Material Culture and the Varieties of Religious Imagination

Ivan Strenski                                                        

Department of Religious Studies

February 4, 2003


            Outside the venerable field of archeology of religion, a relatively small  troop of pioneering colleagues have developed the field of the study of the materiality of  religious life.  Here, I list the likes of Colleen McDannell, Thomas Kselman, Lionel Rothkrug, Rosalind Hackett, J.  Z.  Smith, Richard Hecht, Roger Friedland, Caroline Walker Bynum, Gary Laderman, Peter Brown among others.1  I wish to pay tribute to them by pointing out some of what I take to be implications of their work, and to offer the beginnings of some theorizing of this work. I omit Eliade from this list, but certainly not because we cannot learn about certain modes of organizing time and space from him. We can.  I omit him because his gaze was always fixed elsewhere than on this world, far over the horizon of ‘things’.  While Eliade was particularly sensitive to religious space, and to a riotous array of concrete sacred objects, such as trees, ropes, rocks and such, I would be prepared to argue that he never really accepted religious materiality on its own terms, in the religiousness of its material historicity.  For Eliade, material things were religious in spite of being material – because they transcended their historicity and materiality in being symbols of divine archetypes.  But for the present author, at least, the materiality of religion needs no external justification to affirm its religiousness.  Religion is fully and legitimately material – whatever else it may be – because religion is, at the very least, part of being human for many, if not all, people.  No excuses therefore need to be made to focus on material religious culture.  Instead, we need aggressively to exploit the vast resources that exist for understanding religion by studying material religious culture.  Within the brief compass of this article, I shall attempt both to make some theoretical points about the study of material religious culture and to show some preliminary results of how I have tried to operationalize some of these theoretical viewpoints in the classroom.

            Reluctance about taking seriously the materiality of  religious life is furthermore stunning when one considers the tremendous quantity and quality of these resources.  Take first material religious culture of  a visual sort.  Consider the masses of data from the graphic, plastic or electronic arts – both popular and ‘high,’ the scads of artifacts of all sizes and shapes – the  sculptures, scapulars, phylacteries, prayer rugs, and more, the masses of architecture – everything from the Cathedral of Chartres to the Ka’aba, from heiaus to stupas, the numerous sacred sites – whether ‘spaces’ or ‘places’ – the holy cities, holy lands and holy territorial domains, the sacred springs, mountains, and precincts, the pilgrimage routes and their destinations, and so on.

            Moreover, while visual materials and media have a way of pushing to the forefront of our perceptions, we also need to extend the notion of material religious culture to include all tactile or sensate  religious entities and events.  The study of material religious culture would therefore include all that we access by way of our auditory abilities, e.g.,  music or  the sound of one’s breathing in Vip~ssana meditation, or by way of our olfactory capacities, e.g. smell of incense, the ‘odor of sanctity,’  or what we take in by means of  taste and touch, e.g., the bite of bitter herbs, the slickness of  sweet rice, the vapors of communion wine on the one side, and the feel of the eternal stone of the Wailing Wall or the Ka’aba, or that sudden, if brief, chill of a ritual bath or baptism, or the sharp blow on the back of the head as one sits in imperfect zazen.  Material religious culture is composed  of all the tactile or sensate entities and events of religion.  Until recently, by contrast, we have been spending most of our time thinking about thought.

