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Understanding Theories of Religion: An Introduction, 2nd Edition

Understanding Theories of Religion: An Introduction, 2nd Edition

Ivan Strenski

ISBN: 978-1-118-45772-6

Feb 2015, Wiley-Blackwell

280 pages



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


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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