The Social Ecology of Religion

By Vernon Reynolds; Ralph Tanner | Go to book overview

3
The Challenge of Modernity

Religions have always had practical concerns. Before the advent of our own species, Neanderthals had a cave bear cult to ward off these dangerous predators from their living sites. With the beginning of historical times, the first known writing consists of marks thought to represent the amount of grain in storage at a temple at Jericho, some ten thousand years ago in the Middle East. Ancient Vedic texts, from the birthplace of Indian civilization, include rules for the slaughtering of horses and how much should be given to the priests. The religion of ancient Egypt betrayed a preoccupation with the provision of food for the afterlife, at any rate for those rich enough to warrant embalming and a large tomb. There was also a religious preoccupation with ensuring the continuation of the annual Nile flood on which the entire society depended. The Old Testament book of Leviticus is deeply concerned with what may and may not be eaten, with personal hygiene, and with sexual behavior.

In the modern, consumerist world of the West one might therefore expect its religions (Christianity, Islam, and to a lesser extent Judaism) to be concerned with profit maximization. But there is a problem: Jesus turned the money-changers out of the temple; originally Christianity opposed the pursuit of profit and the values engendered by money. Islam rules against usury and so Islamic banks cannot give interest on deposits; in consequence they make clients shareholders. This did not apply to Jews, who therefore, until the modern era, were the prime dealers in money. Today only the remnants of this division continue, and it is considered quite acceptable for Christians and Moslems to engage wholeheartedly in the marketplace. How can that be?

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The Social Ecology of Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents *
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - Why Religions? 3
  • Notes 18
  • 2 - Prior Approaches to the Study of Religion 19
  • Notes 28
  • 3 - The Challenge of Modernity 29
  • Notes 50
  • Part II - Religion and the Life Cycle 51
  • 4 - Conception and Contraception 53
  • Notes 75
  • 5 - Infanticide and Abortion 79
  • Notes 97
  • 6 - Birth and Childhood 101
  • Notes 126
  • 7 - Adolescence 131
  • Notes 147
  • 8 - Marriage 149
  • Notes 180
  • 9 - Divorce and Widowhood 185
  • Notes 197
  • 10 - Middle and Old Age 200
  • Notes 209
  • 11 - Death 211
  • Notes 230
  • Part III - Religions and Disease 235
  • 12 - Faith and Sickness 237
  • Notes 261
  • 13 - Religions and the Enhanced Risk of Disease 267
  • Notes 282
  • 14 - Religions and the Reduced Risk of Disease 285
  • Notes 300
  • 15 - General Conclusions 305
  • Notes 312
  • Index 313
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