Thinking about Religion: An Historical Introduction to Theories of Religion / Edition 1

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Engaging with leading figures from the history of anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and theology, the author traces the study of religion back to the sixteenth century. He reveals how the discipline evolved in response to great cultural conflicts and major historical events, such as the discovery of prehistoric cultures in the caves and ruins of Neolithic Europe and the colonial encounter with the "higher" civilizations of India and China. He also examines the influence of inner experience, tackling issues such as human survival and wish-fulfillment.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"While Ivan Strenski's new book considers many of the key modern theorists of religion covered in other overviews of the modern study of religion, his is far more than a textbook. Here, as in his other works, he is a kind of academic private eye. He strives to figure out not merely what the theorists were saying but why. To answer the why, he investigates the personal and professional lives of his subjects. He shows that theories are attempts to answer broader questions about culture, society, and the mind. Not only the answers but even the questions reflect the circumstances of those who offer them. This book, written as lucidly as any mere textbook, wonderfully presents theories as part of intellectual history." Robert A. Segal, Lancaster University

“Strenski … is to be commended for stimulating discussion about the introductory course ….He no doubt has been looking for the perfect Reader himself. And now he has it.”
Journal of the American Academy of Religion

“A major contribution and recommended reading along with the Reader.” Temenos

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405120128
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 2/21/2006
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.78 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Ivan Strenski is Holstein Family and Community Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside. His previous publications include Four Theories of Myth in Twentieth-Century History (1988), Religion in Relation: Method, Application, and Moral Location (1993), Durkheim and the Jews of France (1997), Contesting Sacrifice: Religion, Nationalism and Social Thought (2002), Theology and the First Theory of Sacrifice (2003), and The New Durkheim: Essays on Philosophy, Religious Identity and the Politics of Knowledge (2006).
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Table of Contents


Introduction: Thinking about Religion, Instead of Just Believing.

Part I: The Pre-history of the Study of Religion: Responses to an Expanding World.

1 Naturalism, God-given Reason, and the Quest for Natural Religion.

2 The Critique of Religion Also Begins with Criticism of the Bible.

Part II: Classic 19th Century Theorists of the Study of Religion: The Quest for the Origins of Religion in History.

3 The Shock of the Old: Max Müller's Search for the Soul of Europe.

4 The Shock of the 'Savage': Edward Burnett Tylor, Evolution and Spirits.

5 Evolution in the Religion of the Bible: William Robertson Smith.

6 Setting the Eternal Templates of Salvation: James Frazer.

Part III: Classic 20th Century Theorists of the Study of Religion: Defending the Inner Sanctum of Religious Experience or Storming It.

7 From Evolution to Religious Experience: Phenomenology of Religion.

8 Religious Experience Creates the World of the Modern Economy: Max Weber.

9 Tales from the Underground: Freud and the Psychoanalytic Origins of Religion.

10 Bronislaw Malinowski, Bipolarity and the "Sublime Folly" of Religion.

11 Seeing with the Social Eye: Émile Durkheim's "Religious Sociology".

12 Eliade: Turning the "Worm of Doubt".

13 Conclusion: Science of Religion, the Bible and Prince Charming.


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