Talk:Theories about religions

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OMISSIONS AND UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ARE IN CAPITALS INVISIBLY[edit]

Omissions (often serious) and unanswered qeuestion are invisible in CAPITALS in the article. Please removed these invisible warnings (only) after the omission has been addresses. The same warnings IN CAPITALS, but visible, are here User:Andries/Theories_of_religion.Andries (talk) 10:16, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

Functionalism vs. functional definitions[edit]

First, I'd like to applaud the entry creator for a wonderful addition to Wikipedia. That said, I'd like to make a suggestion. I just self-reverted an edit I made that had specified "functionalist" theories of religion as those stemming from Functionalism in the social sciences: Functionalism (sociology). The reason I self reverted and realized the issue was more complicated is because the difference between functional and substantive definitions does not conflate directly with theories of religion--and "functional" definitions are not "functionalist" definitions. The latter term is applied to functionalism, the afore mentioned social scientific paradigm. I noticed this problem, because functionalism as a theoretical orientation is certainly not a broader category within which Freudian reductionism finds itself, whether or not both essentialize religion through what it does, as opposed to what it is. On top of this proponents of substantive definitions do not need to have "substantive" theories, despite the mistake, be it uncommon, made by a few writers to use this phrase. Of course when a theorist uses a certain type of definition (substantive or functional) there are clearly implications to the broader theoretical project. I would not deny this, but the matter should be presented differently. Certain theorists work from the premise of a substantive or a functional definition, but we should not classify their theories as such, and I think it causes special problems because of existence of "functionalism" as a historically defined theoretical orientation in the social sciences, and because its relationship to the definitional enterprise is much less clear. For instance, Geertz definition of religion is functional (for third party example of this identification see Berger, Peter L. 1977. "Some Second Thoughts on Substantive versus Functional Definitions of Religion." JSSR. 13(2):125-133). However, I would never call Geertz a functionalist, although Berger (in the piece I referenced) does talk about how Geertz reflects the Durkheimian impetus in the social sciences. Anyway this is a much to long way of saying the following: Unless there are any objections I think we should not complicate the substantive, functional split between ways of defining religion with suggestions about larger theoretical projects. Any thoughts?PelleSmith (talk) 13:12, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

Pals (page 272) labels the theories by Freud, Marx, and Durkheim as "functional" or "reductionist" explanations. Kunin does not label the approach by Freud "functional" or "functionalist" as far as I can see. I had not even noticed that I (and the source) sometimes uses the word "functional" and sometimes ""functionalist" and I had not been aware of a difference in meaning. (I am not the most accurate reader, I admit. Thats is why I wrote this article mainly in user space.) Andries (talk) 07:44, 18 March 2008 (UTC)

Rodney Stark[edit]

I am not sure I see the justification of giving Rodney Stark the amount of attention he garners here. In fact the very idea of including him on the list as it is currently presented is very odd. Do we have any third party sources to substantiate this prominence, because in my mind there are several contemporary sociologists who have been much more influential than Stark. For instance, I would think Peter Berger, and Robert Bellah would deserve a mention here before Stark does. Also his general theoretical orientation vis-a-vis the sociology of religion, "rational choice theory," has never really been the dominant paradigm and is now even less popular. Sure, it did, and does, have some very vocal proponents, but a cursory glance at the current literature in the field would easily make a case against its prevalence. In fact its day in the sun came primarily by way of being presented as the most viable explanatory alternative in the wake of the obvious demise of "secularization theory." In other words people jumped on the bandwagon briefly because they knew secularization theory was wrong, or at least partially so because religion was not in decline in much of the world. My thoughts would be to include a section on the rational choice apporach and put a much smaller blurb about Stark's book within it. Any suggestions?PelleSmith (talk) 13:36, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

The main reason why I included it was because this very short on topic reputable source mentions their theory. http://hirr.hartsem.edu/ency/Theory.htm I have no problem in condensing and renaming the section to have less emphasis on the names or Stark and Bainbridge. Andries (talk) 07:51, 18 March 2008 (UTC)
I have no problem if you add Peter Berger and Robert Bellah's theories, because I believe that they are sufficiently influential and notable to be included here. They are not included in Pals' excellent book but Pals selected, only simple theories for didactic reasons, as he explictly wrote. I hope that this article will not degenerate into a List of theories of religion. Andries (talk) 12:18, 18 March 2008 (UTC)

Image copyright problem with Image:Janco Eliade.jpg[edit]

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Revert of methodology section[edit]

I reverted the edits by Editor2020 of the section methodological because I strongly believe the term methodological atheism must be mentioned because treated by scholarly sources.

I was also slightly unhappy with the other changes by Editor2020, because 1. it gave a the false impression that sociologist and anthropologists are atheists (metholodogical atheism is confined to their scientific writings). 2. did not introduce the subject properly (the ignorant reader does not know yet about the basic view of sociologists and anthropologists). 3. stayed vague because it did not list the names of whom Evans Pritchard considered armchair anthropologists.

Andries (talk) 04:31, 19 October 2008 (UTC)

Alright. I've fixed the punctuation and removed the e.g. usage.--Editor2020 (talk) 16:50, 19 October 2008 (UTC)

René Girard's sacrifice theory[edit]

The article culd maybe include René Girard's sacrifice theory, which has stirred up a good deal of interest among anthropologists in recent years. ADM (talk) 06:29, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

William James?[edit]

Section seems to be missing some key figures, like James, Schliermacher, et. al., as well as anything at all on recent cognitive and 'nuerotheological' models. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Obiskatobis (talkcontribs) 22:48, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

Psychoanalysis as science[edit]

I suggest that this article is not the place to try to explain the debate about whether or not psychoanlysis is "scientific." Few of the theories in this article are "scientific" in the sense used in the criticism of psychoanalysis.

