Edward Tylor Burnett: Religious Connections Critical Thinking Samples

Type of paper: Critical Thinking

Topic: Religion, Culture, Death, Theory, Belief, Medicine, Christians, Men

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/10/28

Religious doctrines and practices are often immediately attributed to the work of god or an ethereal being. Though there are many instances throughout texts such as the bible or quran that claim divine intervention, it is important to remember that religions are manmade. In fact, Edward Tylor Burnet stated in his essay, “Animism” that, “First, as to the religious doctrines and practices examined, these are treated as belonging to theological systems devised by human reason, without supernatural aid or revelation.” Throughout his essay, Burnett reminds us repeatedly that we forget religious doctrines and practices are a matter of our minds and cultures, so deeply engrained in us due to ancient civilizations who were once on a desperate quest to answer questions that plagued them. They are, thus, not an invention of a god, but an invention of man.

Burnett further explains the engrained nature of theological beliefs in primitive culture

Once religious doctrines and behaviors took hold within primitive cultures, there appeared to often be a need for leaders. Medicine men or shamans typically filled these positions. In an effort to ward off more of the unknown, many cultures around the world adopted medicine men as their village centerpiece in an effort to ward off sickness and perform religious ceremonies. Though they were primarily seen as healers and religious leaders, medicine men were also followed so closely because they were often believed to be imbued with psychic, godly powers. For instance, in the Antilles, “the ghosts of the dead were to be seen by the shamans, but not by men generally unless in dreams.” As mentioned, primitive cultures had no knowledge of the dead, but desperately desired to understand death and dying. The belief that shamans could see the dead would have been understood as a great benefit to the people. These assumed abilities would have also urged primitive cultures to follow shamans, allowing them to form early theological behaviors. Moreover, with an overwhelming fear of the future, those believed to predict it were seen as divine. Burnett exemplifies this when he writes, “Captain Jonathan Carver obtained a true prophecy from a Cree medicine man,” while, “Mr. J. Mason Brown, traveling with two voyagers on the Coppermine River, was met by Indians of the very band he was seeking.” Each party had been sent by the village’s medicine man because they had seen the travelers coming in a vision the day before. They were different tribes who had no contact with one another, yet they had formed similar customs and followed similar doctrines. Prophecies such as these were likely a coincidence, but perpetrated a strong following, not unlike the one we see today in church congregations. It is an entirely manmade ideal, manifested out of the need to understand what is going to happen next. Shaman once told what was going to happen tomorrow, while now preachers explain what will happen in the afterlife. No divine intervention is present for either prediction; humans manufacture the delivery of both, much like the desperation to understand death and dying was a manmade need. The heavenly ability to see ghosts was not placed upon shaman, rather primitive societies needed to believe somebody understood death from beyond and was able to explain it to them.
In sum, though we have the power of critical thinking on our side, our primitive nature still exists today. Burnett explains in his essay it was our primal need to answer questions about the unknown that caused us to manufacture divine interventions. Primitive cultures did not have a way to explain the human soul, for example. Religious doctrines and behaviors began to form, allowing cultures around the world to put words and phrases in the form of answers to these questions. Answering questions like these led to practices so engrained into human customs, that later, some continued, becoming the religion we know today. Hence, at its core, Burnett’s essay was trying to explain that religion was born out of a fear of the unknown. It came into existence based on human behavior and curiosity, rather than existential or supernatural revelation.

Bibliography

Tylor, Edward Burnett. "Animism." In Primitive Culture: Researches Into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art, and Custom, Volume 1, by Edward Burnett Tylor, 377-453. London: J. Murray, 1871.

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WePapers. (2020, October, 28) Edward Tylor Burnett: Religious Connections Critical Thinking Samples. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/edward-tylor-burnett-religious-connections-critical-thinking-samples/
"Edward Tylor Burnett: Religious Connections Critical Thinking Samples." WePapers, 28 Oct. 2020, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/edward-tylor-burnett-religious-connections-critical-thinking-samples/. Accessed 24 November 2020.
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"Edward Tylor Burnett: Religious Connections Critical Thinking Samples." WePapers, Oct 28, 2020. Accessed November 24, 2020. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/edward-tylor-burnett-religious-connections-critical-thinking-samples/
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"Edward Tylor Burnett: Religious Connections Critical Thinking Samples," Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com, 28-Oct-2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/edward-tylor-burnett-religious-connections-critical-thinking-samples/. [Accessed: 24-Nov-2020].
Edward Tylor Burnett: Religious Connections Critical Thinking Samples. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/edward-tylor-burnett-religious-connections-critical-thinking-samples/. Published Oct 28, 2020. Accessed November 24, 2020.
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