This introductory chapter discusses the concept of religion, which most scholars view as a product of Western modernity. A vital aspect of its genealogy is the deep suspicion about the power of Christian institutions that signified the thinking of Western intellectuals in the Enlightenment. This suspicion compelled social and political efforts to limit religious power, and helped shape developments in political theory that grounded human power in the natural and social, rather than the divine. Philosophical efforts also turned to conceptualize and enact the autonomy of reason against the authority of tradition and revelation. The chapter then describes how the book is divided into three parts. The first part looks at the emergence of historical-critical studies of the Bible, as well as the naturalistic investigations into the origin of religion. The second part talks about the study of religion along humanistic lines; while the final part explores the interrelationship between theological thinking and philosophy of religion.
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