Challenging Religious Studies
The Wealth, Wellbeing and Inequalities of Nations
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This landmark new book represents a breakthrough in our understanding and development of the practices, ethics and theories of religious studies through engagement with the world of daily life and its breath-taking transformation since 1800, as revealed particularly in living standards, life expectancy and subjective wellbeing. Together with the equally disturbing growth of inequalities between and within nations, this constitutes the profound paradox of development.
What is of particular interest is the book's rigorous treatment of the question why religion is better at delivering greater subjective wellbeing and how it does so. To build such arguments always involves engaging with key related disciplines, experiences and practices, including economics, psychology, sociology and economic history.
But it will also increasingly offer religion the opportunity to participate in such developments but always and increasingly through collaboration with other such disciplines and experiences, and always with the objective of furthering the greater wellbeing of all people in and through their environments.
Read an edited extract at William Temple Foundation
'If God dwelt among us, as John's Gospel assures us, then so must theologians, as John Atherton challenges us. It is no empty call. Atherton shows us how it's done by quantifying religion in daily life and engaging economists on human wellbeing. This is vintage Atherton, informed, insightful and inspiring.' -- William Storrar
'Relations between economics and religion have long been fractious, to the detriment of both. While economists have broadened their interests, the centrality of religion to human wellbeing is rarely recognized. On the other side, many theologians brand economics as a soulless doctrine of materialism. Such polarized views hurt both economics and religious studies, and have long been due for change. John Atherton's Challenging religious studies is a splendid bridge across the divide and lays out a path for a richer, more productive, and more sympathetic collaboration. Bravo!' -- Angus Deaton
'This work breaks fresh and refreshing ground by bringing economics (and related social sciences, especially psychology) into conversation with Christian theology and a broadly spiritual outlook on life. Its chiding of Christian theology and religious studies more broadly for neglecting the value of everyday life and material well-being is to be celebrated as is its call for economics and related social sciences to attend more explicitly to moral and religious concerns and sensibilities. Atherton well understands that adequate material well-being frees people to tend to their moral and spiritual well-being and that distancing these dimensions of well-being from each other is self-defeating. The book will spur both religious studies and the social sciences to think again about each other and to collaborate in the promoting human flourishing.' -- Ellen Charry
'This is an impressive volume on the relationship between economics and Christianity. John Atherton gives a clear image of the economic development towards increased wellbeing and growing inequalities. He demonstrates convincingly the importance of religion to subjective wellbeing, and the role of Christianity in progressive economic and political change. His thorough analysis shows the importance of a multidisciplinary collaboration between religious studies, sociology, psychology and economics. This means a serious challenge to religious studies.' -- Carl-Henric Grenholm
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