Kevin Schilbrack


Kevin Schilbrack teaches and writes about the philosophical study of religions. A graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School, he is the author of Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto (Blackwell, 2014) and he is presently interested in the relevance of embodied cognition and social ontology for understanding what religion is and how it works. If you share these interests, feel free to write him at and/or follow him on

Click here to see his CV.

Teaching and Scholarship

My teaching and scholarly interests are multi-disciplinary. I have been motivated by the view that, given massive migration and developing technology, the world today is shrinking faster than ever before, and a better grasp of religious diversity around the world is crucial for those who wish to avoid the clash of civilizations. How do we minimize distortion as we seek to understand others? Under what conditions are reductive explanations needed? How do we evaluate alternative worldviews fairly? My first book, Philosophy and the Study of Religions, addresses these questions and culminates in a vision for the academic study of religion as a coherent multi-disciplinary field that includes interpretive (humanistic), explanatory (social scientific), and evaluative (normative) questions. That book has already been reviewed in 11 different journals, and my scholarship on the topics of theorizing religion, embodied practice, and cross-cultural understanding has led to invitations be a visiting fellow or scholar-in-residence at Harvard University, at the University of Uppsala, at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; to evaluate grants for the National Endowment for the Humanities; to speak at Oxford, Yale, Boston, Rutgers, Wake Forest, Cambridge, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Lehigh, and others; to serve as an external reader on multiple dissertation committees; and to join the editorial boards for the Journal of the American Academy of ReligionSophiaMethod and Theory in the Study of Religion, the new journal Body & Religion, and the multi-volume Blackwell Encyclopedia of Religious Ethics. I am now working on a second book that seeks to explain what I consider a revolution happening today in philosophy and its relevance for how we understand religious belief and practice. The revolution concerns the emergence of post-Cartesian, embodied forms of cognition and their relevance for the academic study of religion, and I hope that this book will have an impact equal to the first.

You can watch a short video about my REL 1010: Religion and Imaginary Worlds class offered in Spring 2023 here .

And you can watch a short video about my REL 3700: Theories of Religion class offered in Spring 2023 here 

Recent Publications

  • "Do You Practice the Critical Study of Religion?" Religion (forthcoming).
  • "The Realist Discursive Study of Religion," Method and Theory in the Study of Religion (forthcoming).
  • "The Revival of Realism and the Study of Religions," Religious Studies Review 50:1 (March).
  • “Social Practice as Holistic Frame,” in Michael Stausberg, ed., Twenty-first Century Theories of Religion (Routledge, 2024, in press).
  • "Philosophy of Religion without the Supernatural" in Nathan Loewen, Gereon Kopf, and Purushottama Bilimoria, eds., Engaging Philosophy of Religion: Thinking across Boundaries (Bloomsbury, 2024, in press).
  • “The Danger in Diversifying Philosophy of Religion,” in Nathan Loewen and Agnieszka Rostalska, eds, Diversifying Philosophy of Religion (Bloomsbury, 2023).
  • “Emergence Theory and the New Materialisms,” in Whitney Bauman, Heather Eaton, and Karen Bray, eds, Earthly Things: Immanence, New Materialisms, and Planetary Thinking (Fordham University Press, 2023).
  • "Does Analytic Theology Belong in the Public University?" Religious Studies 59:4 (December, 2023).
  • "Liturgical Groups, Religions, and Social Ontology," in Aaron Simmons, Bruce Benson, and Neal DeRoo, eds, Philosophies of Liturgy: Explorations of Embodied Religious Practice (Bloomsbury, 2023).
  • "Committing Theology in the Secular Academy," in F. LeRon Shults and Robert C. Neville, eds, Religion in Multidisciplinary Perspective (SUNY Press, 2022).
  • "The Concept of Religion," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2022):
  • "Critique vs. Evaluation in Post-colonial Philosophy of Religion," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 89:2 (June 2021): 213-20.
  • "Parts Behave Differently in Wholes," Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 15:4 (Winter 2021).
  • “Embodied Moral Inquiry,” in William Schweiker et al, eds, Encyclopedia of Religious Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2021).
  • "Religious Practices and the Formation of Subjects," in David Eckel, ed., The Future of Philosophy of Religion (Springer, 2020).
  • "A Metaphysics for the Study of Religion," Critical Research on Religion 8:1 (April 2020): 87-100.
  • "Hospitality and the Ethics of Religious Diversity," Religious Studies 56:1 (March 2020): 64-79.
  • "Spiritual Values for those without Eternal Life," Sophia 58:4 (December 2019): 753-59. 
  • "A Philosophical Analysis of Interrituality,” in Marianne Moyaert, ed., Interreligious Relations and the Negotiation of Ritual Boundaries: Explorations in Interrituality (Palgrave, 2019). 
  • "Imagining 'Religion' in Antiquity: A How To," in Nickolas Roubekas, ed., Theorizing 'Religion' in Antiquity (Equinox, 2019).
  • “The Material Turn in the Academic Study of Religions," Journal of Religion 99:2 (April 2019): 219-27.
  • "What Does the Study of Religion Study?," Harvard Theological Review 111:3 (June 2018): 451-458.
  • "A Better Methodological Naturalism," in Jason Blum, ed., The Question of Methodological Naturalism (Brill, 2018).
  • "Interpretation in the Academic Study of Religion" and "A Reply to Critics," in Brad Stoddard, ed., Method Today: Redescribing Approaches to the Study of Religion (Equinox, 2018).
  • "Mathematics and the Definitions of Religion," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 81:4 (April 2018): 145-160.
  • "A Realist Social Ontology of Religion," Religion 47:2 (March 2017): 161-178.

