Seven Theories of Religion

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Oxford University Press, 1996 - Religion - 294 pages
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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.

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User Review  - gmicksmith - LibraryThing

Pals surveys the major names: Tylor, Frazer, Freud, Durkheim, Marx, Eliade, Evans-Pritichard, and Geertz to describe seven main theories of religion in the history of religions. This is one of seminal theoretical works on religion. Read full review

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About the author (1996)

Daniel L. Pals is at University of Miami.

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