On Works of the Imagination
A Critical Examination of Stephen Prothero's God Is Not One
Keywords:Stephen Prothero, perennialism, world religions, methodology
Stephen Prothero's book aims to combat the perennialist philosophy, the claim that all religions share a common, essential core that is fundamentally good. Prothero asserts that this perspective is problematic because it is factually false, undercuts true religious and cultural diversity, and fails to diagnose the dynamics behind large-scale cultural phenomena. Yet in his attempt to discredit perennialism Prothero provides the reader a portrayal of religion that is perennialist in nature: he portrays religion as a "sacred" and "transcendent" essence; he asserts that unpopular religious phenomena are political rather than religious; and he locates unifying similarities across a wide variety of religious phenomena in a way that is methodologically problematic. This essay asserts that Prothero's failure to critically consider the political significance of the category of "difference" and the corresponding larger conversation on the politics of essentialism is to blame for his flawed methodological model.
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