Why do human beings believe in divinities? Why do some seek eternal life, while others seek escape from recurring lives? Why do the beliefs and behaviors we typically call "religious" so deeply affect the human personality and so subtly weave their way through human society? Revised and updated in this second edition, Eight Theories of Religion considers how these fundamental questions have engaged the most important thinkers of the modern era. Accessible, systematic, and succinct, the text examines the classic interpretations of religion advanced by theorists who have left a major imprint on the intellectual culture of the twentieth century. The second edition features a new chapter on Max Weber, a revised introduction, and a revised, expanded conclusion that traces the paths of further inquiry and interpretation traveled by theorists in the most recent decades.
Eight Theories of Religion, Second Edition, begins with Edward Burnett Tylor and James Frazer--two Victorian pioneers in anthropology and the comparative study of religion. It then considers the great "reductionist" approaches of Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, and Karl Marx, all of whom have exercised wide influence up to the present day. The discussion goes on to examine the leading challenges to reductionism as articulated by sociologist Max Weber (new to this edition) and Romanian-American comparativist Mircea Eliade. Finally, it explores the newer methods and ideas arising from the African field studies of ethnographer E. E. Evans-Pritchard and the interpretive anthropology of Clifford Geertz. Each chapter offers biographical background, theoretical exposition, conceptual analysis, and critical assessment. This common format allows for close comparison and careful evaluation throughout. Ideal for use as a supplementary text in introductory religion courses or as the central text in sociology of religion and courses centered on the explanation and interpretation of religion, Eight Theories of Religion, Second Edition, offers an illuminating treatment of this controversial and fascinating subject.
More Than I Expected
By Chairwoman MAO "Mao-Mau" - February 19, 2007
I actually needed this book for my Introduction to Religion class but I'm sure I will keep it even after I am finished with the class. Pals breaks down the theories into their simpliest forms and makes them so easy to understand. He summaries each theorist's section with an analysis and a critique which makes the interpretation of the text that much easier. This is a wonderful book and I would suggest it to anyone looking for possible explanations of some of the world's most popular religions... read more
great book! I would highly recommend
By Robyn Boyd "Robyn, Graduate Student" - July 16, 2008
great book and Pals uses his creativeness to cover the major philosophers and scientists in a particular order to demonstrate intellectual evolution (intelligence evolves as time passes and we learn from previous ages) and he also brings out how the fact the philisophers (as most humans) try to "prove" THEIR experiences in life as they perceive it. The perception complicates their objectiveness. For instance, Freud was an atheist so Freud was out to prove there is no God. Freud did not want to reveal "truth" but only what HE thought was truth. Whether it is truth or not, was irrelevant to him and many others. Each philosopher builds on the previous with a critical critique of each by Pal and the others. I thought this was a great book and easy to read (unlike other philosophy books which are extremely difficult) 5 stars for Pals!
Clear and concise summary of complex scholarship
By Amy - April 24, 2012
Pals helps make confusing scholarship eloquent in a fairly comprehensive, dispassionate approach that helps interested non-academics like myself grasp some of the basic ideas and theories in religion.
He painstakingly sets up each philosopher's claims, notes gaps in their reasoning, provides criticisms to each theory, and includes a pretty decent bibliography.
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