20 Theories on the Origin of Religion Religion is a species-specific human universal phenomenon, complex, full of paradoxes, and found in all cultures. Social scientists and anthropologists since the late 17th century have attempted to rationally answer questions about religion, and while we can't evaluate the veracity of religion’s claims, we can attempt to understand its functions. The methods of comparative religion, comparative mythology, with interdisciplinary analysis throughout the fields of ethnography, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, and linguistics have made a lot of progress in the last 100 years, with a boom of database-driven analysis in the last decade. There are a number
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Henning cites E.B. Tylor as seeing the individual fundamental element of religion as the belief in spiritual beings (Henning 1898:374): By requiring in this definition the belief in a supreme deity or in judgment after death, the adoration of idols or the practice of sacrifice or other partially diffused doctrines or rites, no doubt many tribes may be excluded from the category of religious; but as such narrow definition has the fault of identifying religion rather with particular developments than with the deeper motive which underlies them, it seems best to fall back at once on this essential source, and simply to claim as a minimum definition of religion the belief in spiritual beings (Tylor 1873:424). 4. Religion as Soul Worship The second of what Henning saw as a related trifecta of fundamental religiosity along with belief in spiritual beings and ancestor worship, is soul worship, saying that Julius Lippert had “showed in many of his works that the root of all historic development of religion will be found in the worship of the soul (Lippert 1881).” These theorists felt that once the belief in souls is achieved, it extended to all objects whether animate or inanimate. The experience of dreams, visions, and hallucinations are thought to be the impetus of this belief in ethereal doppelgangers or astral projections of selfhood. 5.