            This neglect of a wholehearted embrace of the material dimension of religion is not surprising, given the somewhat iconoclastic, certainly intellectualist and textualist, Reformation roots of the modern study of religion.  Linked as it naturally is and was with a so-called ‘spiritual’ – bloodless – conception of the nature of religion, most of the 19th century founders of the study of religion decried those religions in which materiality thrived.  Albert Réville, that well-placed contemporary of Durkheim and founder of the ‘science of religion’ in France, for example, would often rail against “religious materialism” in general.  Any implication that “religious forms” were “indispensable receptacles of the divine reality” was to be rudely rejected. For Réville and other Protestant founders of the study of religion, this condemnation of “religious materialism” of ritual really amounted to a theological polemic against  Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and all the other ‘pagan’ kindred religions that embraced ritual. 2 Any expression of religious materialism, such as ritual, was for Albert Réville, “always more or less  superstitious.”3 In the spirit of what sometimes seems like a still vital Victorian moralistic religiosity, Réville argued that a really religious person would inform their sensibility with a religious “spiritualism,” which results from a “more elevated moral and religious sense.” 4 ‘Real’ religion was a matter of “spirit and truth.”5  An appreciation of material religious culture is, therefore, set totally against these spiritualist assumptions about the nature of religion. Tellingly, these condemnations of materiality in religion are sometimes linked explicitly with a familiar list of terrors concerning the body, sex and all the rest.  For Albert Réville, ritual, in general, is judged as dangerously “sensuous!” 6 The 19th century Catholic cult of the sacred heart drove Réville into a perfect frenzy of sexual terror about the deviant psycho-physical causes of the cult of the sacred heart.  It represented to him a clear clinical  “case... of mania erotico-religiosa, superinduced by a very hysterical constitution.”7


“Imagination Is Funny...” and Essential

            How then do we exploit the materiality of  religious life for the study of religion? The first task before us is, I would claim, to provide a conceptual and theoretical framework within which to generate durable thinking about material religious culture.  How  should we begin, at least, to locate material religious culture within a larger conceptual and interpretive framework?  And, how would we do that in such a way that it would put such thinking into fruitful relation with the other dimensions of religion, such as myth, beliefs, social organization, experience, ritual, and morality?  Perhaps because of the hold that the visual has on our consciousness, the modality of the ‘arts’ seems particularly to recommend itself as a place we might begin.  For me, this natural-seeming affinity with the arts recommends that we begin to think about material religious culture in terms of its being a product of the imagination.  We speak readily of the esthetic imagination and even of the moral, civic, sexual, commercial, and political imaginations and so on, so why not take seriously the religious imagination?  Why cannot religion be as much a locus in which the imagination can be seen to operate as many other domains of life?

            In this light, the materiality of  religious life presents no great mystery or puzzle.  When people imagine things, they typically realize their imaginings in media.  We can readily recognize how religious beliefs have been a medium in which creative religious thinkers have done a great deal of imagining.  “Four Noble Truths.” But, why four, and not eight, like the Noble Eightfold Path, or three, like the Three Body Doctrine, and so on? Similarly, in material terms, why stupas made in great mounds and not four-square blocks like the Ka’aba?  Why then in East Asia, not those familiar South Asian burial mounds, but those brilliant multi-storied pagodas?  When the monks of old Ireland fashioned their hermitages, they did so in bee hive shapes, rather than in block houses or pyramids.  Was this only an accident of limitations imposed by the building materials?  Or, is something else going on?  And, what might that be? The religious imagination is ‘funny’ this way.  It can be as amazing and unpredictable, but nonetheless as effective as the imaginative choice of a cigar by Churchill or the three-cornered hat by partisans of the enlightenment.  A good place to start to understand material religious culture is then to see its contents as the playing out of an imagination that is religious.  What then are its rules?  Why do some imaginings work, and others fall flat on their faces – like ill-fated Susan B. Anthony or Sacajawea dollar coins – and for whom?  Why do some things ‘capture the imagination’ and other fail so to do – and for whom?  Some sacred music keeps getting sung year after year, and not, one supposes, just out of inertia, but because it resonates in some important ways with some  folks.  A celebrated new cathedral has risen in Los Angeles at the cost of many millions of dollars and under the direction of a world class European architect.  Some, however, have judged it dead on arrival, and  will only resort to it because there is no alternative. Why?  And, to whom?  Many, therefore, are the creations of the religious imagination, but many as well are those that fall into oblivion.  Which ones?  Why these and not others, and so on?  These are only some of the questions that seeing material religious culture in terms of the imagination might raise.  Other theoretical ‘takes’ will raise other kinds of  questions.  That to me is all to the good.


Interrogating Material Religion with a ‘Pro-active Mind’

            Implied in my putting questions or ‘problems’ to the fore is that we need to do much more than simply to present the data of religion’s materiality.8 Yet, since it would be easy to become seduced by the ravishing imagery of the religious imagination or grounded in place by contact with real religious objects, we must take care not to fall prey to the heresy of the Immaculate Perception.  The theoretical and conceptual dimension of our work should go hand in hand with the empirical.  And, so, I am urging that we prepare students for coming to the data of material religious culture with a ‘pro-active mind.’ 

