The Case for an Indeterminate Sociological Theory of Religion
This session includes three papers on “religions”: one each on South Asian (McCann), Japanese (Takagaki) and Chinese (Woo) traditions. While they question the universality of Christian-influenced classical sociological theories of religion, they also build on them, focusing on the phenomenon of “difference” in order to draw attention to lived experiences, which McCann describes in her abstract as elements of “mixed and mongrel heritage” in Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam; and “empty” and notoriously or famously syncretic traditions in Japanese and Chinese traditions.
Beyer writes in “The Religious System of Global Society” that akin to and reflecting “the state-centred global political system, religion has become both a universal modality that all humankind has putatively in common, and a way of identifying difference” (1998: 8). Unfortunately, these differences have contributed to increasingly violent confrontations. “An Indeterminate Sociological Theory of Religion” aims to examine difference from an alternative perspective: as an accommodation to Others, against and in contrast to orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
We know that Eurocentric theories impose values that distort “The Other”. Yet corrective measures presented as postmodern and postcolonial modalities continue with rhetoric embedded in Western tradition. Thus this panel proposes the case for an “indeterminate” theory of religion that draws from both lived experiences and East Asian concepts of skepticism and emptiness so as to avoid the pitfalls inherent in what Peter Beyer refers to as modalities of social communication based on binary codes in order to better understand the nature of religious praxis.