Contributions from the Social Sciences

Robert A. Segal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


There has long been tension, not between social scientists and practitioners of religion, but between social scientists and scholars of religious studies, referred to here as 'religionists'. Religionists have conventionally assumed that the social sciences are guilty of multiple sins, none of them forgivable: ignoring the proverbial believer's point of view; denying the irreducibly religious nature of religion; analysing religion exclusively functionally, reductively, and explanatorily; analysing religion exclusively materially and behaviourally; and denying the truth of religion. This article maintains that the social sciences - anthropology, sociology, psychology, and economics - are guilty of none of these charges, which rest on their misconstrual. Ironically, those religionists who contend that contemporary social scientists have come round to accepting the religionist approach likewise misconstrue the social sciences.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science
EditorsPhilip Clayton
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
ISBN (Electronic)9780191577369
ISBN (Print)0199279276, 9780199543656
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008


  • Anthropology
  • Psychology
  • Religion
  • Religionists
  • Religious studies
  • Social sciences


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