            Where teaching is concerned, we all recognize that students will unavoidably come to the data with their own ‘takes’, with their own principles and/or prejudices (pick ‘em), with their own set of questions and problems, and at the risk of seeming pretentious, with their own theories.  Their perceptions will not be pure and innocent, nor need they be.  But, we must strive to make these real a prioris explicit by expressing them in some objective form – a course journal entry, a short ‘reaction’ paper, an in-class ‘brainstorming’ assignment in which lists are made in order to elicit the pre-perceptual data of the minds of the students – as far as that is possible.9 Exposing students to material religious culture, then, should not be like dumping them at the local antique shop, pleasingly cluttered with assorted curios.  They should be sent in with a ‘shopping list’ of some sort, whether of their own or of the instructor’s making.  We might as well accept that they will have a secret list anyway.  So, we might as well train them to acknowledge and encourage the pro-active mind.  One way to do this would be to do an inventory that would require formulating questions about the data  before the data are encountered.


Interrogating Material Religion: A Check-list

            Let me then refer the reader to the specific assignment that I sue in a course on the sacred and tabu that I have taught for the past two years to undergraduates at the University of California, Riverside.  Students are required to do a field visit to a sacred site and to write a short paper addressed to the question of how its sacredness is engineered by the manipulation of space and selection of place.  (Students are also encouraged to  supply their own questions.)    

            In terms of this specific interrogation of material religious culture, in the course on sacred and tabu, I first concentrate on getting students to ‘see’ what they are ‘looking’ at –  carefully to observe the sites chosen by them.  To do this, I simply pose a series of questions that force them to think in material terms about the places and spaces visited.  This initial interrogation also invites students to incorporate the theoretical reading they will have already done – but at this stage in an informal way.  Systematic thinking can be left until a little later.  Here, then, is a selection from the present list of over two dozen questions that I provide to students about the overall descriptive character of the site being observed.  First, are a series of questions about the overall site: its siting, location and situation:

                     What makes it obvious that this space or place is a sacred space or place?

                     What’s nearby?  What’s conspicuously far away?

                     What is the elevation of the site – high ground, low ground? Mounded, depressed or flat?

                     Is it bounded?  How are boundaries marked? Against what do the boundaries protect? Are they (merely) symbolic or do they prevent entry/escape?

                     Is the site open and public? Or restricted, private, closed? Free entry or an admission charge? If a charge, who gets the proceeds? If free, who subsidizes the site?


Then come questions about the insides of the site, its contents:


                     How is the space within configured? Any contours?

                     Is there decoration or lack thereof?  How are these used, designed, situated?

                     What is the social context of the contents of the space? Who is it for? Who is included, who excluded? Who owns it? What are the terms of ownership?  What about the economic status of the contents – cheap, expensive?

                     What senses are engaged? Is it quiet or noisy inside? Is it light or dark inside? Any odors typical of the place? Tastes? Colors? Images? Tactile surfaces?



Finally, all students are required to answer two fundamental questions about the sacred status of the sites chosen.  Here, of course, is where they are in effect being invited to employ and defend various theoretical viewpoints in answering this final pair of questions.  I ask them to consider the following questions in terms both of your own idea of sacred, in terms of our society’s general and common ideas of sacred, and in terms of any of the authors we have read the following:

                     What would make either site or aspects of its interior more sacred than it is now in its present condition?

                     What would make either site or aspects of its interior less sacred – more profane – than it is now in its present condition – even to the point of a total loss of sacredness of either/or both the site and any aspects of the site of your choosing ?


Remarks on Some Results of  Interrogating Material Religion

            In their assignments, most students chose standard sacred sites such as churches, California  mission sites, local temples, mosques, synagogues, cemeteries and such.  Others have gone off on more original ventures, such as focusing on roadside accident site shrines that are so common here in the Southwest.  Another student explored the sacredness of the family dinner table – a particularly charged site given the widespread practice today of individual family members drifting off with their individual trays of supper to sit alone gazing at their own individual TV sets!

