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10 Cards in this Set

  • Front
  • Back
What is the distinctive approach of anthropology?
1. Concept of culture
2. Use of fieldwork to gather information about religion in a natural cultural setting.
3. Scientific perspective
4. Humanistic perspective
5. Great diversity in religions
What is the difference between scientific and humanistic approaches to explaining religion?
The scientific perspective emphasizes explaining and predicting the regularities in religion and analyzing its relationships with the culture of which it is a part and the natural environment where it is found.

The humanistic perspective emphasizes describing religions in terms that will seem accurate to followers and explaining religion in ways that make it more understandable to people of other religious and cultural traditions.
Discuss the difficulties in defining religion.
The great diversity of religious beliefs and practices makes it difficult to determine how religion should be defined.
Discuss the difficulties in defining religion.
The problem of ethnocentrism.

The problem of dichotomy.

The problem of identifying the supernatural.
Discuss the cognitive definition of religion.
Cognitive definitions:

Sir Edward Burnett Tylor:

Belief in spiritual beings such as spirits, ghosts and gods.

A primitive, non-scientific method of explaining mysterious events.

Concepts: Animism, soul, ghosts, ancestral spirits, ancestral spirits, ancestor worship, gods.

Robert R. Marett:

Simpler and more ancient religious idea of impersonal, unreasoning supernatural force which is embodied in English words such as "holiness" or "sacredness".

Supernatural force inspiring dread, awe or wonder.

Concepts: Animatism, mana, taboos
Discuss the social order definitions of religion.
Social Order definition:

Emile Durkhiem:

A unified set of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things... beliefs and practices that unite one moral community.

Strong feelings of awe and reverence inspire respect and cooperation for survival of group and customs.

Symbolic expression of the social order.

Not concerned with natural vs. supernatural.

Sacred, profane, clan totems.

Max Weber:

Interaction of religion with social institutions.

Religion influenced and influenced by other institutions and social history.
Discuss the affective definitions of religion.
Rudolph Otto:

Essence of religion is emotion.

Bronislaw Malinowski:

Religion as a means of defending against psychological stresses.

Religion as a system of practices with which people cope with uncertainty.

Magic is the use of rituals to achieve specific human ends when technologies could not be relied upon to meet human needs.

Appease feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.

Non-magical religious practices make life more predictable and secure, help people make decisions, help people to cope with life changes and reinforce social values that help society function in a way that is seen as good.
Discuss the existential definitions of religion.
Religion as values.

Religion is whatever people take seriously without reservation.

Religion as ultimate concerns.

Set of symbolic forms and acts which relate man to the ultimate condition of his existence.

A system of beliefs and practices directed toward the 'ultimate concern' of a society.

Replaces concept of supernatural with ultimate concerns, bypassing Western bias of earlier definitions.

Religion as the mediator of values.
Discuss the behavioral definitions of religion.
Anthony F.C. Wallace:

Ritual is religion in action; it is the cutting edge of the tool. It is ritual which accomplishes what religion sets out to do.


Victor Turner:

Rituals are the means by which the religious community achieves feelings of unity- "communitas".

Members of group embrace sense of equality. Creates strong personal bonds among members of group. Perpetuate community's cohesion by fostering interpersonal loyalties.

Edmund Leach:

Rituals express the meanings of sacred symbols in condensed form. Meaning conveyed by ritual is multivocalic. All different interpretations are valid meanings of the ritual.

Roy Rappaport:

Rituals symbolically portray the conventions of a religious community.

Rituals magnify the significance of a deviation into hypocrisy. Rituals have a binding effect that increase the likelihood of conformity.
Discuss the psychological definitions of religion.
Sigmund Freud:

Religion as a symbolic expression of parent-child relations. Childhood perceptions of parent are unconsciously used as the basis for interpretation of nature.

Forces in nature that are too powerful to control are anthropomorphized by projecting human qualities on them to conceptualize.

Abram Kardiner and Ralph Linton:

Religion is a projective system embodied in beliefs and rituals that provide an outlet for and resolve tensions which an individual acquires as a member of society, particularly those due to child-rearing methods.

Melford E. Spiro and Roy G. D'Andrade:

Concepts of gods influenced by the quality of parent-child relationships. Parental punitiveness was echoed in punitive gods, nurturing and responsive parenting was echoed by gods who responded to rituals.

Leslie White:

Naturalistic vs. supernaturalistic thinking.

Stewart Guthrie:

Interpretation of external world in a way that imputes human characteristics