Cover image for Seven theories of religion
Seven theories of religion
Pals, Daniel L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, [1996]

Physical Description:
vii, 294 pages ; 22 cm
Animism and magic: E.B. Tylor and J.G. Frazier -- Religion and personality: Sigmund Freud -- Society as sacred: Emile Durkheim -- Religion as alienation: Karl Marx -- Reality of the sacred: Mircea Eliade -- Society's "construct of the heart": E.E. Evans-Pritchard -- Religion as cultural system: Clifford Geertz.

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Call Number
Material Type
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BL41 .P36 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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 comparativestudy 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 Englishethnographer 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 inintroductory religion courses, Seven Theories of Religion is an enlightening treatment of this controversial and fascinating subject.

Author Notes

About the Author: Daniel L. Pals has written on both modern religious thought and issues in the theory of religion. Since 1982 he has been chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Pals (Univ. of Miami) offers an introduction, in seven chapters, to seven influential accounts of religion: those of E.B. Tylor and J.G. Frazer ("Animism and Magic"), Sigmund Freud ("Religion and Personality"), Emile Durkheim ("Society as Sacred"), Karl Marx ("Religion as Alienation"), Mircea Eliade ("The Reality of the Sacred"), E.E. Evans-Pritchard ("Society's ^D '"), and Clifford Geertz ("Religion as Cultural System"). Pals's expositions are informative, clear, and nontechnical. Some evaluative remarks on the tasks of defining and explaining religion are offered in a concluding chapter. Regarding definition, Pals suggests that among the theorists surveyed, all approximate the view that religion consists of belief and behavior associated with a supernatural realism. Regarding explanation, Pals notes that the move of Evans-Pritchard and Geertz away from general claims about the nature of religion receives considerable support among current theorists. In his words, "The age of supposedly scientific general theories seems to have passed--perhaps forever. Insofar as they managed to misread or misunderstand the nature of religion in human affairs, it is all to the good that they should now be left behind." Recommended for libraries supporting work on religion. Upper-division undergraduate; graduate; faculty. P. K. Moser Loyola University of Chicago

Table of Contents

1 Animism and MagicE.B. Taylor and J.G. Frazer
2 Religion and PersonalitySigmund Freud
3 Society as SacredEmile Durkheim
4 Religion as AlienationKarl MArx
5 The Reality of the SacredMircea Eliade
6 Society's ""Construct of the Heart""E.E. Evans-Pritchard
7 Religion as Cultural SystemClifford Geertz