Seven Theories of Religion, by Daniel L. Pals


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Seven Theories of Religion, by Daniel L. Pals

Seven Theories of Religion, by Daniel L. Pals

Seven Theories of Religion, by Daniel L. Pals

PDF Download Seven Theories of Religion, by Daniel L. Pals

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Seven Theories of Religion, by Daniel L. Pals

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 fascinating subject.

  • Sales Rank: #1311613 in Books
  • Published on: 1996-08-01
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 5.44″ h x .79″ w x 8.25″ l,
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 304 pages

Review
“Excellent overview! I appreciated the concise summaries and appropriate bibliographies.”–Stacy Patty, Lubbock Christian College

“An excellent teaching tool for serious students.”–Ned Rosenbaum, Dickinson College

“It’s an excellent intro to matters at the heart of religious studies.”–Timothy Miller, University of Kansas

“An excellent collection introducing major theories on the natures religion”.–Charles A. Kimball, Furman University–Greenville

“Pals provides an incisive and lucid overview of seven of the most influential modern theories of religion. Cutting across disciplinary lines and cutting out disciplinary jargon, his book will prove invaluable for introductory and advanced courses on the nature of religion.” –Robert Segal, Lancaster University

“Sifting the ambitions, contributions, and confusions of the most influential students of religion is exhilarating indeed: Pals is a superb tutor, his text an immensely readable tour through some tough territory. This is a judicious, enlightening, and spirited introduction.”–Peter Iver Kaufman, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill

“An excellent review of some of the major interpretations of religion in the 20th century”.–P. Mirecki, University of Kansas–Lawrence

“An excellent introduction. Fair to each theory, yet enables students to identify and analyze critical perspectives.”–Robert Ellwood, University of Southern California–Los Angeles

“A very useful introduction to some classic scientific investigations of religion. A must for the bookshelf of any serious scholar.”–Robert Reed, Ohio State University

“An excellent book for a class on comparative world religions. It gives a sound theoretical basis for the study of non-Western religions.”–Rev. Charles Lockett, Wilberforce University

About the Author
Daniel L. Pals is at University of Miami.

Most helpful customer reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful.
Excellent
By Jeff Jordan
This is a very good, even-handed look at some of the great thinkers of the last 150 years, and what they thought about the phenomenon of religion, whether Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, polytheism, etc..
These thinkers can be categorized as either “reductionist” or “non-reductionist.” Tyler, Frazer, Freud, Marx, and Durkheim are reductionist. To Tyler and Frazer, religion can be reduced to “irrationality” or the “primitive mentality.” Freud reduces religion to “neurosis.” For Marx, religion is the “opium of the masses” and nothing more than a symptom of the “class struggle.” Durkheim reduces religion to “the social”; that is, religion is society, society is religion.
Eliade is non-reductionist. He thinks religion cannot be reduced to psychology, sociology, economics, theology or anything else, but has to be seen as something unique in its own right. Eliade studies myths and other phenomenon of religion, compares them, tries to find universal similarities.
Evans-Pritchard and Geertz are also non-reductionist. But they don’t try and “theorize” like Frazer or Eliade; they don’t try to find the “origin” of religion. They are content to do in depth studies of particular culures.
The History of Religion, anthropology, ethnology–these are all fuzzy sciences. The debate over what religion is, how it came to be in various cultures, whether or not it is needed or unneeded, whether or not it is rational or irrational or just a product of the “prelogical” mind–all this still rages on amongst anthropologists, ethnologist, pyschologists, sociologists, and historians of religion. The reductionists vs. the non-reductionists. Who will win?
Overall, a good and fair-balanced read.

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful.
A good summary of religious thought.
By Jeff Nyman
This book was definitely a good summary of the thoughts of eight main historical figures (with a few others thrown in here and there). However, in many cases, the summaries were not so much about religion, but rather mythologies that sometimes masquerade as religion, at least in some people’s opinions. For example, the ideas of Mircea Eliade, to me, are simply mythologies and barely constitute the basis of a veritable religion (and are pretty boring reading, to boot). And Karl Marx’s ideas are so stepped in the socioeconomic realm that one cannot really call his work a “theory” of religion. On the other hand, the interesting work of Freud and Durkheim are specifically related to the subject of religion and are good additions to the book.
Thus, for me, this book is sort of a smattering of material that is worthwhile and entertaining reading – but may not be living up to the title of the book. As just one example, there is actually no discussion of the major thinkers who have put forward cognitive and biological hypotheses (for they are not “theories”) of religion. (The section on Freud does not really count towards this because his work was not so much cognitive, as psychoanalytic.) Thus, for me, this book did not really discuss theories of religion, per se, but theories of various aspects of what some might call religion and others might call folklore, legend, or mythology.
This is a worthwhile book because you get a condensed view of the thoughts of many notable thinkers from wide ranges of disciplines (such as anthropology, sociology, etc.) but keep in mind that these are not “theories” of religion. They are, if anything, hypotheses and they are, if nothing else, only about relative aspects of various belief systems. If you are more concerned about the origins of religion (and thus a true “theory”) I recommend a book like Pascal Boyer’s “Religion Explained” or the books by Michael Shermer, such as “How We Believe.”
Another problem I had with the book were the footnotes. Sometimes they contained just references and other times they contained material worth reading. In all cases, the “material worth reading” was short enough that it should have been placed in the main text. The constant shifting back and forth in this book made it a slower (and less entertaining) read for me than it probably otherwise would have been.
Overall, however, I think this was a well-researched book and contains a lot of good material. It just did not really cover the aspects of religion that I was hoping for.

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful.
This is a good, useful survey of major theories of religion.
By Tim Murphy (txm55@po.cwru.edu)
It is written primarily for an undergraduate audience and would work well as a text book. Theorists include: E.B.Tylor, Marx, Freud, Durkheim, Eliade, Evans-Pritchard, and Geertz. Several disciplines are brought together here in one volume–an advantage over other such books. Pals give a very standard reading of all these theorists. The biggest problem with the book is the exclusion of any discussion of structuralism. He also omits more current theorists such Althusser, Lacan, or Bataille. This makes the book somewhat dated and conservative. His standard explication is, however, very solid and clear.

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