            Notable here is how the students displaying the most originality in selecting their projects revealed how fruitful it is to study religious materiality as a work of the imagination.  Religion can emerge in unexpected and novel forms, and it is the creative student who will observe it. ‘Religion happens!’ so to speak – like pop or ‘naive’ art, like street music or schoolyard games.  It is the imaginative student indeed, who grasps the way the religious imagination works, and who is open to its often unprecedented efflorescence.  Indeed,  religious folk themselves may be among the last to comprehend the fuller extent of much of what they are doing.

            In this connection, let me draw the reader’s attention to a related project undertaken along with the new course I mentioned briefly on the sacred and tabu.  This is the Spontaneous Shrines website and digital project, located at  Funded by the University of California, Riverside’s Information Technology grant, this site has begun to assemble and archive the data of what I call ‘spontaneous shrines,’ such as became so much a part of the national reaction to the attacks of 9-11. Although the site is still under construction, major parts of it are ready for visits.  There, readers will find not only WTC images from New York City and Venice, California, but also a set of images of a spontaneous shrine from Honolulu in honor of a beloved local citizen.  In coming months, I shall also be adding a collection of images taken by one of the students from my sacred and tabu course depicting roadside accident spontaneous shrines in the Inland Empire region of Southern California.  The site is open to all, and we invite interested parties to contribute postings of the site.  Readers are invited to visit the site to view our work as it progresses.  Links are being added as well as interpretive tools.

            The main point to be noted in connection with popular material religious culture is again its often unpremeditated and spontaneous character. Just as there is a pop art or folk art that simply and spontaneously appears in public spaces – like certain fashions in dress and personal adornment (backwards hats, piercing, skateboarding, X-games, long or short hair, etc.), or the graffiti art of modern cities – so there is also a parallel phenomenon of spontaneous, mostly urban, popular folk religion.  Like these representations of popular imagination, folk spirituality or religion just ‘happens’ too. Historians of  Christianity, like Peter Brown, have shown how popular pre-Christian spiritual fashions for visions or care of the dead have at times had a great vogue, then taken up by Christians and, as it were, ‘baptized’ into respectability, only later to fade as the religious imagination turned towards other devices.

            One theoretical consequence of my  approach in the spontaneous shrines project is to destroy the distinction, often touted popularly these days, between religion and so-called ‘spirituality.’ Thus, although 'spirituality' is often opposed to 'religion,' their similarities strike one as far more prominent than their supposed differences. Both move in a world that honors reverence, sacredness and holiness, or the transgressive, tabu and forbidden; both suggest realms of being not exhausted by the world of everyday quantifiable life; both imagine a cosmic, rather than merely local frame of reference for human action, whether that be the karmic realm of sams~ra and release from it, the universe, natural world or some other vast reference of existence. For this reason, I consider ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ sufficiently related terms, and leave it to others to quibble about the differences.

            A second distinction that this approach offends is that between  the so-called ‘fine’ religious artifacts from that abundance of humble, often mass produced artifacts of the ‘popular’ religious imagination.  I believe it is necessary to take seriously literally everything from the ‘fine’ grave stones or lavish shrines of ‘high’ religious culture to their poor ‘cousins’ such as ‘plastic Jesuses’ or Kuan-yin playing cards.  Each has a role to play in making up the sum of religious data, the tangible expression of the religious imagination.  For these purposes, the distinction between ‘fine’ and popular art, useful perhaps in other contexts, serves no purpose. By paying little or no heed to this distinction between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ religion, we are also well placed to exploit the insights of radical movements in the study of religion, such as the Collège de Sociologie, and its investigators of the “sacredness of everyday life,” Michel Leiris or Roger Caillois.10


