This article consists of the full text of an opening lecture for a conference organized by the International Interfaith Centre, at Westminster College, Oxford, England UK, on 19th and 2oth April 1995. A shorter version of the text appeared in the journal World Faiths Encounter 14 (July 1996) pp. 3-11 (published by the World Congress of Faiths). The academic study of religions and dialogue between religions or 'interfaith' activities are by no means the same thing. Yet they share one rather fundamental perception, namely that religions are plural in number. The article reflects on the tensions and relations between the two perspectives on the basis of this shared presupposition. It also calls for a rewriting of the history of the comparative study of religions, taking account in particular of the political and ideological background.