400. Title: Before Religion
Author: Nongbri, Brent
Date Finished: 2023-01-04
My Comments: The thesis here is that the word religion is a differentiation of culture that didn't make sense before the modern era and should NOT be applied to earlier cultures. In other words, don't even think about ancient religion, there wasn't any. This is something I've been saying for years to book study people, but here's a whole book about this idea. A bit more detail than needed to get the idea across, but not bad.
Amazon Description: For much of the past two centuries, religion has been understood as a universal phenomenon, a part of the “natural” human experience that is essentially the same across cultures and throughout history. Individual religions may vary through time and geographically, but there is an element, religion, that is to be found in all cultures during all time periods. Taking apart this assumption, Brent Nongbri shows that the idea of religion as a sphere of life distinct from politics, economics, or science is a recent development in European history-a development that has been projected outward in space and backward in time with the result that religion now appears to be a natural and necessary part of our world. Examining a wide array of ancient writings, Nongbri demonstrates that in antiquity, there was no conceptual arena that could be designated as “religious” as opposed to “secular.” Surveying representative episodes from a two-thousand-year period, while constantly attending to the concrete social, political, and colonial contexts that shaped relevant works of philosophers, legal theorists, missionaries, and others, Nongbri offers a concise and readable account of the emergence of the concept of religion.