Practical Problems: The Incredible Heaviness of Material Religion

            Material religious culture can thus be so attractive as data, both for research and teaching, that it may be easy to overlook its drawbacks.  This is to say that a major practical problem encountered in studying the products of the material religious imagination is, of course, its very materiality.  Anyone who has ever envied one’s colleagues in art history or film studies, for example, with their ability to transfix students with lectures enhanced by colorful images and cinematic drama, only needs to spend some time with them as they labor to map strategy about what materials to use, how to sequence them, how to shift between lecture and visual presentation, and so on. Most of us are, of course, familiar with these issues.  But, with the increased reference to material religious culture, the problems we already comprehend here will only magnify and proliferate in often unpredictable directions.  With the data of material religious culture, unlike that of beliefs,  for instance, we encounter inventory and stocking problems. Slides and videos may be problem enough.  But what of family bibles, censors, ghee, frangipani blossoms?   Where do we stash this stuff that ‘has weight and takes up space’?  Who lugs it to class, and so, on? While beliefs needs as well to be recorded and archived, their materiality is far less than material data that have substantial ‘weight and take up space,’ as our high school physics textbooks were keen to remind us.  We may even be tempted to revert to simple talk, with all its blessed lightness of being,  and to those tried and true, eminently portable texts.  Some may even be tempted only to talk about religious talk (beliefs, texts and such) and forget cumbersome material religious culture altogether. Various strategies will simply  have to be devised to manage these problems, knowing full well that there is no way in advance to judge whether advantages outweigh problems.  We will want to be alert and to plot how these two curves – advantages and drawbacks – intersect and veer off in their own directions.

            One strategy to deal with the problem of the ‘incredible heaviness of material religion,’ is to transform it into a lighter medium.  While there’s nothing quite like the ‘really real,’ sometimes the virtually real is the best one can do. We sometimes need therefore to overcome the inconvenience of the very materiality of religion that we seek to represent.  If I cannot visit Hsi Lai, because I am in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, I would at least like to be there – ‘virtually.’ If I do not have the Rustavi choir from Georgia around the corner, I would at least like to be able to hear them – ‘virtually.’ This, if anything, is a job for digital technology – for the digital camera and video, for MP3 technology, and for all the possibilities now being unleashed for web-based publishing.  The web includes an increasingly growing list of possible kinds of ‘sites’ – not only the standard ‘bulletin board’ where information is posted, but digital media albums, where the sights and sounds of religion in material form can be accessed, ‘tours’ of actual or imagined places, ideally in 3-dimensions, whether interactive or not.  Overcoming the incredible heaviness (and, often, long distance) of material religious culture, my Spontaneous Shrines website and digital project, located at  may serve as an example of one way that I have tried to make things better for students of religious materiality.



Brown, Peter. The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1981.

———. The Rise of Western Christendom. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

Bynum, Caroline Walker. Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food  to Medieval Women. Berkeley: University of California, 1987.

———. The Resurrection of the Body in Westem Christianity, 200-1336. New York City: Columbia University, 1995.

Caillois, Roger. “Festival.” In The College of  Sociology, 1937-39, edited by Denis Hollier, 279-303. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1939.

———. Man and the Sacred. Translated by Meyer Barash. New York: Free Press, 1950.

Friedland, Roger, and Richard Hecht. To Rule Jerusalem:. New York City: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Hackett, Rosalind I. J.. Art and Religion in Africa. London/ New York: Cassell, 1996.

———. Religion in Calabar: The Religious Life and History of a Nigerian Town. Berlin/ New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1989.

Kselman, Thomas. Death and the Afterlife in Modern France. Princeton: Princeton University, 1993.

———. Miracles and Prophecies in Nineteenth-Century France. New Brunswick: Rutgers University, 1983.

———, ed. Belief in History: Innovative Approaches to European and American Religion. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University, 1991.

Laderman, Gary. Sacred Remains: American Attitudes toward Death,  1799-1883. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

Lawson, E. Thomas. “On Interpreting the World Religiously.” In Radical Interpretation in Religion, edited by Nancy K. Frankenberry, 117-28. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Leiris, Michel. “The Sacred in Everyday Life.” In The College of Sociology, 1937-39, edited by Denis Hollier, 24-31, 98-102. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1988.

Liu, Hsin-ju. Silk and Religion: An Exploration of Material Life and the Thought of People, Ad 600-1200. Xinru Liu/Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998.

McDannell, Colleen. The Christian Home in Victorian America, 1840-1900. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

———. Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Réville, Albert. “Contemporary Materialism in Religion: The Sacred Heart.” Theological Review 44, no. January (1874): 152.

