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You’ve heard them all before. “Religions are Belief Systems.” “Religion is a Private Matter.” “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Our culture is full of...

You’ve heard them all before. “Religions are Belief Systems.” “Religion is a Private Matter.” “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Our culture is full of popular stereotypes about religion, both positive and negative. Many people uncritically assume that religion is intrinsically violent, or that religion makes people moral, or that it is simply “bullshit.” In Stereotyping Religion: Critiquing Clichés (Bloomsbury, 2017), edited by Brad Stoddard, Assistant Professor at McDaniel College, and Craig Martin, Associate Professor at St. Thomas Aquinas College, several clichés are understood within a social and historical context, which enables us to see how they are produced and what makes them effective. In our conversation we explore several of these stereotypes, what makes them possible and desirable for communities that reproduce and curate them, secularization theory, the role of atheism, liberal political discourse about religion, critical thinking, and how “Stereotyping Religion” works in the classroom.


Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kpeterse@odu.edu.