Book: Contemporary Views on Comparative Religion
Chapter: 4. The Historical and Comparative Study of Religions: A Rhetorical Approach
With a point of departure in the history of our discipline, notably Henri Hubert’s introduction to the French edition of the first major collective textbook in History of Religions, Chantepie de la Saussayes’ Lehrbuch, it is argued that the comparative study of religious expressions – texts, images and performances – should not be fettered in preconceived ideas of the social or psychological role of each type of expression. Not every doomsday prophet becomes a leader, and not every spell remedies anxiety. Religious expressions should be compared in order to establish types of rhetoric, while the study of their impact on society or the human mind should be pursued in individual historical studies.