The birth of the gods
DOI link for The birth of the gods
The birth of the gods book
The most systematic application of Emile Durkheim’s theory of religion and attempt to test it empirically using comparative data is that of Guy Swanson in his book The Birth of the Gods. Swanson raises the question of how gods associated with nature and natural forces, such as the wind, sun, or sea, could refer to social forces in a symbolic guise when such forces are quite clearly not controlled by society. Swanson next turns to polytheism which he links to the existence of specialisation. The third type of belief Swanson examines is that of ancestral spirits. Another type of belief investigated in Swanson’s study was that of witchcraft, sorcery and black magic. Finally, Swanson explores the relationship between social structure and the idea that misdemeanours are punished supernaturally. Swanson tackles the problem of religious decline in contemporary industrial societies. It is worth pointing out a number of similarities between Swanson’s ideas and the Marxist approach to religion.