The Anthropology of Western Religions
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The Anthropology of Western Religions : Ideas, Organizations, and Constituencies

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Description

The Anthropology of Western Religions: Ideas, Organizations, and Constituencies is a comparative survey of the world's major religious traditions as professional enterprises and, often, as social movements. Documenting the principle ideas behind Western religious traditions from an anthropological perspective, Murray J. Leaf demonstrates how these ideas have been used in building internal organizations that mobilize or fail to mobilize external support. Leaf documents a wide range of cultural and social phenomena and the ways in which they merge, ultimately proposing an anthropological method of promoting cross-cultural understanding that stems from these intersections.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 286 pages
  • 149 x 228 x 19mm | 417g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 11 black & white halftones
  • 0739195832
  • 9780739195833

About Murray J. Leaf

Murray J. Leaf is professor of anthropology and political economy at the University of Texas at Dallas.show more

Table of contents

List of Illustrations Preface Acknowledgments Chapter 1. Introduction Chapter 2: Backgrounds to the West Chapter 3: Judaism Chapter 4: Early Christianity Chapter 5: Islam Chapter 6: Later Christianity Chapter 7: Conclusion Bibliography Index About the Authorshow more

Review quote

Leaf offers a careful, useful, and balanced study of the anthropology of Eastern and Western religions. Rather than focusing on the philosophy or theology of religion, these volumes discuss religious traditions' ideas about organized human life; the institutions, strategies, and organizations they create to facilitate community; and their constituencies. One volume treats early Vedantic, Jain, Buddhist, Hindu, Chinese, and Japanese traditions and practices. The other volume investigates what generally are considered Western religious traditions because of their widespread influence in Europe and the Americas. Arctic, African, and American Indian cultures are omitted. Leaf economically sets up each volume with introductory chapters that have similar structures but tailor specific content to the volume at hand. Both volumes offer literature reviews rather than anthropological field observations. Eastern Religions begins with a reflection on Vedantan thinking: what 'all experience manifests, and that cannot in any way be shaped or injured by experience.' Next, Leaf offers a philosophical discussion of the Four Noble Truths, right knowledge, rebirth, and organizations before taking up the Buddhist traditions that flowed from Siddhartha's experiences. The discussion of Hinduism focuses on sociological/anthropological concerns, including the Laws of Manu, caste, and property rights, before turning to the gods and bhakti (the guru-disciple relationship). Leaf discusses violence in connection with the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad-Gita. He identifies Sikhism (the Indian religion he knows best) as the most vital of the Indian religions; discusses Sikh organizations, gurdwaras, and institutions; and describes Sikh ceremonies. The discussion of Taoism is confined to beliefs, and Buddhism is treated only briefly. Chinese legalism is subsumed under law, control, and legitimacy. The equally ambitious volume on Western religions describes the backgrounds to medieval and modern Western culture, then moves on to Judaism (from the Bible to the present), early Christianity, Islam, and later Christianity...Leaf writes for a general university-type audience, and does not presuppose knowledge of the history of any of the Western religions. His discussion of African American churches reveals his in-depth knowledge of socioeconomic issues. Both volumes include photographs, some by the author. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through graduate students; general readers. CHOICEshow more

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