Publications engaging Dr. Schilbrack's scholarship 

  • Mark Q. Gardiner and Steven Engler, "Situating Philosophy of Religious Studies," Religion (forthcoming).
  • Jack Williams, "The Feeling of Believing: The Importance of Affectivity in the Rehabilitation of Belief," Implicit Religion 25: 1-2 (2022): 77-101.
  • Brent Nongbri, "Imagining Science: Ancient Religion, Modern Science, and How We Talk about History," STQ (forthcoming).
  • Nickolas P. Roubekas, "Historicizing and Deconstructing 'Religion: A Short Overview of a Persisting Problem," in Christian Danz and Jakob Helmut Deibl, eds, Transformation of Religion : Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Brill, 2023). 
  • Filip Rasmussen, "The Realism of Discourse: Critical Reflections on the Work of Kevin Schilbrack," Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 35:1 (2023).
  • José Eduardo Porcher and Fernando Carlucci, "Afro-Brazilian Religions and the Prospect for a Philosophy of Religious Practice," Religions 14:2 (2023).
  • Richard Miller, Why Study Religion? (Oxford, 2021), ch. 8: "Philosophy, Normativity, and Metacriticism."
  • Jan-Olav Henriksen, Representation and Ultimacy (Lit Verlag, 2020), ch: 1: "What is Religion?"
  • Jayne Svenungsson, "The Return of Religion or the End of Religion?," Philosophy and Social Criticism 46:7 (September 2020): 785-809.
  • Mikel Burley, A Radical Pluralist Philosophy of Religion (Bloomsbury, 2020), ch. 2: "Radical Plurality and Critical Description."
  • Jan-Olav Henriksen, Christianity as Distinct Practices (Bloomsbury, 2019), ch: 4: "How Focus on Practices May Reshape Philosophy of Religion."
  • Russell McCutcheon, Fabricating Religion (de Gruyter, 2018), ch. 6: "Of Concepts and Entities."
  • Craig Martin, “The Neo-Perennialists,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 29:4 (2017): 313-326.
  • Andrea Sauchelli, “The Definition of Religion, Super-empirical Realities, and Mathematics,” Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 58:1 (2016): 67–75.
  • Stephen Dawson, “Multidisciplinary, Comparative, and Interactive: Toward a Global Philosophy of Religion,” Religious Studies Review 42:3 (2016).
  • Curtis Hutt, “Catherine Bell and her Davidsonian Critics,” Journal of Ritual Studies 23:2 (2009): 69-76. 
Title: Professor of Religious Studies
Department: Philosophy and Religion

Email address: Email me

Phone: (828) 262-2429

Office address
I. G. Greer Hall 127