Thinking about Religion: An Historical Introduction to Theories of Religion

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9781405120111: Thinking about Religion: An Historical Introduction to Theories of Religion
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This history-based introduction to the study of religion introduces the main methods, theories and theorists in the field.


  • Introduces the main methods, theories and theorists in the field.
  • Engages with leading figures from the history of anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy and theology who have influenced the study of religion.
  • Reveals how the study of religion evolved in response to great cultural conflicts and major historical events.
  • Also considers the influence of inner experience, tacking issues such as human survival and wish-fulfilment.

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From the Back Cover:

Is the Bible unique and flawless divine revelation? Or is it an historical human document subject to criticism? Is religious experience a link to the divine? Or is it a product of social pressure or psychological malformation? This book tells the story of how and why classic theorists have posed such questions, and how the theories and methods of religious studies arose as attempts to answer them.

Engaging with leading figures from the history of anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and theology, the author traces the study of religion back to the sixteenth century. He reveals how the discipline evolved in response to great cultural conflicts and major historical events, such as the discovery of prehistoric cultures in the caves and ruins of Neolithic Europe and the colonial encounter with the ‘higher’ civilizations of India and China. He also examines the influence of inner experience, tackling issues such as human survival and wish-fulfillment.

Along with the accompanying Thinking about Religion: A Reader, this book offers a complete resource for introductory students of religious studies.

About the Author:

Ivan Strenski is Holstein Family and Community Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside. His previous publications include Four Theories of Myth in Twentieth-Century History (1988), Religion in Relation: Method, Application, and Moral Location (1993), Durkheim and the Jews of France (1997), Contesting Sacrifice: Religion, Nationalism and Social Thought (2002), Theology and the First Theory of Sacrifice (2003), and The New Durkheim: Essays on Philosophy, Religious Identity and the Politics of Knowledge (2006).

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