• Anthony F. C. Wallace's definition of religion: "belief and ritual concerned with
supernatural beings, powers and forces."
• Many definitions of religion focus on groups of people who gather together regularly for
• The word religion derives from the latin religare - "to tie, to bind"
• in studying religion cross-culturally, anthropologists pay attention to religion as a social
phenomenon as well as to the meanings of religious doctrines, settings, acts and events.
• Verbal manifestations of religious beliefs include prayers, chants, myths, texts, and
statements about, including rules of, ethics and morality.
• The anthropological study of religion also encompasses notions about purity and
pollution, sacrifice, initiation, rites of passage, vision quests, pilgrimages, spirit
possession, prophecy, study, devotion, and moral actions.
• Religion is associated with social divisions within and between societies and nations.
• Religion both unities and divides.
• Many anthropologists argue that such categories such as religion, politics and the
economy are arbitrary constructs that apply best, and perhaps only, to Western,
Christian and modern societies.
• Nonindustrial societies, religion typically is more embedded in society.
• Religious beliefs may help regulate the economy or permeate politics.
• Anthropologists agree that religion exists in all human societies' it is a cultural universal.
• Expressions of Religion
• Animism, the earliest form of religion, was a belief in spiritual beings.
• Polytheism (the belief in multiple gods) and then monotheism (the belief in a single, all
powerful deity) developed later.
• Melanesians believed in mana, a sacred impersonal force existing in the universe. Mana
an reside in people, animals, plants and objects.
• Magic refers to supernatural techniques intended to accomplish specific aims.
• These techniques include magical actions, offerings, spells, formulas, and incantations
used with deities or with impersonal forces.
• Magicians employ imitative magic to produce a desired effect by imitating it.
• With contagious magic, whatever is done to an object is believed to affect a person who
once had contact with it.
• Religion helps people face death and endure life crises.
• Magical techniques can dispel doubts that arise when outcomes are beyond human
• Rituals are formal - stylized, repetitive, and stereotyped.
• Rituals include liturgical orders - sequences of words and actions