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Lecture

Methods for the Study of Religion; Presuppositions of the Western Traditions

8 Pages
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Department
Religion
Course Code
RLG100Y1
Professor
Andre Maintenay

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World Religions
Methods for the Study Religion; Presuppositions of the Western
Traditions
Reading: Ch. 11 “The Nature of Religion,” pp. 541-566
The history of religion is the history of European cultures
Christians understood themselves to be practicing what they took to be religion
Early theories of religion also wanted to understand religion in a scientific way, a
way detached from the religions presentation of itself, and were interested in
observing religion from the outside, through what they saw as the lens of reason
& observation & scientific method
Started a line of religion from a primitive line of belief to the apex of religion,
which was considered to be monotheistic religion, while coming out of the biases
of the Christian world, the western world monotheistic commitments.
The biases emerging from the period of the enlightenment:
Concerned with the application of reason
The application of scientific method to all phenomena
Two of the major factors influential in forming religions in the west:
1.The discovery of other cultures, religions, ways of lime (period of the
enlightenment) – we aware there are others in the world who think differently,
practice differently, etc.
2.Darwin purposes: evolutionary line of development (questions our certainties of
God, biblical account of creation, etc.)
Up until 19th century, the world is understood as being six thousand years old and
that god had created it at a certain point and it was progressing along to where we
are presently. Empire where Christianity dominated
Darwin provoked thoughts of the understanding of the evolution of the world
Questions arose about God, the biblical reliability, and chronology (whether there
is one, and how should we understand humanity & God and if we begin to
question the concept of God, what does this mean for religion, how should we
understand society and what used to be God and humanity = questions arisen by
various theorists of the 19th century)
Anthropologists developed ideas about the evolution of religion, where the
discipline of religious studies begins
Edward Tylor: pioneer in the field of anthropology, and his interests were in the
native traditions of the Caribbean and Central America
Concluded that the common denominator among cultures is a belief in spirit:
coined the term animism
Purposed that animism is the essential feature of all religion, from which even the
most complex forms of religion develop
www.notesolution.com
His theory sees early human beings as looking at the difference between, e.g.
something that is living and something that is dead (e.g. animate vs. inanimate)—
The difference is liveliness in one & lack of that in the other
Critical factor of spirit as being the key from which religion arises
Subsequent religions, however sophisticated, are really variations on this initial
insight
All religion is about identifying that key one element that represents life or
aliveness over what represents death
From these kinds of reflections, ancient people must have posited the idea of Gods
(e.g. the sky God, rain God, etc.) until eventually people arrived at the idea of one
God (high God)
Max Mueller (scholar): early Sanskrit (language of ancient India) scholar
Translating & editing the “Sacred Books of the East
Purposed that the oldest religious scriptures in the world were the Vedas
(belonging to Hindu tradition)
If we really wanted to understand the phenomena of religion we would need to
look at the oldest sources which we possessed, the Vedas to get a sense of how
religion may have originated
He concluded that religion arose as a way of explaining the power of natural
phenomena. Ancient people were flummoxed by natural forces (fire, wind, rain,
etc.)
Ancient people ended up ascribing terms to these phenomenas (fire, wind, sky,
rain, etc)
Eventually peoples sense of awe at natural phenomena came to represent itself in
a devotional kind of attitude. As a kind of reverend worship of attitude to fire, to
the sky, to the rain. Phenomena came to be represented as supernatural deity
Concluded that region is a kind of disease of language
Human beings developed religion because they were too weak and ignorant about
the forces of nature that surrounded them. They were at the mercy of these forces,
and therefore they had to devise a scheme of gods and spirits to pray to for support
According to this view, when human beings come to comfortably understand the
world around them, they will have no need for the crutch of religion to support
them
James Frazier:
Located the source of religious sentiment in magic
Religion was sustained by the mystery of the unexplained
What human beings is, is that they try various techniques to control and affect
phenomena that are beyond their understanding
Religion originates in this kind of magic, and prayers and rituals are methods for
making the universe benevolent, making the universe kindly disposed to ones self
www.notesolution.com
World Religions
Prayers and rituals are really ways of trying to control the universe, which are
uncontrollable
When your prayers worked its because God listened to your prayers and when they
didnt work its because you didnt have enough faith
Emmanuel Durkheim: Worked on Australian aboriginal people
Through his observations he coined the term totemism based on the idea of a
totem (a plant or an animal species thats connected to a tribe, representative of
the tribe, often symbolized as being sacred, an emblem of a clam identity)
Totem represents the God of each clan
All religions are totemist; all religions project their own Gods
The god of a religion is imbued with the personality and the identity of the people
whom it represents
The gods we encounter in religions are less about themselves as Gods but are
more as representatives of the different culture and groups that worship them or
hold them dear
The best way to read gods of different culture is as being totems, representative
symbols, in capsulating the personality and identity of those who hold them dear
Sigmund Froyd: Wrote a book called totem and taboo, and was an atheist Jew
Was a contemporary of Durkheim
One of his most influential perspectives is the idea that religion is analogous to an
influence dependant on a parent. A persons commitment to religion is like a
child’s dependence to his/her parents
Not surprised that many religions view God as a paternal figure and is represented
as a figure who must be must be feared
Religion originates in a feeling of guilt in relation to their parents
Religion emerges as a way of trying to appease the father figure because of the
guilt that a child feels because of the male childs attraction to the mother figure
because he is afraid of being smacked by the father
Therefore humans project in the sky a great father image called God
Religious ideas are allusions and that a truly healthy and mature person can stand
up and face the problems of the world without God
Therefore the only reason you need God is because of this overwhelming sense of
guilt that you experience and God is there to punish you for wrong doing or
absorb you of this guilt
God is nothing more but the expression of humanity’s’ dependence
Religion is a sign of mental illness
20th century:
The focus of religion shifts away from where it originates and to analyzing the
function of religion in society; whats the purpose of religion in society
www.notesolution.com

