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Social anthropologists have endeavoured to construct theories of relig-ion which provide an explanation to human behaviour. The religious life of any people is manifested in outward form, in beliefs and in rites. The beliefs are about sacred things and rites addressed to them. Mere beliefs do not constitute religion; it is rites which make religion a liv-ing force. The shape of the supernatural power varies from society to society. Some religions believe that the supernatural power is abstract (nirakar) and can only be experienced and imagined. On the other hand, there are religions which argue that the supernatural power has a definite shape, a dimension, it is an idol. It is a form, a shape (sakar). On the basis of some such notions anthropologists have formed the following explanations about religion: (1) Animism (2) Polytheism (3) Monotheism (4) Naturalism 1. Animism: About a century has passed Edward B. Tylor pointed out that all peo-ples in primitive societies believed in animism. It means there is existence of intangible, non-material or spiritual beings which may be souls, ghosts, ancestral spirits, fauna, flora, ogres or monsters, or sim-ply objects. The origins of beliefs in such spiritual beings are probably multiple, as Tylor believes. The presence of vitality in a living person, which is unquestionably absent from a corpse, results in an animistic interpretation. The persons and things heard, seen or felt in dreams or in temporary hallucinatory experiences as in hot weather or when a person is exhausted, or when he is under the influence of drugs, yield the same result. Additional experiences which bring about or rein-force animistic beliefs are echoes, reflections in quiet pools, or other natural phenomena. Tylor contended that "once the basic premise of an animistic ide-ology-belief in the existence of spiritual beings and souls-had been developed, the path was laid for eventual development to later stages of religious ideology. But before the second stage was reached, the original belief in souls and spirits had come to include beliefs in ma-levolent spirits or demons, and in the spirits of ancestors." Tylor presumed that the souls, ancestral spirits and other super-natural beings of the first developmental stage tended to change as a second stage into other higher or more grandiose forms of supernatu-ral beings such as nature gods. Neither proof nor disproof is available for such a sequence of stages because the peoples who are of the lowest economic level are not well enough known to indicate that they are largely or exclusively animistic. In fact, other forms of supernatural concepts, such as that of a single deity, also appear along with animis-tic concepts among such peoples. Animism thus has passed through several stages of development. And, these stages vary from tribe to tribe and country to country. In our country, the form of animism that we find is based on ancestor worship. 2. Polytheism: Literally, polytheism means belief in more than one great spiritual power. This type of religious belief is found at all socio-economic lev-els. Defining polytheism John Lewis says that it is "believing in and worshipping in several gods". Polytheism is widely prevalent in ad-vanced agricultural-pastoral socio-economic systems and in cultures like those of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. Tylor has tried to establish an evolutionary formulation of relig-ion. In this context, he says that among the tribals, the beginning of religion started with animism. At the second stage of development it took the form of animitism. The concept of animitism holds that a non-material, impersonal, non-individualized spiritual essence per-vades all things, manifests itself in inanimate and animate things. This spirit is considered to be a source of great power. It has miraculous ef-ficacy. The third stage of the evolution of religion is polytheism. This form of religious belief-belief in plural gods-is rarely found. How-ever, when the simple agricultural economy develops, polytheism emerges. In the simple, small-sized societies, there is prevalence of ani-mism and animitism, but polytheism is associated with higher level of development attained by a particular tribal group. 3. Monotheism: Monotheism means belief in a single deity. Its propitiators believe that the cosmos is a unity, with one god who created and ordered all. Monotheism is the widely held idea that the belief in only one god is of recent development. It has not definitely been proved to be correct. "However, no absolutely pure monotheism has ever developed among peoples in primitive economies and has never characterized any such society. This is known for societies of primitive economy because of available evidence regarding the universality of animistic ideologies among them. Yet, the synchronous occurrence of such animistic ide-ologies along with a monotheistic-like belief in a high god is certain." 4. Naturalism: Yet another form of animism is found in naturalism. It is believed that the supernatural power has its manifestation in things of nature. The roaring of clouds, lightening in the clouds and earthquakes are noth-ing but the expressions of the supernatural power. When there are floods in the rivers, the supernatural power expresses its wrath. The wrath of the power, therefore, has to be propitiated by animal sacri-fice. It is believed, especially by the tribals, that nature has supernatu-ral power which has to be respected. Because of this power there is awe for nature and people worship nature in the form of earth, fire, water, stars, floods, etc.
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Four Important Theories of Religion - Essay
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Four Important Theories Of Religion - Essay

Words: 877    Pages: 3    Paragraphs: 21    Sentences: 56    Read Time: 03:11
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              Social anthropologists have endeavoured to construct theories of relig-ion which provide an explanation to human behaviour. The religious life of any people is manifested in outward form, in beliefs and in rites.
             
