Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Anthropology of Religion
Stephen D. Glazier
Anthropological studies of religion had their beginnings in the late 19th century, with the seminal works of Max Muller, W. Robertson Smith, Edward B. Tylor, and James G. Frazer. These scholars, of course, were not the first to take an interest in the comparative study of religion, nor were they the first to speculate on the religions of preliterate and tribal peoples. What set these men apart is that they were among the first to suggest that tribal religions might be amenable to study following the rules of the scientific method and to posit specific methodological procedures for the comparative analysis of religious beliefs and practices. All four of these scholars have been characterized as “armchair theorists” and dilettantes (although Muller was an expert in Sanskrit; Robertson Smith had an excellent command of Semitic languages; Tylor had spent time studying the antiquities of Mexico; and Frazer had a strong background ...