We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

The Social Ecology of Religion

Vernon Reynolds and Ralph Tanner

Publication Date - 30 March 1995

ISBN: 9780195069747

336 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


What effect does the Islamic attitude toward abortion have upon the family size and growth of Muslim populations? How do the Sukuma people of Tanzania react to the birth of an abnormal child, and why do their reactions differ so radically from those of Roman Catholics in Pennsylvania? Why were one sixth of all brides in English rural parishes between the late sixteenth and early nineteenth centuries pregnant at marriage, and what does this tell us about Christian practices during that period?
No society exists in which religion does not play a significant part in the lives of ordinary people. Yet the functions of the world's diverse religions for human beings have never been fully described and analyzed, nor has the impact of adherence to those religions on the health and survival of the populations that practice them. A completely updated and revised edition of The Biology of Religion, published in 1983, this extraordinary text reveals how religions in all parts of the world meet the needs of ordinary people and frequently play an important role in helping them to manage their affairs. Reynolds and Tanner show that religions have down-to-earth functions in the control and management of the main events of the human life-cycle--birth, marriage, death, and the events in between. Surveying the beliefs and practices of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and many others, and how these religions concern themselves with major issues such as abortion, sex in and outside marriage, divorce, and sickness, the authors demonstrate a world-wide concern by religions for these important issues. They attribute this concern to the need all human beings have for guidelines to behavior during the most important times of life. Supported by a wealth of scientific data and examples, and generously illustrated throughout, this unique text makes a vital contribution to courses in anthropology and comparative religion.


"A challenging and innovative book that draws together many issues usually treated in isolation."--M.V. Angrosino, University of South Florida

"Intriguing book! I wish all my students would read it!"--John Langdon, University of Indianapolis

"Offers a way of looking at what religion does for human society without focusing on issues of "truth". This is a valuable perspective for students who are often caught up in issues of religious truth."--Susan Garfin, Sonoma State University

"A work that grounds religious thought and behavior in vital events that occur in all cultures."--Gregory Campbell, University of Montana

Praise for the original edition:

Table of Contents

    1. Why Religions?
    2. Prior Approaches to the Study of Religion
    3. The Challenge of Modernity
    4. Conception and Contraception
    5. Infanticide and Abortion
    6. Birth and Childhood
    7. Adolescence
    8. Marriage
    9. Divorce and Widowhood
    10. Middle and Old Age
    11. Death
    12. Faith and Sickness
    13. Religions and the Enhanced Risk of Disease
    14. Religions and the Reduced Risk of Disease