Understanding Theories of ReligionAn Introduction
Featuring comprehensive updates and additions, the second edition of Understanding Theories of Religion explores the development of major theories of religion through the works of classic and contemporary figures. • A new edition of this introductory text exploring the core methods and theorists in religion, spanning the sixteenth-century through to the latest theoretical trends • Features an entirely new section covering religion and postmodernism; race, sex, and gender; and religion and postcolonialism • Examines the development of religious theories through the work of classic and contemporary figures from the history of anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and theology • Reveals how the study of religion evolved in response to great cultural conflicts and major historical events • Student-friendly features include chapter introductions and summaries, biographical vignettes, a timeline, a glossary, and many other learning aids
Preface to the Second Edition: Understanding, Instead of Just Thinking vii 1 Introduction: Understanding Theories of Religion Is Better than Just Being Critical 1 Part I The Prehistory of the Study of Religion: Responses to an Expanding World 7 2 Jean Bodin and Herbert of Cherbury: True Religion, Essential Religion, and Natural Religion 9 3 Understanding Religion Also Began with Trying to Understand the Bible 19 Part II Classic Nineteenth-Century Theorists of the Study of Religion: The Quest for the Origins of Religion in History 31 4 Max Müller, the Comparative Study of Religion, and the Search for Other Bibles in India 33 5 The Shock of the “Savage”: Edward Burnett Tylor, Evolution, and Spirits 45 6 The Religion of the Bible Evolves: William Robertson Smith 55 7 Setting the Eternal Templates of Salvation: James Frazer 65 Part III Classic Twentieth-Century Theorists of the Study of Religion: Defending the Inner Sanctum of Religious Experience or Storming It 75 8 Understanding How to Understand Religion: “Phenomenology of Religion” 77 9 How Religious Experience Created Capitalism: Max Weber 93 10 Tales from the Underground: Freud and the Psychoanalytic Origins of Religion 106 11 Bronislaw Malinowski and the “Sublime Folly” of Religion 118 12 Seeing God with the Social Eye: Durkheim’s Religious Sociology 129 13 Mircea Eliade: Turning Back the “Worm of Doubt” 142 Part IV Liberation and Post-Modernism: Race, Gender, Post-Colonialism, the Discourse on Power 155 14 From Modernism to Post-Modernism: Mostly Michel Foucault 157 15 Theorizing Religion with Race in Mind: Prophecy or Curiosity? 171 16 Sex/Gender and Women: Feminists Theorizing Religion 189 17 Another “Otherness”: Post-Colonial Theories of Religion 216 18 Conclusion: Being “Smart” about Bringing “Religion” Back In 241 Index 254
Ivan Strenski is Holstein Family and Community Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside. He served as North American Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Religion from 1979-2004, and is the author of numerous books, including Contesting Sacrifice: Religion, Nationalism and Social Thought (2002), Theology and the First Theory of Sacrifice (2003), The New Durkheim: Essays on Philosophy, Religious Identity and the Politics of Knowledge (2006), and Why Politics Can’t Be Freed from Religion (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). He is also editor of Émile Durkheim (2009), and Thinking about Religion: A Reader (Wiley-Blackwell, 2006).
Understanding Theories of Religion explores the core methods and theorists in religion, through the works of classic and contemporary figures from the history of anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and theology. It offers a comprehensive study of the development of theories of religion, spanning the classics of early modern and Enlightenment Europe, to modern theories of the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries, and through to postmodern theories of religion and the latest theoretical trends. The second edition expands coverage of religious theories from the 1960s through to the present day, exploring topics including religion and postmodernism; race, sex, and gender; and religion and postcolonialism. Updated throughout, the book offers illuminating insights into the questions that challenged various theorists, and how their successors then adapted and built upon their ideas. By integrating both critical and historical approaches, it reveals how the study of religion evolved in response to great cultural conflicts and major historical events. Individual chapters address the theory attached to a significant individual or school, and reveal how these ideas and methods were then brought into the study of religion. Offering a fresh perspective to conventional approaches which often seek only to demonstrate why theorists were wrong, this expanded new edition of Understanding Theories of Religion seeks to press the question of why these theorists so deeply believed that they were right. Student-friendly features are incorporated throughout, including chapter introductions and summaries, biographical vignettes, a timeline, a glossary, and many other learning aids.
Finding (or twisting) a red thread, linking pre-modern, modern, and, with this revised second edition, also post-modern thinking and theories of religion, is no easy task. Especially, if you also aim at a more nuanced understanding, by way of historicizing and contextualizing thinkers and theories. It takes comprehensive knowledge as well as a personal ‘vision’ of the discipline and field. Strenski has both. This book, therefore, is an excellent choice for scholars looking for a textbook for courses on the history and theories of the academic study of religions. Students are in need of both a red thread and a personal take when it comes to the introduction into the history and theories of the scientific study of religions. Tim Jensen, University of Southern Denmark
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