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Nov 28

More significantly, it means a kind of mutual theologizing. In the face of continuing debate about the adequacy and definition of the concept of ‘religion’, this paper argues that it is necessary for the social sciences to become more self-critical about their various – and changing – uses of the term. He considered that the former cannot exist without the historical sciences—e.g., history, philology, and archaeology—but that it supplies scholars in the latter fields a sense of the religious significance of what they discover. Unfortunately, much of his information was unreliable, and his schematism was open to question; he foreshadowed, nevertheless, other forms of evolutionism, which were to become popular both in sociology and anthropology. Some, such as the Italian anthropologist Raffaele Pettazzoni (1883–1959), have stressed merely that a sky god has a certain natural preeminence; others emphasize that the high god is often a deus otiosus (“idle god”)—i.e., not active in the world and hence not the recipient of a functioning cult. The Top Five Reasons to Study Religion. He wrote influentially about Islam, Judaism, and Indian and Chinese religions and, in so doing, elaborated a set of categories, such as types of prophecy, the idea of charisma (spiritual power), routinization, and other categories, which became tools to deal with the comparative material; he was thus the real founder of comparative sociology. Others who have looked at religions from an anthropological point of view have emphasized the importance, in a number of cultures, of the mother goddess (as distinct from the male sky god). The major feature in the development of Christian theology during the 19th and 20th centuries was the impact of historical enquiry on the biblical sources of belief (there has also been a similar effect on Jewish and other theologies, but Christian theology has been the most influential in the development of Western culture). The English ethnologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (1832–1917), who is commonly considered the father of modern anthropology, expounded, in his book Primitive Culture, the thesis that animism is the earliest and most basic religious form. Zaehner’s was a definitely Christian approach rather than a scientific-descriptive one, and his concern was to distinguish between theistic and other forms of mysticism, such as monistic mysticism as found, according to him, in Yoga, Advaita, and even Theravada Buddhism. Modern scholars do not, on the whole, accept Schmidt’s scheme. This stimulated the analysis of religious language, and the movement was complicated by the transformation in the thought of the Austrian-English philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951), who in his later thought was very far removed from his early, rather formalistic treatment of language. 1. The most influential statement of the school’s position is to be found in Myth and Ritual (1933), edited by the English biblical scholar and Orientalist Samuel Hooke. Heiler believed in the essential unity of religions—a recurring theme in various guises in the period, though open to question because of the widely apparent divergences between prophetic and other religions, such as Theravada Buddhism and Jainism, which do not believe in a supreme personal being. Though iconography (the study of content and meaning in visual arts) has been better developed among art historians, students of religion are now paying increased attention to the religious decipherment of the visual arts. In The Sacred Canopy he draws on elements from Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and others, creating a lively theoretical synthesis. Therefore, it is necessary to demythologize the New Testament message. The history of religions and the phenomenology of religion are generally understood by scholars to be nonnormative—that is, they attempt to delineate facts, whether historical or structural, without judging them from a Christian or other standpoint. 5 Approaches to the Study of Religion. Discoveries about ancient Middle Eastern religions were also bound to affect biblical studies, and a well-defined school developed in Germany—the Religionsgeschichtliche (“history of religions”) school—which was critical of the rather unhistorical treatment of Jesus by Ritschl and others. The Study of Sacred Texts 2. The theory can still stand as an account of the way in which religion operates in individual psychology, though of course it has also attracted criticism on grounds other than historical ones (e.g., Buddhism does not have a father figure to worship). Tillich used the term being in an existential sense (one related directly to human experience and commitment) rather than a strictly metaphysical sense. An early attempt to combine archaeological evidence of prehistoric peoples, on the one hand, and anthropological evidence of nonliterate peoples, on the other, was that of the English anthropologist John Lubbock (1834–1913). On the continent of Europe, the increasing influence of existentialism was hostile to the old type of metaphysics. The following brief account of philosophical trends is necessarily selective, leaning toward those philosophical theories that have a stronger content of, or relevance to, descriptive claims about religion. Troeltsch, it may be noted, had some effect on the sociology of religion—e.g., in his distinction between church-type and sect-type organizations in the history of Christianity, a distinction that has formed the starting point of considerable researches in recent times, as noted above. The need to integrate historical and structural studies has caused some debate, and there has also been some contrast made between historical approaches and contemporary sociological and (essentially theological) dialogical approaches to religion. The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875–1961) adopted a very different posture, one that was more sympathetic to religion and more concerned with a positive appreciation of religious symbolism. The various elements of the philosophical traditions of the last two centuries have thus had a bearing on religious questions, and most scholars consider that, though the philosophy of religion tends to be normative rather than descriptive, it is a necessary adjunct to descriptive studies. This has been most obvious in Indian religions—in Hinduism and Buddhism especially. This paper represents the development of an earlier work, a chapter written for Hugh McLeod's festschrift, Secularisation in the Christian world (Woodhead 2010b Woodhead, L. 2010b.“ Implicit understandings of religion in sociological study and in the work of Hugh McLeod ”.

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