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Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion Hardcover – Feb 2004

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£45.95 FREE Delivery in the UK. Only 2 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x97d06edc) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97d1b39c) out of 5 stars Masterful overview of religion origins and development 7 Aug. 2004
By César González Rouco - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In this masterful work, Hayden, by using ecological (i.e. materialistic) factors, tries to portray (and, as far as I am concerned, he achieves his goal) an engaging approach of how religion originated and developed from prehistoric times to the foundations of early civilizations (but including a final synthesis of religions' situation in our times). To put it in a nutshell, his basic belief is that social competition is the driving force of cultural change, and that also applies to religions. He also emphasizes the relevance of ecstatic experiences practiced all over the world, from shamanic cultures to predatory modern cults. It is to take into account that, although he lets aside book religions, his analysis of Christianity (past and present) is lucid and (because of that, perhaps unintentionally?) depicts an image that probably many will find rather negative, even sour.

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.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97d1b3f0) out of 5 stars Three Books in One 29 Sept. 2004
By Paul Carleton - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The previous reviewer complained about the price of Hayden's book yet said it's a `masterful work'. Indeed Hayden has packed his big book with information, both text and graphics. So think of it as `three books in one' and its price won't seem so `outrageous'.

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."
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97d1b6cc) out of 5 stars thorough but confused 30 Aug. 2013
By Barbara Maat - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a long haul, comprehensive, and thoroughly documented. Unfortunately the author repeatedly slips into his own apparent conviction that many of our forebears magical beliefs have actual merit and truth. He confuses brain hallucinations with reality outside the brain. Although he reaffirms this belief in the final summation chapter, the bulk of the book traces the development of religion over the centuries with handy references embedded in the text for anyone eager to research the details.

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.
HASH(0x97d1b5c4) out of 5 stars Five Stars 25 Dec. 2014
By cynthia snowbank - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent book with lots of informstion
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