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Another “Destroyer” Review

May 1, 2018

Having complained about what I regard a misleading review of my book, Destroyer of the gods, in a previous posting, there’s a commendably accurate review just published:  here.

The crucial difference is that this reviewer actually gets what the book is about–certain features of early Christianity that made it distinctive and noteworthy in its cultural setting. The reviewer also rightly notes that the book is intended for a wide reading public, not simply an inner cadre of fellow scholars.

The one note that I would add, is that there is a second point to the book, which is that these distinctive features of early Christianity have become for us what I suppose might be termed our conceptual habitus (with apologies to Pierre Bourdieu).  That is, these notions have become part of our largely unexamined ideas about what “religion” is.  Indeed, arguably, early Christianity began the process that led to the formation of the whole idea of “religion” as something distinguishable from other areas of life.

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4 Comments
  1. john mitrosky permalink

    Liberation theology would disagree with the notion that religious commitments/beliefs are something distinguishable from politics, society, economics, etc. Many Christians today, such as Christian doctors involved in Doctors without Borders also fit this category. So, in response to Robert, I would say that Jesus himself also fits this category of being an actively involved in society, liberation theologian.

    • John: You miss the point. It isn’t whether someone thinks that religious faith should be exhibited in social or economic matters. Even such a person CONCEPTUALLY distinguishes “religion” from economics and politics. It’s the conceptual category, “religion/religious faith” as a distinguishable thing that all moderns in the West accept unthinkingly.

  2. Robert permalink

    “these distinctive features of early Christianity have become for us what I suppose might be termed our conceptual habitus (with apologies to Pierre Bourdieu).  That is, these notions have become part of our largely unexamined ideas about what “religion” is.  Indeed, arguably, early Christianity began the process that led to the formation of the whole idea of “religion” as something distinguishable from other areas of life.”

    Do you think this idea of religion was a departure from what Jesus himself intended?

    • I don’t know that we can state with confidence Jesus’ “intentions”. What we have are reports of his impact and activities. No diaries.
      I’m also not sure that you get my point. Throughout most of human history, dealing with gods was part of the larger social fabric of life, not a separate activity. Your gods came with your birth, your city, your tribe, nation, etc. But we think of “religion” and religious commitments/beliefs as something distinguishable from, e.g., politics, society, economics, etc. See my book, Destroyer of the gods, esp. chap. 3.

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