“Religion” and Its Limits

Reflections on Discursive Borders and Boundaries

  • Naomi Goldenberg University of Ottawa


The keynote contributes to critical analysis of religion and attendant categories by proposing that religions be understood as vestigial states. According to this hypothesis, religion is a modern discursive product that is not present in the Bible. The category evolves as a management strategy, a technology of statecraft to contain and control conquered, colonized and/or marginalized populations as an alternative to genocide. Examples are drawn from Greek mythology, Jewish and Druid history and recent Buddhist politics. The author uses texts pertaining to international law and political philosophy to argue that viewing religion as synonymous with displaced, uneasy, former government opposes male hegemony by revealing the political structure of mystified nostalgia for male leadership.  She also maintains that understanding religions as restive governments promotes clarity in regard to contemporary conflicts between religious freedom and equality rights.  Psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein and Wilfrid Bion are cited to support the disassembling of foundational terms of Religious Studies. 

How to Cite
GOLDENBERG, Naomi. “Religion” and Its Limits. Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religion (JBASR), [S.l.], v. 21, p. 1-15, dec. 2019. ISSN 2516-6379. Available at: <https://www.jbasr.com/ojs/index.php/jbasr/article/view/37>. Date accessed: 29 mar. 2023. doi: https://doi.org/10.18792/jbasr.v21i0.37.