Melford Spiro

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Caution. This article/definition is in draft form and at this time may constitute no more than rough notes, reminders for required content, or absolutely nothing at all. Content is subject to revision.


Who was he? What did he write about.

Notes

Defines "believe in superhuman beings and in their power to assist or to harm" as a "core variable" in any definition of religion. [1] Thus communism (sports) is not a religious system because it has no reference to superhuman beings.

Definition is both substantive and functional.

Substantive

..."'religion' as 'an institution consisting of culturally patterned interaction with culturally postulated superhuman beings.'"[2]

"Religion has the same methodological status as other cultural systems; i.e. religious variables are to be explained by the same explanatory schemata- historical, structural, functional, and causal" [3]

Religion is developed from "personal projective systems" that develop in early childhood experiences, like a child's relationship with its parents.[4] Religion is structured as a consequence of family. The cognitive bases for religious belief "have their roots in childhood experience, their explanation must be found in social structural and, mor especifically, family structure variables. Here religion is the dependent variable, and family structure is the independent sociological variable..." [5]

Functional

Religion is caused by its ability to satisfy desires. Religion is caused by the expectation that it will satisfy desires.

Society/family/structures cause religion via psychological processes (both Freud and Durkheim).

Sociological variables (structure) cause religious beliefs.

Religion is "instigated" because it satisfies needs. Our human motivations drive the creation of religion.

  • Because it satisfied cognitive needs and our need for meaning.[6]
  • Because it satisfies substantive desires, our need for power over the natural world, over others, over suffering.[7]
  • Because it allays fears and anxieties (meets our need for safety and security)
  • Because it allows for the sublimation/containment/expression of "painful motives" like aggression, dependency, Oedipal sexuality, etc.

But who "instigates?" -> in many cases, the Accumulating Class


Footnotes

  1. Spiro, Melford E. “Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation.” In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Michael Banton, 85–125. Oxon: Routledge, 2004. p. 94
  2. Spiro, Melford E. “Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation.” In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Michael Banton, 85–125. Oxon: Routledge, 2004. p. 96.
  3. Spiro, Melford E. “Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation.” In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Michael Banton, 85–125. Oxon: Routledge, 2004. p. 97.
  4. Spiro, Melford E. “Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation.” In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Michael Banton, 85–125. Oxon: Routledge, 2004. p. 103.
  5. Spiro, Melford E. “Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation.” In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Michael Banton, 85–125. Oxon: Routledge, 2004. p. 121
  6. Spiro, Melford E. “Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation.” In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Michael Banton, 85–125. Oxon: Routledge, 2004. p. 109-110.
  7. Spiro, Melford E. “Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation.” In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Michael Banton, 85–125. Oxon: Routledge, 2004. p. 112.