Hume’s natural history of religion and the beginning of the social scientific study of religion

Robert A. Segal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

David Hume’s The Natural History of Religion (1757) has rightly been considered a key work in the development of the social scientific study of religion. Compared with other pioneers in the field, Hume is precociously modern in many ways: (1) in his insistence on the distinction between the issue of origin and the issue of truth, (2) in his concentration on causes rather than reasons, (3) in his interest in the recurrent rather than the one-time origin of religion, (4) in his search for a non-religious rather than an irreducibly religious origin of religion, (5) in his comparative rather than particularistic approach, (6) in his inductive rather than deductive approach, (7) in his stress on the non-rational rather than rational dimensions of religion, (8) in his focus on the effect as well as the origin of religion, (9) in his concern with the unintended rather than the intended effects of religion, and (10) in his separation of religion from ethics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-234
Number of pages10
JournalReligion
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1994

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