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Title: How Should We Talk About Religion?
Subtitle: Inwardness, Particularity and Translation
Author(s): WHITE, James Boyd
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 7    Issue: 4   Date: December 2000   
Pages: 316-328
DOI: 10.2143/EP.7.4.503818

Abstract :
It is extremely difficult to talk about religion at all, whether we are trying to do so within a discipline, such as law or psychology or anthropology, or in speaking in more informal ways with our friends. There are many reasons for this: it is in the nature of religious experience to be ineffable or mysterious, at least for some people or in some religions; different religions imagine the world and its human inhabitants, and their histories, in ways that are enormously different and plainly unbridgeable; and there is no superlanguage into which all religions can all be translated, for purposes either of comparison or of mutual intelligibility. What is more, it seems to be nearly always the case that one religion's deepest truths and commitments, its fundamental narratives, appear simply irrational, even weird, to those who belong to another tradition; this means that in any attempt to study and talk about a religion other than one's own there is a necessary element of patronization, at least whenever we are studying beliefs we could not imagine ourselves sharing.

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