———. “Evolution in Religion, and Its Results.” Theological Review 12 (1875): 243.

Rothkrug, Lionel. “German Holiness and Western Sanctity in Medieval and Modern History.” Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques 15, no. 1 (1988): 161-250.

———. “Holy Shrines, Religious Dissonance and Satan in the Origins of the German Reformation.” Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques 14, no. 2 (1987): 143-286.

Smith, Jonathan Z. To Take Place: Toward a Theory of Ritual. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Strenski, Ivan. “Why It Is Better to Have Some of the Questions Than All of the Answers.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 14 in press, no. Winter (2002).

Tiele, Cornelis P. Elements of the Science of Religion. Part 2: Ontological. Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1898.



1. Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1981), Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food  to Medieval Women (Berkeley: University of California, 1987), Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Westem Christianity, 200-1336 (New York City: Columbia University, 1995), Roger Friedland and Richard Hecht, To Rule Jerusalem: (New York City: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Rosalind I. J.. Hackett, Art and Religion in Africa (London/ New York: Cassell, 1996), Rosalind I. J.. Hackett, Religion in Calabar: The Religious Life and History of a Nigerian Town (Berlin/ New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1989), Thomas Kselman, Death and the Afterlife in Modern France (Princeton: Princeton University, 1993), Thomas Kselman, Miracles and Prophecies in Nineteenth-Century France (New Brunswick: Rutgers University, 1983), Thomas Kselman, ed., Belief in History: Innovative Approaches to European and American Religion (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University, 1991), Gary Laderman, Sacred Remains: American Attitudes toward Death,  1799-1883 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), Hsin-ju Liu, Silk and Religion: An Exploration of Material Life and the Thought of People, Ad 600-1200 (Xinru Liu/Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), Colleen McDannell, The Christian Home in Victorian America, 1840-1900 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), Colleen McDannell, Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), Lionel Rothkrug, “German Holiness and Western Sanctity in Medieval and Modern History,” Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques 15, no. 1 (1988), Lionel Rothkrug, “Holy Shrines, Religious Dissonance and Satan in the Origins of the German Reformation,” Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques 14, no. 2 (1987), Jonathan Z Smith, To Take Place: Toward a Theory of Ritual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

2. Albert Réville, "Contemporaneous Materialism in Religion: the Sacred Heart," Theological Review 44 (January 1874): 152. Interestingly enough, Réville is equally hard on the Anglican liturgical reformers of the mid-nineteenth century, saying that "it enjoins participation in its mysterious ceremonies as necessary for the salvation of souls...." (Albert Réville, "Evolution in Religion, and Its Results," Theological Review 12 (1875): 243.)

3. Albert Réville, “Contemporary Materialism in Religion: The Sacred Heart,” Theological Review 44, no. January (1874).

4. Ibid.

5.Cornelis P. Tiele, Elements of the Science of Religion. Part 2: Ontological (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1898).

6. Réville, “Contemporary Materialism in Religion: The Sacred Heart,”. Interestingly enough, Réville is equally hard on the Anglican liturgical reformers of the mid-nineteenth century, saying that "it enjoins participation in its mysterious ceremonies as necessary for the salvation of souls...." Albert Réville, “Evolution in Religion, and Its Results,” Theological Review 12 (1875).

7. Réville, “Contemporary Materialism in Religion: The Sacred Heart,”.

8. Ivan Strenski, “Why It Is Better to Have Some of the Questions Than All of the Answers,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 14 in press, no. Winter (2002).

9.  These a prioris are something like the “intuitive religious knowledge” that Tom Lawson talks about in his recommendation of a “cognitive science of religion.” E. Thomas Lawson, “On Interpreting the World Religiously,” in Radical Interpretation in Religion, ed. Nancy K. Frankenberry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

10. Roger Caillois, “Festival,” in The College of  Sociology, 1937-39, ed. Denis Hollier (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1939), Roger Caillois, Man and the Sacred, trans. Meyer Barash (New York: Free Press, 1950), Michel Leiris, “The Sacred in Everyday Life,” in The College of Sociology, 1937-39, ed. Denis Hollier (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1988).