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Irreverence and the SacredCritical Studies in the History of Religions$
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Hugh Urban and Greg Johnson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190911966

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190911966.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 January 2021

Historicizing the Elephant in the Room

Historicizing the Elephant in the Room

(p.267) 12 Historicizing the Elephant in the Room
Irreverence and the Sacred

Russell T. McCutcheon

Oxford University Press

This chapter retraces the genealogy of the well-known parable of the “blind men and the elephants,” which is often cited by scholars who want to champion religious pluralism or inclusivism. While this parable is allegedly based on an ancient Indian text, this chapter shows persuasively that it is in fact a relatively modern invention used to promote a particular brand of multiculturalism and rather uncritical scholarship. As an alternative, the chapter suggests that a critical study of religions would follow Bruce Lincoln’s approach by interrogating such truth claims and situating them in their specific historical and political contexts.

Keywords:   myth, politics, pluralism, multiculturalism, inclusivism

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