History of Sociology of Religion; Why Bellah Doesn't (Much) Cite Eliade
December 18, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Why does Mircea Eliade get short shrift in Robert N. Bellah's Religion in Human Evolution?

Am just starting in on Religion in Human Evolution, and I notice that Bellah scarcely cites Eliade, even in his discussion of bridging the divide between "the sacred in contrast to the profane" (that exact phrase). Later on Bellah cites him, on the beliefs of one particular group, then explains that Eliade's views have been "demolished" by later scholarship.

I wasn't surprised to see, say, Jung without all that many citations in the index. But I'd thought that Eliade was kinda the go-to guy on this sort of thing. Is it that Eliade fits more into philosophy or cultural history as opposed to Bellah's background in sociology? Is it that Eliade has fallen out of favor, or that I was overestimating his influence? Is it that Bellah just doesn't happen to agree with Eliade?

(As you can see, there's an awful lot I don't know about sociology & philosophy of religion; if there's a general resource you think would be of use to me in learning about these things, I'd be grateful for that, too).
posted by ibmcginty to Religion & Philosophy (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to why this author would dismiss Eliade, but Eliade's Wikipedia entry has a section on criticism of his work, which may serve as a useful starting point.
posted by dortmunder at 2:04 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

The over-generalization and lack of evidence criticisms cited at Wikipedia are correct. Eliade was my college prof's favorite History of Religion scholar, but when I got to grad school (History of Asian Religions), Eliade was considered passé because of just the reasons given in the article. Eliade, like Campbell, tends to bend what people actually believe and do to his narratives, rather than the other way around. Trying to cram all the religions of the world into preconceived pigeonholes is frowned on these days.
posted by jiawen at 5:15 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

The question is whether you believe in social Science, with a capital 'S.' If you do, and the book you cite by Bellah is certainly coming from this perspective on culture, then Eliade is very far from a scientist: post-romantic, classical historian, and and pseudo-fascist.

Try reading Eliade's "Shamanism" and compare it to Bellah and I think you'll immediately see why Bellah would find Eliade completely disreputable. Again, there is a very basic question about what it means to study religion, or really humanity in general, here.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:18 PM on December 18, 2012

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