Original Research - Special Collection: Major Theorists of Religion

How not to become a founding figure

Michel Clasquin-Johnson
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 2 | a6711 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i2.6711 | © 2021 Michel Clasquin-Johnson | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 April 2021 | Published: 03 August 2021

About the author(s)

Michel Clasquin-Johnson, Department of Religious Studies and Arabic, Faculty of Theology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


The views recently put forward by Fukuyama and Huntington showed that the academic world may once again be ready to think in large patterns of the rise and fall of civilisations. However, long before that, the Buddhologist Trevor Ling put forward a theoretical position regarding the rise and fall of civilisations and the vestigial survival of dead civilisations as ‘religions’. More recently, Naomi Goldenberg put forward a superficially similar, but, on deeper inspection, quite a different point of view on the power relationship between state institutions and the ‘vestigial states’ that contest the state’s monopoly on power and are known to us as religions. This article explored the differences and possible synergies between these two standpoints.

Contribution: This article pleads for much attention to be paid to less well-known theories of religion and demonstrates with reference to the theories of Trevor Ling and Naomi Goldenberg how a virtual conversation between older and more contemporary theorists can open up new theoretical and methodological avenues for understanding religion.


Trevor Ling; Naomi Goldenberg; religion; civilisation; vestigial state


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