Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion

Stuart Elliot Guthrie, Author, Stewart Elliott Guthrie, Author Oxford University Press, USA $30 (336p) ISBN 978-0-19-506901-3
In an ambiguous, threatening world, religion is ``a good bet,'' writes Fordham University anthropologist Guthrie. His startling theory holds that the world's religions are best understood as ``systematic anthropomorphism,'' arising from the universal tendency to ascribe human characteristics to God and gods, to nature, animals, the weather and daily occurrences. People anthropomorphize, he maintains, because they perceive the world in terms of their own interests. Through the perceptual strategy of animism, they attribute life to objects and events, conjuring a panoply of spirit beings, according to Guthrie's schema. As for Buddhism and other creeds with no deities, Guthrie maintains that they are not religions but, rather, ethical or psychological systems. He scrutinizes anthropomorphism in the visual arts and philosophy, drawing on cognitive science, ethnography and psychology to buttress his often debatable points. His theory complements and revises theories that interpret religion as social glue, wish-fulfillment, primitive science or means of interaction with sacred and spiritual realms. Illustrated. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1993
Release date: 02/01/1993
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