- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: Smithsonian Books (Feb. 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1588341682
- ISBN-13: 978-1588341686
- Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 3 x 25.9 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,940,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion Hardcover – Feb 2004
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Besides, the book is not a difficult reading (content: 5 starts; pleasure of reading: 4 to 3).
My only strong complaint about the book is its outrageous price. One hopes the publisher will issue a reasonably priced paperback edition soon, so that this timely and important work will get the wide circulation which it so clearly merits.
Other books I would recommend to read are the following: "The Phenomenon of Religion", by Moojan Momen; "Ecstasies: Deciphering the witches' Sabbath", by Carlo Ginzburg; "The Magical Universe : Everyday Ritual and Magic in Pre-Modern Europe", by Stephen Wilson; and "Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come", by Norman Cohn.
Hayden explores how the adoption of religions was propelled by `politics' not only among the early egalitarian hunter-gatherers but especially the later hierarchical societies right on up to the present time. He's organized his book so the reader can sample as much or as little information as desired, by providing subject captions as well as summaries at the ends of the chapters. His descriptions are well written and personable, and fully referenced.
What I didn't find adequately explained is why we humans are susceptible to belief in gods, which I explore in my book, "Concepts: A ProtoTheist Quest for Science-Minded Skeptics."
Our human history of the development of religion is anything but proud. We see the rise of human and animal sacrifice, the rise of elitism and secrecy. We see the rise of ego-maniacs, the wasting of resources, the consolidation of political power. The book is sprinkled liberally with speculation as is much of archaeology itself, but the author fairly notes contrary interpretations appropriately and includes references. The book is somewhat dated and the field itself has advanced since its publication, but I think the basics remain valid.
Finally, although it was not the author's intention, I found the book the best support for atheism I've ever read.
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