Anthropology of Religion (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
No known society is without religion. Anthropologists study this species-wide phenomenon as a human trait or institution, an element of culture, seeking a deep understanding of all, not just the "world," religions and their local significance. From this breadth, anthropologists of religion ask: What is religion? Are there any common elements? How did it originate? Intentionally nontheological, the anthropology of religion is less concerned with, for example, whether ancestor spirits of the New Guinea Maring people really interact with the living people than with how that perception influences culture. Despite the intention of objectivity, a strong thread of philosophical naturalism permeates the field from E. B. Tylor, James Fraser, and Emile Durkheim to Raymond Firth and Stewart Guthrie. Important exceptions include Edward Evans-Pritchard, Victor Turner, and Roy Rappaport.
See also ANTHROPOLOGY; NATURALISM
Guthrie, Stewart Elliott. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Rappaport, Roy A. Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
PAUL K. WASON