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Many regard religious experience as the essence of religion, arguing that narratives might be created and rituals invented but that these are always secondary to the original experience itself. However, the concept of experience has come under increasing fire from a range of critics and theorists. This Reader presents writings from both those who assume the existence and possible universality of religious experience and those who question the very rhetoric of experience. Bringing together both classic and contemporary writings, the Reader showcases differing disciplinary approaches to the study of religious experience: philosophy, literary and cultural theory, history, psychology, anthropology; feminist theory; as well as writings from within religious studies. The essays are structured into pairs, with each essay separately introduced with information on its historical and intellectual context. The ultimate aim of the Reader is to enable students to explore religious experience as rhetoric created to authorize social identities. The book will be an invaluable introduction to the key ideas and approaches for students of religion, as well as sociology and anthropology.