The Dish

Religion On Its Own Terms

Michael J. Altman pays tribute to religious historian Mircea Eliade, whose comparative approach “dominated the field of religious studies in the latter third of the twentieth century in America”:

Eliade refuses to explain religion. Rejecting the reductionism of psychoanalysis or sociology, Eliade demands that religion be understood “on its own terms.” We do not explain religion, rather, the historian of religion describes and categorizes religion. The historian of religions looks for symbols, myths, and archetypes through comparison. Because the sacred is sui generis, unique, irreducible, we should seek understanding, interpretation, and pattern. Explanation is anathema.