Religion Clichés


  • Tenzan Eaghll University of Toronto



Ninian Smart, method and theory, education, cliches


Framed as a critique of a 1972 article by Ninian Smart, this essay seeks to expose some of the popular and academic clichés associated with the study of religion. Exploring the historical and philosophical context of clichés such as religion is the sacred or religion is about peace, the author suggests that the academic study of religion is intertwined with a series of essentializations that obscure the political context of the religious education. The essay is simultaneously an attempt to update the list of clichés first identified by Smart, and to expose the philosophical and political assumptions represented by the study of religion.

Author Biography

Tenzan Eaghll, University of Toronto

Tenzan Eaghll is a PhD candidate in the Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto, Canada.


Barnes, Philip L. 2001. "The Contribution of Professor Ninian Smart to Religious Education." Religion 31: 317–19.

Bolelli, Danielle. 2001. 50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know: Religion. New York: The Disinformation Company.

Fitzgerald, Timothy. 2000. The Ideology of Religious Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fountain, Nigel. 2012. Clichés, Avoid them Like the Plague. London, Great Britain: Michael O'Mara Books.

Gray, John. 2005. Al Qaeda and What it Means to Be Modern. New York: New Press.

Ludwig, Theodore M. 2006. The Sacred Path: Understanding the Religions of the World, 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Martin, Craig. 2014. Capitalizing Religion. New York: Bloomsbury.

Marx, Karl. 2002."On the Jewish Question" [1843]. In Marx On Religion, eddited by John Raines, 44–70 Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Masuzawa, Tomoko. 2005. The Invention of World Religions. Chicago University of Chicago Press.

McCutcheon, Russell. 1997. Manufacturing Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.

———. . 2007. Studying Religion: an introduction. Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing.

Nancy, Jean-Luc Nancy. 1993. The Birth to Presence. Translated by Brian Holmes et al. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Smart, Ninian. 1966. The Teacher and Christian Belief. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co Ltd.

————. 1968. Secular Education and the Logic of Religion (London, UK: Faber and Faber.

————. 1972. “Comparative Religion Clichés: Crushing the Clichés about Comparative Religion and then Accentuating the Positive Value of the New Religious Education.” Learning for Living12 (2): 4–7.

Smart, Ninian and Richard D. Hecht .1982. Sacred Texts of the World: A Universal Anthology. New York: Crossroad.

Smith, Jonathan Z. 1982. Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Johnstown. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

———. 1990. Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stiegler, Bernard. 1998. Technics and Time 1: The Fault of Epimetheus. Translated by Richard Beardsworth and George Collins. Stanford: Standford University Press.

Templeton, Elizabeth. 1999. "Religious Education in a Secular Pluralist Culture." Religion, State & Society 27 (1): 75–81

Žižek, Slavoj. 2002. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. New York: Verso Books, 2002.



How to Cite

Eaghll, T. (2015). Religion Clichés. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 44(1), 33–38.