Anthropology of religion
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Man made God in His image." [...]
The anthropology of religion involves the study of religious institutions in relation to other social institutions, and the comparison of religious beliefs and practices across cultures. Modern anthropology assumes that there is complete continuity between magical thinking and religion, and that every religion is a cultural product created by the human community that practices it.
Modern anthropology assumes that religion is in complete continuity with magical thinking, that it is a cultural product, and that is a phenomenon of psychological projection. The complete continuity between magic and religion has been a postulate of modern anthropology at least since early 1930s. The perspective of modern anthropology towards religion is the projection idea, a methodological approach which assumes that every religion is created by the human community that worships it. In 1841, Ludwig Feuerbach, was the first to employ this concept as the basis for a systematic critique of religion. A prominent precursor in the formulation of this projection principle was Giambattista Vico, and an early formulation of it is found in ancient Greek writer Xenophanes, which observed that "the gods of Ethiopians were inevitably black with flat noses while those of the Thracians were blond with blue eyes."
In 1912 Émile Durkheim, building on Feuerbach, considered religion "a projection of the social values of society," "a means of making symbolic statements about society," "a symbolic language that makes statements about the social order"; in short, "religion is society worshiping itself".
In the 19th century, cultural anthropology was dominated by an interest in cultural evolution; most anthropologists assumed that there was a simple distinction between “primitive” and “modern” religion and tried to provide accounts of how the former evolved into the latter. In the 20th century most anthropologists rejected this approach. Today the anthropology of religion reflects the influence of, or an engagement with, such theorists as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim, and Max Weber. They are especially concerned with how religious beliefs and practices may reflect political or economic forces; or the social functions of religious beliefs and practices.
Specific religious practices and beliefs
- Anthropological Perspectives on Religion (journal)
- Archaeology of religion and ritual
- Cultural anthropology
- Evolutionary origin of religions
- Magic and religion
- Religious symbolism
- Sacred-profane dichotomy
- Sociology of religion
- Symbolic anthropology