New Patterns for Comparative Religion Passages to an Evolutionary Perspective

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2016-05-19
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


The cross-cultural study of religion has always gone hand in hand with the worldview, sciences, or intellectual frameworks of the time. These frames, whether focused on psychology or politics, gender or colonialism, bring out perspectives for understanding religious behavior. Today one of our common civic worldviews is represented in the shift from scriptural to evolutionary history.

This volume brings together in one place key essays by professor emeritus William Paden, showing a progression of steps he has taken in exploring bridgeworks between comparative religion and evolutionary models of religious behavior. One of the leading scholars in religious studies, Paden shows ways that religion can be contextualized as part of the natural world and thus seen as reflecting the ingrained sociality and world-making drive of the human species.

Paden argues that although comparativism has been challenged as too culture-bound, too western, or too gendered, cross-over categories and concepts between religious traditions cannot be avoided. Arguing that there are recurrent patterns of human behavior common to our species and that thereby underlie all cultures, he proposes that the missing link in the Religion Evolution debate is comparative religion, a global, cross-cultural perspective on religious behaviours throughout time. Each article is contextualized within this overall trajectory of thought within Paden's work and the history of the discipline as a whole.

Author Biography

William E. Paden is Professor Emeritus of Religion at the University of Vermont, USA. He was Religion Department Chair for 22 years, and is author of Religious Worlds: The Comparative Study of Religion (1988, 1994) and Interpreting the Sacred: Ways of Viewing Religion (1992, 2003).

Table of Contents


Part one - Rethinking and Redirecting Classical Resources
Chapter 1. Before 'The Sacred' Became Theological: Rereading the Durkheimian Legacy25
Chapter 2. Durkheim's Reconciliation of the Social and the Religious26
Chapter 3. Sacred Order40
Chapter 4. World63
Chapter 5. The Concept of World Habitation: Eliadean Linkages with a New Comparativism86

Part two - Some New Levels for Cross-Cultural Patterns
Chapter 6. Elements of a New Comparativism101
Chapter 7. Universals Revisited: Human Behaviors and Cultural Variations114
Chapter 8. Theaters of Worldmaking Behaviors: Panhuman Contexts for Comparative Religion130
Chapter 9. Comparison in the Study of Religion152

Part 3 - Responses to Evolutionary Sciences
Chapter 10. Connecting with Evolutionary Models: New Patterns in Comparative Religion?88
Chapter 11. Reappraising Durkheim for the Study and Teaching of Religion105
Chapter 12. The Prestige of the Gods: Evolutionary Continuities in the Formation of Sacred Objects106
Chapter 13. The History of Religions and Evolutionary Models: Some Reflections on Framing a Mediating Vocabulary107


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