              The beliefs are about sacred things and rites addressed to them. Mere beliefs do not constitute religion; it is rites which make religion a liv-ing force. The shape of the supernatural power varies from society to society.
             
              Some religions believe that the supernatural power is abstract (nirakar) and can only be experienced and imagined. On the other hand, there are religions which argue that the supernatural power has a definite shape, a dimension, it is an idol.
             
              It is a form, a shape (sakar). On the basis of some such notions anthropologists have formed the following explanations about religion:
             
              (1) Animism
             
              (2) Polytheism
             
              (3) Monotheism
             
              (4) Naturalism
             
              1. Animism:
             
              About a century has passed Edward B. Tylor pointed out that all peo-ples in primitive societies believed in animism. It means there is existence of intangible, non-material or spiritual beings which may be souls, ghosts, ancestral spirits, fauna, flora, ogres or monsters, or sim-ply objects. The origins of beliefs in such spiritual beings are probably multiple, as Tylor believes.
             
              The presence of vitality in a living person, which is unquestionably absent from a corpse, results in an animistic interpretation.
             
              The persons and things heard, seen or felt in dreams or in temporary hallucinatory experiences as in hot weather or when a person is exhausted, or when he is under the influence of drugs, yield the same result. Additional experiences which bring about or rein-force animistic beliefs are echoes, reflections in quiet pools, or other natural phenomena.
             
              Tylor contended that "once the basic premise of an animistic ide-ology-belief in the existence of spiritual beings and souls-had been developed, the path was laid for eventual development to later stages of religious ideology.
             
              But before the second stage was reached, the original belief in souls and spirits had come to include beliefs in ma-levolent spirits or demons, and in the spirits of ancestors. "
             
              Tylor presumed that the souls, ancestral spirits and other super-natural beings of the first developmental stage tended to change as a second stage into other higher or more grandiose forms of supernatu-ral beings such as nature gods.
             
              Neither proof nor disproof is available for such a sequence of stages because the peoples who are of the lowest economic level are not well enough known to indicate that they are largely or exclusively animistic. In fact, other forms of supernatural concepts, such as that of a single deity, also appear along with animis-tic concepts among such peoples.
             
              Animism thus has passed through several stages of development. And, these stages vary from tribe to tribe and country to country. In our country, the form of animism that we find is based on ancestor worship.
             
              2. Polytheism:
             
              Literally, polytheism means belief in more than one great spiritual power. This type of religious belief is found at all socio-economic lev-els. Defining polytheism John Lewis says that it is "believing in and worshipping in several gods".
             
              Polytheism is widely prevalent in ad-vanced agricultural-pastoral socio-economic systems and in cultures like those of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome.
             
              Tylor has tried to establish an evolutionary formulation of relig-ion. In this context, he says that among the tribals, the beginning of religion started with animism. At the second stage of development it took the form of animitism.
             
              The concept of animitism holds that a non-material, impersonal, non-individualized spiritual essence per-vades all things, manifests itself in inanimate and animate things. This spirit is considered to be a source of great power. It has miraculous ef-ficacy.
             
              The third stage of the evolution of religion is polytheism. This form of religious belief-belief in plural gods-is rarely found.
             
              How-ever, when the simple agricultural economy develops, polytheism emerges. In the simple, small-sized societies, there is prevalence of ani-mism and animitism, but polytheism is associated with higher level of development attained by a particular tribal group.
             
              3. Monotheism:
             
              Monotheism means belief in a single deity. Its propitiators believe that the cosmos is a unity, with one god who created and ordered all. Monotheism is the widely held idea that the belief in only one god is of recent development. It has not definitely been proved to be correct.
             
              "However, no absolutely pure monotheism has ever developed among peoples in primitive economies and has never characterized any such society.
             
              This is known for societies of primitive economy because of available evidence regarding the universality of animistic ideologies among them. Yet, the synchronous occurrence of such animistic ide-ologies along with a monotheistic-like belief in a high god is certain. "
             
              4. Naturalism:
             
              Yet another form of animism is found in naturalism. It is believed that the supernatural power has its manifestation in things of nature. The roaring of clouds, lightening in the clouds and earthquakes are noth-ing but the expressions of the supernatural power.
             
              When there are floods in the rivers, the supernatural power expresses its wrath. The wrath of the power, therefore, has to be propitiated by animal sacri-fice.
             
              It is believed, especially by the tribals, that nature has supernatu-ral power which has to be respected. Because of this power there is awe for nature and people worship nature in the form of earth, fire, water, stars, floods, etc.
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