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Seven Theories of Religion

Paperback|Aug 1996
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$43.99

Religion has been an integral part of human culture for millennia, but only in the last two centuries have some thinkers come to believe it can be explained through critical, scientific analysis. When and how did religion arise? What forces...


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Religion has been an integral part of human culture for millennia, but only in the last two centuries have some thinkers come to believe it can be explained through critical, scientific analysis. When and how did religion arise? What forces or motives have created it? Is it rational or emotional? Does it fill the needs of individuals or those of society? Why is religion such a universal and powerful presence in human life? These questions have attracted some of the foremost thinkers of the modern era - among them Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx - and have elicited sharply differing verdicts on religion's place in human affairs. In Seven Theories of Religion, Daniel L. Pals offers cogent introductions to seven "classic" explanations of religion, taking the reader methodically through the arguments presented by each thinker. After a close look at two pioneering Victorians, E. B. Tylor (the father of the animistic theory) and James Frazer (author of The Golden Bough, the monumental study of primitive custom and belief), Pals explores the controversial "reductionist" approaches of Freud, Emile Durkheim, and Marx. The thinkers who appear in these pages deserve wide attention, explains Pals, because the influence of their ideas has been felt far beyond the sphere of religion, affecting our literature, philosophy, history, politics, art, psychology, and, indeed, almost every realm of modern thought. Easily accessible to students and general readers, Seven Theories of Religion is an enlightening treatment of this much-debated and fascinating subject.
-Publisher

Religion, as an object of scholarly study, has inspired vast amounts ofscholarship in the last century, and has engaged countless intellectuals andscholars in the search for understanding and explaining why it is such aubiquitous and powerful presence in the huan experience. To this day it remainsa controversial and fascinating subject. Modelled on Oxford's highly successfulSeven Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson, this book offers brief andcogent introductions to seven classic theories of religion. Accessibly written,this critical survey follows the most important figures in the modern scientificstudy of religion, and fills an important gap in the introductory material onthe subject. For each chapter Pals offers a biographical sketch of the theoristand his world, explains how each one saw religion as an intellectual problem,and finally shows how they came to viable conclusions as to the nature ofreligious belief. The author appraises the strengths and influence of eachsystem, focusing particularly on the arguments per se, and tries to offer ameaningful account of the general structures and assumptions of eachtheory.
-Publisher

Seven Theories of Religion introduces a sequence of "classic" attempts to explain religion scientifically, presenting each in brief outline and in non-technical language. It considers first the views of E.B. Tylor and James Frazer, two Victorian pioneers in anthropology and the comparative study of religion. It explores the controversial "reductionist" approaches of Freud, Marx, and Emile Durkheim, then explains the program of their most outspoken opponent, the Romanian-American scholar Mircea Eliade. Further on, it examines certain newer methods and ideas advanced by the English ethnographer E.E. Evans-Pritchard and by the American Clifford Geertz, two of the present century's most celebrated names in fieldwork anthropology. Each chapter offers biographical background, exposition of the theory, comparative analysis, and critical assessment. Easily accessible to students in introductory religion courses, Seven Theories of Religion is an enlightening treatment of this controversial and
-Publisher

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