 What concept allows for recognition of religion
as a cultural universal?

 The foundation for the comparative study of
religion is the recognition that everywhere
people recognize supernatural forces that
exert some degree of control over the natural
world and thus our lives.
 Efforts to define, explain and control these
forces is what we recognize as religion.

 Religion extends into all spheres of our lives.
 Religion answers unanswerable questions and
explains the unexplainable (e.g. why do bad
things happen to good people).

comparative perspective on religion.  Through religion people sanctify and worship their way of life. Durkheim established the modern. . their culture.  Religion is a social institution – a creation of society and a recreation of society.

.”  Science deals with theories about nature and is always open to questioning.  There is no place for miracles in science. Religion deals with unquestionable “truths.

 Sophy . . Sophists were pre-Socratic thinkers and teachers:  Logos– Debatable knowledge.  Mythos – Sacred truth.A system of thought.

science is grounded in empiricism. Science is not objective. witchcraft.  Germ theory of disease vs. etc). Rather. Religion commonly addresses things that are not observable (other realms. deities.  Nature of the cosmos (earth is not at center). .

 Evolution vs. creationism. .

” they “know. Outside the realm of mythos.  The concept of reality is relative.  Through comparative study of religion we come to appreciate similarities between religions more than differences. People who recognize a particular expression of the supernatural do not “believe.” Buddha Christ . we have no basis to consider one religion as superior to and other.

God Saint James Roman Catholic School Satan Thokolosi .Ghosts. gods. saints. martyr demons – Satan. These are cultural categories. culture hero – saint. We have to learn about them – they are taught to us. etc. angles. witches. demons. Examples of archetypes and folk expressions. thokolosi gods .

 Personified  Impersonal .

 Because they have no consciousness we can only manipulate them through symbols that represent them: ◦ Such symbolic projections of power are called “magic.” . Have no consciousness and can not respond to us in any way.


. We will return to impersonal supernatural powers when we get to magic.

master of intellect and wisdom (Hinduism) .  They hear our prayers  They witness our rituals  They receive our sacrifices Ganesh . Are conscious and we can have a social relationship with them.

 Pantheism - Devine principles are everywhere  Polytheism Multiple gods  Monotheism Supremacy of one god  Animism Spirits animate natural world  Animatism Impersonal forces govern the natural world. .

.  Beings who dwell in the natural world have more interaction with people. the less interaction it has with people. The further into the supernatural realm a being is conceived to be.

Witches Interaction Culture Interaction HORIZONTAL DIMENSION Model developed by Phillips Stevens.D. Almighty.. Spirits. Ph. Tricksters Forces. Supreme Being or Principle V D S E I R R M O T E I N T gods C S S A I E L O Culture Heroes N C N A Ghosts. SUNY Buffalo . Jr.

at leisure or rest) These are often creators who withdrew and left lesser gods to manage human affairs. Almighty – Often otiose (literally. .  gods: Often have most interaction with people.  Ancestors – Remembered.  Culture heroes – did something great and are remembered. but may eventually be forgotten unless they did something great and become culture heroes and perhaps eventually gods. May become gods if their message was important or their deed great.

 Beings found here include ghosts. or have the potential to.  Forces are commonly found here.  Supernatural beings that reside in the natural world interact with humans. This is the “natural world” where humans reside. but these are impersonal (will cover them in section on magic and sorcery). witches. . spirits and tricksters.

. Charisma is embodied in the office they occupy. Priests are functionaries who are ordained into an office based on their competence in performing ritual.  Shamans cultivate relationships with specific spirit beings and use those relations for the benefit of society. Their charisma lies in their ability to interact with spirit allies.

American Anthropologist. Endorphin release can lead to: Fight or flight or Ecstasy . 1982.  Raymond Prince. Shamans and endorphins: Hypotheses for a synthesis.

Hopi rainmaker Kachinas enter the plaza at Shonghopavi. .

 Includes reference to what people must do to maintain and profit from a relationship with the supernatural. An explanation of the cosmos (all that is out there) and an expression of peoples’ relation to the supernatural. .


If exact procedures are not followed something may go wrong and desired outcomes may not be achieved.  Exact repetition preserves bodies of mythology in preliterate cultures. .  Rituals have been perfected. Rituals are based on repetitive behavior.

 Communion – Becoming one with the Christhood. Bat mitzvah and Confirmation – child becomes an adult with ritual rights or responsibilities. . Bar mitzvah.  Confession – Admission of sins and absolution.

Critical ritual. Calendric ritual. .

.  Divination – Obtaining divine guidance in important matters. Scapulamancy among Nascapi of Labrador. Frequently occur at times of life crisis.

 Sangoma in Lesotho. 1992 .

 Mark changes in the life status of an individual and those close to him or her.Death .  Tied to the life-cycle: Birth – Childhood – Puberty – Marriage – Retirement .

.  Eka Dasa Rudra in Bali occurs once every century. Reaffirm and perpetuate the cycle of life.

 Ritual events are reversed in the southern hemisphere as are the seasons.  Symbolism is remarkably similar from one culture to another. .  Rituals seem to be addressing environmental concerns associated with the seasons. rituals tend to cluster on dividing points. Globally. but the symbolism still matches.

21-23  Autumnal Equinox – Sept. Vernal Equinox – March 21-23  Winter Solstice – Dec. 21-23  Summer Solstice – June 21-23 .

 Symbolic is new beginnings .

 Right of Reversal .

Fasting . rebirth and resurection.  Northern hemisphere – agricultural cycle begins Easter celebrates fertility • Eggs • Flowers • Resurection • Bunneys • Maypole Lent . Rituals tend to be symbolic of fasting.

Lent and Mardi Gras .

. Rituals tend toward maintaining balance with nature.

first fruits and giving thanks.Symbolism revolvers around abundance.  Thanksgiving  Halloween (Samhain)  Day of Dead .