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The origins and functions of religion

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  1. Introduction.
    1. The intellectualist theory.
    2. The myth-ritualism type theories.
    3. Response to death in an animistic society.
  2. The myth ritualist theory.
    1. Religion as completely practical and technological.
    2. The totem.
    3. The arguments of Durkheim and Goldenweiser.
    4. Malinowski view in relation to anthropologists.
  3. The 'anxiety' of a group.
  4. Malinowski - criticized for being too vague with his definitions.
  5. Anthony Wallace on the origins of religion.
    1. Animal spiritual and religious behaviors and how it mimics human religious behaviors.
    2. The Upper-Paleolithic era.
  6. Conclusion.
    1. Reference of religion with science.
    2. Stewart Elliot Guthrie's article 'Religion: What is it?'.
    3. Dr. James Dow's paper titled 'The Evolution of Religion: Three Anthropological Approaches'.

Religion is a subject that has been of constant interest to anthropologists. Before discussing origins, functions and examples of religion however, it is first necessary that we develop a proper definition. For the purpose of this paper I will define religion as a group of beliefs concerning the supernatural, sacred or divine, as well as the moral codes, practices, values, institutions and rituals associated with such beliefs. Anthropologists like Tylor, Durkheim, Malinowski and others have purposed their own definitions related to their views concerning the origins of religion, its specific functions in society as well as its impact on other social institutions such as economics and politics. In the following pages I will discuss a number of theorists and their explanations for the above questions related to the topic of religion: 1.) What is the origin of religion and why? 2.) What function does religion have in societies? As a final aspect of my research I will offer modern explanations of religion to show how newer theories are related to original theories of religion

[...] Tylor believed firmly that Animism was the groundwork for the entire philosophy of religion from ?savage up to ?civilized men.? He used the term and all future theories of religion are the branches. There are many theories of the function of religion. Often, however, the function of religion is tied to the origin of it, because it developed because there was a need for it. Tylor's work states the Animism was developed based on a need for explanations for the un-explainable tragedies and happiness's in their lives. [...]


[...] In his book, Religion, Anthony Wallace discusses his own ideas of the origins of religion as well as several general goals and functions. He separates goals and functions by arguing that the goals are what the religion intends to do and the functions are how the religions affect the specific society. He has two ideas of the origin of religion. The first of which is based on animal spiritual and religious behaviors and how it mimics human religious behaviors. He first discusses the social rituals that have been extensively described by ethnologists. [...]


[...] These are the first known signs of religion among homo sapiens which show that humans were beginning to recognize the differences between life and death and form their own rituals in order to control their surroundings. This leads to Wallace's goals and functions of religion. One of the first goals of religion is to control nature and for human exploitation by agricultural rites of intensification and divination rituals when the human's feel they need someone of a higher power to make a decision for them. [...]

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