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The Promise of Salvation: A Theory of Religion [Kindle Edition]

Martin Riesebrodt , Steven Rendall
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Why has religion persisted across the course of human history? Secularists have predicted the end of faith for a long time, but religions continue to attract followers. Meanwhile, scholars of religion have expanded their field to such an extent that we lack a basic framework for making sense of the chaos of religious phenomena. To remedy this state of affairs, Martin Riesebrodt here undertakes a task that is at once simple and monumental: to define, understand, and explain religion as a universal concept.

Instead of propounding abstract theories, Riesebrodt concentrates on the concrete realities of worship, examining religious holidays, conversion stories, prophetic visions, and life-cycle events. In analyzing these practices, his scope is appropriately broad, taking into consideration traditions in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, and Shinto. Ultimately, Riesebrodt argues, all religions promise to avert misfortune, help their followers manage crises, and bring both temporary blessings and eternal salvation. And, as The Promise of Salvation makes clear through abundant empirical evidence, religion will not disappear as long as these promises continue to help people cope with life.

Editorial Reviews


"This crucial volume joins Thomas Tweed's Crossing and Dwelling in setting forth one of the most insightful and sophisticated contemporary theories of religion that students and scholars at all levels can profitably use." (Choice)"

About the Author

Martin Riesebrodt is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Chicago and the author of several books, including Pious Passion: The Emergence of Modern Fundamentalism in the United States and IranSteven Rendall has translated numerous books, including On Borrowed Time: The Art and Economy of Living with Deadlines by Harald Weinrich, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2386 KB
  • Print Length: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (February 15, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003QHYC5S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #867,058 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important intervention in current debates July 27, 2011
I'm writing to balance the impression from the earlier reviewer (only one is there as I write). This book is indeed ambitious and probably makes some unwarranted generalizations here and there when talking about specific groups and histories. The section in which he syncs up his theory with a broad (necessarily selective) set of examples from across many times and places is the least satisfying part. I wanted to hear more about Native American and African cultures, but Riesebrodt seems to have less specialist knowledge there than he does in Asian religions.

Nevertheless this is a highly important intervention into debates in religious studies and sociology of religion. It is not in dialog primarily with specialists in particular religious groups, but with people who claim that the abstract concept "religion" refers meaningfully only to a particular discursive formation in the modern west and/or should be abandoned as a coherent overarching category. Contrary to the impression that the earlier reviewer gained, Riesebrodt makes acute, learned, and very welcome observations about the limitations of this way of thinking (as well as its real insights when used intelligently). He carefully defines a framework (rooted in Max Weber's interpretive tradition and emphasizing ritual practices) that constitutes a useful and timely intervention into precisely the current discussions that the earlier reviewer writes about when he says that "religion" is "increasingly recognized as troublesome and insufficient" as a cross-cultural concept.
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