This volume presents a collection of eleven of the author's essays on the intellectual and moral foundations of the study of religion as it has been known in Europe and America since the turn of the century. In this collection, Strenski examines the influence of several major figures and schools of thought, concluding that too often the study of religion has involved hidden theological and ideological agendas. Some of the themes which Strenski investigates in these essays include Heidegger's political involvements, Eliade's spiritualism, Buddhist psychologies of Enlightenment, Marcel Mauss's gift theory in traditional Sri Lanka, the import of the work of Karl Popper and Paul Feyerabend for Lévi-Strauss's structural mythology, Durkheim's intellectual heirs, the Annales historians, and the myth of France's Celtic past. The author claims that religion can be understood adequately only as it is viewed in relation to other disciplines and with social, cultural, symbolic, and intellectual phenomena. He asserts that the study of religion is an intellectual enterprise that must not be confused with theology, ideology, or religion itself, and he calls for a methodology based on "placing religion in relation" in order to achieve reliable knowledge and understanding.
Ivan Strenski received his Ph.D. from Birmingham University, England, and undertook post-doctoral studies at Yale University. He is currently a member of the department of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Four Theories of Myth in Twentieth-Century History: Cassirer, Eliade, Lévi-Strauss, and Malinowski. He is the editor of Malinowski and the Work of Myth and American editor-in-chief of the journal Religion.