In matters of religion and matrimony I never give any advice; because I will not have anybody’s torments in this world or the next laid to my charge.
Earl of Chesterfield, Letter to A.C. Stanhope, 1765
At first glance, geography and religion seem to be curious bedfellows. However, even a brief reflection reveals a myriad of ways in which the two interact—religion affects people and their behaviour in many different ways, and geographers have traditionally been concerned with the spatial patterns, distributions and manifestations of people and environment. Glacken notes how,
in ancient and modern times alike, theology and geography have often been closely related studies because they meet at crucial points of human curiosity. If we seek after the nature of God, we must consider the nature of man and the earth, and if we look at the earth, questions of divine purpose in its creation and of the role of mankind inevitably arise.
None the less, the study of geography and religion remains peripheral to modern academic geography. The Earl of Chesterfield was doubtless correct in insisting that ‘religion is by no means a proper subject of conversation in a mixed company’, but the real reason for this marginality lies more in the assumed rationality of post-Enlightenment science, which dismisses as irrational (thus undeserving of academic study) such fundamental human qualities as mystery, awe and spirituality—reflections of the very essence of humanness.
Yet a geography that ignores what we might call ‘the supernatural’ neglects some of the most deeply rooted triggers of human behaviour and attitudes, is blind to some critical dimensions of humanity and overlooks some profoundly significant implications of geographical patterns of human activity and