The Psychology of Religion

By George Albert Coe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
RACIAL BEGINNINGS IN RELIGION
Not only is it difficult to find out just what the lower races do in the way of religion, and why they do it; it is difficult for us who are not anthropologists to understand the findings of anthropology. In the present chapter we must make an effort to reverse many of our customary notions of how men act, and think, and feel. Thus:
1. If you ask me in what sense I am religious, you throw me back upon myself as an individual. I say, "Whatever life may mean to others, to me it means so and so." If, now, we imagine that such personal realizations are the first things in religion, and that the earliest religious group or community is an aggregate of such individuals, we reverse the facts. The religious individual is a late and high development out of the religious group.1
____________________
1
Not until the national-religious consciousness of Israel had been battered down by other nations did the notion of a direct personal relation to Jahwe take firm root. Ezekiel, chap. 28, transfers the notion of guilt and innocence from nation or family lineage to the individual. How a group as such can be religious we can see, however, by recalling our own experiences as members of crowds-- a college class, a political meeting, or an audience at a concert. Under such conditions it is perfectly natural for us to feel and act and even think in ways that are impossible to us in private.

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