Further, the claim that psychoanlysis isn't scientific because it was developed by listening to people who were lying on a couch is absurd. There is no theory of scientific knowledge that takes a pro or con position on couches. There are good reasons to question whether psychonalytic theories of personality are "scientific," but this isn't one of them. (Nor does the sentence that makes this claim have a source.)

We could fill the article with citations, pro and con about the validity of psychoanlysis - but wouldn't it be better to leave that topic to the article on psychoanalysis where it belongs?--Federalist51 (talk) 01:40, 10 February 2011 (UTC)

Disagree, because both the article and the source state that Freud's views and theories of religions were part of his larger theory of psychoanalysis. That makes it relevant. I believe that the other theories are more scientific than Freud's theories. None of them received such trenchant, thorough criticisms on their scientific value as Freud's theories. Andries (talk) 10:39, 12 February 2011 (UTC)
The article does not state anywhere that psychoanalysis is assessed unscientific because it was developed because listening to people lying on a couch. Andries (talk) 11:48, 12 February 2011 (UTC)


Durkheim and functionalism[edit]

Description of scope of article and Lead[edit]

I've taken a crack at improving the description of the scope of this article and moved it to the lead (where it replaces a disjointed summary of an apparently randomly chosen subset of the article. The description of all of the theories discussed here as social-scientific (i.e. arising from the social sciences) is a common one and refers to the fact that these theories come out of, and are usually evaluated in, the tradition of one or more social sciences (primarily anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics). While most (but perhaps not all) 20th century social scientists would agree that their disciplines evaluate theories based on their empirical verification or falsifiability (i.e. are “scientific”), using this as a criterial for the article imposes a criteria that may not actually be met by most of the theories. There’s no question that all of the thinkers discussed in the article thought of themselves as applying a “scientific” method, but their understanding of what that meant was almost certainly not as well developed as someone operating in the social sciences today, simply because the philosophy of science itself wasn’t as well developed. --Federalist51 (talk) 21:20, 11 January 2012 (UTC)


Added to definition of cults, the Definition of functionalism in religion, and the functional approach[edit]

I made a minor edit to the definition of cults, let me know what you think. Along with these, I added some definitions and resources to the Durkheim definition of functionalism, as well as to the functional approach of understanding the sociology of religion. Though I believe the Rational Choice theory section needs some attention. Is the definition of cults and its explanation really necessary within? I am almost half tempted to remove it. Also, I think this section relies to heavily on the idea of the compensator, could it be more simply defined in the perspective of the individual rather than religion as an institution? For instance, the view of the human being being a rational actor. (talk) 14:26, 17 April 2012

title change[edit]

I do not think that the title change Metatheories_of_religion_in_the_social_sciences to is a good idea. I think the old title Theories of religions is better. The new title assumes that religion is a theory of the world. This is only one (Frazer's theory) of the possible theories of religion. This title change should have been discussed in advance. Btw Freudian theory is not a social science theory, I believe. Andries (talk) 23:03, 29 November 2012 (UTC)

Doesn't the old title also equally "presume" the same thing? I think the confusion is on the use of the word "theory." It wouldn't be the first time someone just didn't use it correctly, insofar as religion is concerned. Just any collection of sentences is a theory. So certainly, any religion is a theory, and any theory that talks about religion is a metatheory. I.e any group of sentences whose subject matter is some other theory is a metatheory. Greg Bard (talk) 23:43, 29 November 2012 (UTC)
  • Coming to this late, but agree with Andries that "metatheories" of religion is not the best title. Metatheory is, at best, a specialized term, if not jargon. A search in google scholar or jstor quickly reveals that this topic covered by this article is generally referred to as "theories of religion." Though not inaccurate, "In the social sciences" strikes me as unnecessary and somewhat anachronistic. Will give this a some time (to see if anyone else wants to chime in), but am inclined to revert to original name. --Federalist51 (talk) 17:31, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

Another title change[edit]

User:Grebard made another title change without prior announcement or any explanation. I left a warning on his or her talk page. I think the old title Theories of religions is better than the new title Theories about religions. I am not a native speaker of English but I thought it was alwas "Theores of ...." Please correct me if I am wrong. Andries (talk) 21:09, 8 June 2014 (UTC)

The motivation and explanation for this new title change can be found somewhere here Wikipedia:Categories_for_discussion/Log/2014_May_2#Category:Theories_of_religion, but I cannot make a lot of sense from it. Andries (talk) 22:29, 8 June 2014 (UTC)

Sociology uses the term "Theories of Religion" for theories about the existence and social function of religions. Editor2020 03:31, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
I am sorry your information has a poor choice of words, and you are fully impressed by it. Those who actually study theories as an object of study in themselves know that the distinction between a theory and a metatheory (also called a "theory about a theory") is an important one. This isn't to say that sociologists aren't perfectly wonderful scholars who are the rightful experts on the subject matter of this article. However, insofar as its title is concerned let's please classify things properly. Greg Bard (talk) 15:13, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
I have to agree with what user:Mangoe wrote about this to you: "Greg, this is your own idiosyncratic position...." Andries (talk) 07:17, 30 August 2014 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the proposal was moved. --BDD (talk) 00:55, 31 January 2014 (UTC)

Metatheories of religion in the social sciencesTheories of religions – More common name in scholarly sources. Simpler, more intuitive name. Name had been the same for years and was changed unilaterally without prior discussion. Andries (talk) 09:17, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

  • Revert the move, back to the original title. Consensus for that move is disputed. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:17, 21 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Support per nom Red Slash 02:03, 27 January 2014 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.