Anatomy of the Sacred: An Introduction to Religion

Anatomy of the Sacred: An Introduction to Religion

by James C. Livingston

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Part Two examines universal forms of religious experience and expression and includes discussions of the sacred or holy; the nature of religious symbolism, myth, and doctrine; religious ritual; sacred scripture; as well s the social forms and dimensions of religion.

Part Three consists of a comparative analysis of six fundamental components that make up a


Part Two examines universal forms of religious experience and expression and includes discussions of the sacred or holy; the nature of religious symbolism, myth, and doctrine; religious ritual; sacred scripture; as well s the social forms and dimensions of religion.

Part Three consists of a comparative analysis of six fundamental components that make up a religious world-view. These include deity or ultimate reality; cosmogony; the nature of the human problem, theodicy or the problem of evil; ethics or moral action; and the ways and goals of salvation or enlightenment. Examples are selected from a wide range of primal and archaic religions as well as from the great historical religious traditions of the present. An epilogue explores the challenges to religion introduced by modern pluralism and secularization.

Among this text's special features are:

  • A highly readable comparative study of religious experience that incorporates the most up-to-date scholarship and translates it into terms accessible to undergraduates.
  • Extensive citation of well-selected cross-cultural primary materials from primal, archaic, and modern religious traditions that illustrate the great variety of religious belief and practice.
  • Each chapter includes an introductory overview, photographs, key words, review questions, suggestions for further reading, and a comprehensive glossary of terms and proper names.

Editorial Reviews

Designed for a course for students who have not taken a previous course in religion. Explores what religion is, the universal forms of religious experience, and the basic concepts that make up a religious world view. Surveys a wide range of modern and ancient religions to demonstrate how certain forms reappear within a diversity of expression and belief. Includes a glossary without pronunciation. Published in 1989 and 1993 by Macmillan. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

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Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference
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Anatomy of the Sacred is a comprehensive introduction to the nature and variety of religious belief and practices. Designed primarily for those who have not had a previous course in religion, it provides the student with an understanding of what religion is, of the universal forms of religious experience, and of the basic concepts that make up a religious worldview. By employing a comparative analysis across a rich range of ancient and modern religious traditions, this introduction allows students to see the ways in which certain classic forms of religious life appear in different societies over time, as well as to recognize the incredible diversity of human religious expression and belief.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I is concerned with such questions as the problem of defining religion, why it is important to study religion, and how one goes about the task, including the several disciplines or methods used in the study of religion. Each method is illustrated with specific examples from the work of eminent scholars in the field, such as Rudolf Otto, Carl Jung, Edward Evans-Pritchard, Victor Turner, Mircea Eliade, and Clifford Geertz.

Part II is an introduction to the universal forms of religious experience and expression and includes discussions of the sacred and holy; religious symbolism, myth, and doctrine; sacred ritual; sacred scripture; and the social dimensions of religion. Each chapter includes an analysis of influential scholarship on the subject, and each topic is fully illustrated with, for instance, examples of the variety of forms of religious ritual and types of religious community.

Part III, which constitutes more than half of the book, consists of a comparative analysis of seven concepts, each one representing a fundamental structure or component of a religious worldview. A religious worldview is holistic, that is, it sees nature, human life, and the divine as interrelated and as forming a comprehensive vision of the world. A religion, therefore, includes a conception of sacred power and of an exemplary natural and social order. It offers an analysis of the breakdown or corruption of that order and of the human problem, but it also provides an answer to the ever-present threat of evil and chaos. Finally, a religious worldview affords an ethical pattern of action, a way of achieving liberation or enlightenment, and an ideal vision of the goal or end of human life. Part III thus includes analyses of such concepts as deity, cosmogony, the human problem, theodicy, ethics, the ways to salvation or liberation, and the end or goal of salvation. Again, each theme is illustrated by examples drawn from a wide variety of religious belief and behavior, ranging from primal and archaic cultures through the religions of the present.

Each chapter of the book includes a preliminary overview which gives the student a clear preview of the major themes that follow. Each chapter also includes photographs, notes, key words, review questions, and suggestions for further reading. An extensive glossary provides a ready explanation of important terms and names used in the book.

Preparing a fourth edition of this book has afforded me the opportunity to undertake some significant revisions, some of which were suggested by teachers who use this text in the classroom. Previous new editions added substantial new material, including whole new chapters, illustrative material, and photographs, increasing substantially the size of the book. In this edition I have attempted to shorten and simplify some discussions and to remove some material to achieve a chapter organization and length that will be in accord with many semester schedules without, however, sacrificing the text's comprehensive and varied coverage.

This fourth edition has also undergone a considerable revision of the teaching aids that accompany each chapter. At the request of several teachers, I have added carefully selected key words for each chapter. I hope this will be helpful to students in sorting out those crucial terms, names, and concepts from those that may, necessarily, be used to relate a myth or to describe a religious phenomenon, but that are not essential to comprehend the concepts of religious beliefs and practices that are key to the purposes of a particular chapter. I remain convinced, nonetheless, that an important goal of a text such as this is to introduce students to the vocabulary of religion—the important terms, concepts, and proper names critical to an educated understanding of the phenomenon of religion and to some of the great religious traditions. I hope that the key words and the expanded glossary will aid in the reader's achievement of this goal. The review questions have also been given careful scrutiny and have, in several cases, been revised. More attention is also given to the overall plan of the book and to how the various chapters may relate and contribute to the whole. Finally, the suggestions for further reading have been updated to include valuable new sources, although many of the classics relevant to a particular subject are retained since they remain just that, standard works.

In preparing a new edition of a book of this scope, I am especially aware of my debt to other scholars and especially to those teachers who were asked to evaluate the third edition and for their advice in the preparation of this one. I am particularly grateful to three persons who assisted me in this revision. As the Visiting Walter G. Mason Professor at the College of William & Mary, Willard G. Oxtoby used this text in his introduction to religion class. He was very generous in spending substantial time with me discussing possible changes and improvements while he was working on a revision of a book of his own. Will's suggestions ranged from small but important details to larger questions of selection and interpretation. I was able to incorporate mast of his proposals.

Hal Breitenberg, a former student who now teaches at Randolph-Macon College, has used Anatomy of the Sacred in the classroom and has given me much wise counsel on revisions. He was particularly helpful regarding the inclusion of key words and with improving the review questions. With his permission, I have incorporated many of his specific suggestions, and on these matters I consider him a genuine collaborator.

Elizabeth Williams, a student assistant in the Department of Religion at the College of William & Mary, incorporated all of the editorial changes for this edition onto the master copy, for which I am most grateful. Finally, I am much indebted to my production editor, Edie Riker, and to the copy editor, Martha Williams, for their excellent work.

J. C. L

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