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Description
World Religions Methods for the Study Religion; Presuppositions of the Western Traditions Reading: Ch. 11 The Nature of Religion, pp. 541-566 The history of religion is the history of European cultures Christians understood themselves to be practicing what they took to be religion Early theories of religion also wanted to understand religion in a scientific way, a way detached from the religions presentation of itself, and were interested in observing religion from the outside, through what they saw as the lens of reason & observation & scientific method Started a line of religion from a primitive line of belief to the apex of religion, which was considered to be monotheistic religion, while coming out of the biases of the Christian world, the western world monotheistic commitments. The biases emerging from the period of the enlightenment: Concerned with the application of reason The application of scientific method to all phenomena Two of the major factors influential in forming religions in the west: 1. The discovery of other cultures, religions, ways of lime (period of the enlightenment) we aware there are others in the world who think differently, practice differently, etc. 2. Darwin purposes: evolutionary line of development (questions our certainties of God, biblical account of creation, etc.) th Up until 19 century, the world is understood as being six thousand years old and that god had created it at a certain point and it was progressing along to where we are presently. Empire where Christianity dominated Darwin provoked thoughts of the understanding of the evolution of the world Questions arose about God, the biblical reliability, and chronology (whether there is one, and how should we understand humanity & God and if we begin to question the concept of God, what does this mean for religion, how should we understand society and what used to be God and humanity = questions arisen by th various theorists of the 19 century) Anthropologists developed ideas about the evolution of religion, where the discipline of religious studies begins Edward Tylor: pioneer in the field of anthropology, and his interests were in the native traditions of the Caribbean and Central America Concluded that the common denominator among cultures is a belief in spirit: coined the term animism Purposed that animism is the essential feature of all religion, from which even the most complex forms of religion develop www.notesolution.com
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