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Religious Studies

A Textbook


Adrián Slavkovský

This textbook offers a brief overview of the basic approaches to the scientific scrutiny of religion. To remain uninterested in examining religion is more difficult than examining any other object of research. In relation to issues of religion, we cannot stand as impartial observers, because we are always somehow involved. Therefore, this book emphasizes not only knowledge of religions, but also how to find ways to get closer to impartiality. It offers an overview of topics, questions, and context, rather than a coherent theory.
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4. Theories about the Origin and Development of Religions


Keywords: historicism, evolutionism, animism, mana, depravation

4.1 Motifs of Interest in the Origin of Religion

Theories of the origin and development of religion are connected with an historical approach to religion, which means that religions are understood as historical phenomena, and also with an anthropological approach. Questions about the origin of religion do not only deal with the origin of specific religions, but also and above all with the origin of religion overall. Also archaic and non-literal religions should be taken into account. Comprehensive religions have developed the ability of self-interpretation; this is why it is important to critically examine a religion’s own interpretation of its origin.

Theories of the origin and development of religions are related to the 19th century, when the paradigms of historicism and evolution gradually prevailed in science. ← 35 | 36 → According to the model of biology, geology, and archaeology, religious studies also wanted to show that religion is subject to evolution. Attempts to justify primary forms of religion were motivated by the ambition to explain the nature of religion in pursuance of a primordial form.

4.2. Older Evolutional Theories

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