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The Slain GodAnthropologists and the Christian Faith$
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Timothy Larsen

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657872

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657872.001.0001

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James George Frazer

James George Frazer

(p.37) 2 James George Frazer
The Slain God

Timothy Larsen

Oxford University Press

James George Frazer (1854–1941) was the most famous British anthropologist of his day because of the phenomenal success of his The Golden Bough. Although raised a Christian, Frazer abandoned his faith as a young man and viewed his anthropological work as exposing the rotten foundations of religion. He came to see a primitive propensity towards human sacrifice as at the wellspring of both Judaism and Christianity. He advanced a theory of humanity progressing through three stages: magic, religion, and science. In this scheme, religion was marked off as an outmoded way of thinking. In his studies of the Old Testament, likewise, Frazer sought to expose the savage beneath the sacred. This chapter exposes an ambivalent approach that Frazer took to many people who were close to him, and applies it not only to his attitude towards his father, but also to the faith of his father.

Keywords:   James George Frazer, comparative method, The Golden Bough, magic, William Robertson Smith, human sacrifice

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