergence of the secular option, and the imagined triumph of Hindu dharma.

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