Response Paper

The Meaning and End of Religion

This is my responses for Cantwell Smith classic book: The Meaning and End of Religion. In this book, Cantwell Smith is trying to offer an alternative way of understanding religion. Starting from questioning the meaning of the term religion. He pointed the term religion as the result of a reification process pioneered by the Westerners and Muslims. For that reason, he advised abandoning or dropped the term religion. The relationship between man/worshipper and God is a personal matter that manifested as faith. It cannot be institutionalized and regulated as in religion.

My point is: If we abandon the term religion, then should ‘the study of religion’ be renamed to ‘the study of faith’?
Almost every scientific work begins with the search for meaning and definition. Indeed, the meaning and definition have become an essential characteristic of the scientific work. It is the beginning. The front gate to enter, continue and to understanding the work itself. What’s interesting about the title of this book is: How is it possible to put the ‘end’ word when the beginning is just started?

We do learn a lot from Cantwell Smith’s work. But to abandon the term religion in research or abandon the religion itself, in my opinion is not a wise thing. Just like Talal Asad said that to define is to leave out some things and to include others. If the faith and cumulative tradition–as Smith said–are talking about worshipping The God, then what about those who do not worshiping God. Like Buddhism–Buddhism worshiping Dharma–what kind of major study that will advocate their social-life aspect? Especially in the religious study, religion or ‘cumulative tradition’ with all its rituals, values and rules are important components that shape our civilization. It affects the social aspects of human life and deserves to be preserved.

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