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Public inquiry into religion is guided by unspoken value judgments which are the products of rarely-discussed political interests. Intentionally or not, much of our public discourse on religion involves a subtle but powerful distinction between “good” and “bad” religion. The implications of these labeling practices are far-reaching, for these judgments manifest in terms such as “fundamentalist,” “radical,” and “extremist,” words that are often the gauge by which governments worldwide determine everything from the parameters of religious freedom, to what constitutes an act of terrorism, to whether certain groups receive legal protections. Conversely, it is surprising to see how groups that may otherwise better typify the extremist profile remain unscathed by punitive governmental or social measures because of their pre-existing social popularity or perceived normalcy. This volume discusses the nature of this issue and its practical ramifications, demonstrating how scholars can analytically critique “good/bad religion” rhetoric as it appears in scholarship today. The book is organized around four different social institutions through which these value judgments have been established and deployed – within politics, the media, the university, and the classroom. The four sections each work from a central chapter that highlights a case study or example of the “good/bad” distinction at work. The responses that follow extrapolate from this chapter to provide an analysis on how such rhetoric operates in that particular social realm.

Published: Aug 15, 2020

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Leslie Smith, Steffen Führding, Adrian Hermann
Part I: The Public Rhetoric of Good and Bad Religion
Introduction to Part I Leslie Smith, Steffen Führding, Adrian Hermann
1. Introduction: "And What Kind of Society Does that Create?" Russell McCutcheon
2. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: Neo-Orientalism and the Study of Religion Aaron Hughes
3. Religious Studies and the Jargon of Authenticity Jason Josephson Storm
Part II: Politics
Introduction to Part II Leslie Smith, Steffen Führding, Adrian Hermann
4. Toward a Critique of Postsecular Rhetoric Naomi Goldenberg
5. The Political Utility of the Past: The Case of Greek Fire-Walking Rituals Vaia Touna
6. Privatized Publics and Scholarly Silos: Gender, Religion, and their Theoretical Fault Lines K. Merinda Simmons
7. What’s Religious Freedom Got to Do With It? On the Niqab Affair in Canadian Politics Matt Sheedy
Part III: Media
Introduction to Part III Leslie Smith, Steffen Führding, Adrian Hermann
8. The Strange and Familiar Spiritual Journey of Reza Aslan Martha Smith Roberts
9. The Journalist-Ethnographer, Religious Diversity, and the Euphemisation of Social Relations Carmen Becker
10. Scopophilia and the Manufacture of “Good” Religion Leslie Smith
11. Naturalizing the Transnational Capitalist Class: Reza Aslan’s Believer and the Ideological Reproduction of an Emerging Social Formation Craig Prentiss
12. Authentic Religion – Or, How To Be A Good Citizen Steffen Führding
Part IV: University
Introduction to Part IV Leslie Smith, Steffen Führding, Adrian Hermann
13. ‘Bad Religion’ on the University Campus: “Political Correctness” and the Future of the Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion Adrian Hermann, Stefan Priester
14. Studying Religion in a Post-Truth World Stephanie Gripentrog
15. The Good, The Bad, and the Non-Religion: The Good/Bad Rhetoric in Non-Religion Studies Christopher Cotter
16. The Campus as a ‘Safe Space’? A Sociology of Knowledge Perspective on the New Student Protests David Kaldewey
Part V: Classroom
Introduction to Part V Leslie Smith, Steffen Führding, Adrian Hermann
17. What Teaching New Religions Tells Us about the Discourse on ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Religion David Robertson
18. Unintentionally Constructing ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Religions in Teaching Classical European Social Theories at a Japanese University Mitsutoshi Horii
19. Good and Bad, Legitimate and Illegitimate Religion in Education Wanda Alberts
20. Benign Religion as Normal Religion Suzanne Owen
End Matter
Index Leslie Smith, Steffen Führding, Adrian Hermann