The Approach to the Social Sciences in Religion Past and Present


  • Robert Alan Segal University of Aberdeen



Emile Durkheim, Mircea Eliade, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Social Science, theology


The social sciences do threaten theology/religious studies even when they do not challenge either the reality of God or the reality of belief in the reality of God. The entries in RPP ignore this threat in the name of some wished-for harmony. The entries neither recognize nor refute the challenge of social science to theology/religious studies. They do, then, stand antithetically both to those whom I call "religionists" and to many theologians, for whom there is nothing but a challenge.

Author Biography

Robert Alan Segal, University of Aberdeen

Robert Alan Segal is Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen.


Chalmers, David J. 1996. The Conscious Mind. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collingwood, R. G. 1946. The Idea of History. Translated by T. M. Knox. New York: Oxford University Press.

Durkheim, Emile. 1915 [1912]. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Translated by Joseph Ward Swain. New York: Free Press.

Eliade, Mircea. 1963 [1958]. Patterns in Comparative Religion. Translated by Rosemary Sheed. Cleveland: Meridian Books.

Freud, Sigmund. 1964 [1961]. The Future of an Illusion. Translated by W. D. Robson-Scott, rev. James Strachey. Garden City: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Fuller, Robert C. 1987. “Religion and Empiricism in the Works of Peter Berger. Zygon 22: 497-510.

Grunbaum, Adolf. 1984. The Foundations of Psychoanalysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Harris, Marvin. 1979. Cultural Materialism. New York: Random House.

Kepnes, Steven D. 1986. “Bridging the Gap between Understanding and Explanation Approaches to the Study of Religion.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 25: 504-12.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1957. On Religion. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House.

Ryle, Gilbert. 1949. The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson.



How to Cite

Segal, R. (2015). The Approach to the Social Sciences in Religion Past and Present. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 44(3), 15–20.