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12.8: Four Categories of Religion

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  • Anthropologist Anthony F.C. Wallace proposed four categories of religion, each subsequent category subsuming the previous. These are, however, synthetic categories and do not necessarily encompass all religions.[1]

    1. Individualistic: most basic; simplest. Example: vision quest.
    2. Shamanistic: part-time religious practitioner, uses religion to heal, to divine, usually on the behalf of a client. The Tillamook have four categories of shaman. Examples of shamans: spiritualists, faith healers, palm readers. Religious authority acquired through one’s own means.
    3. Communal: elaborate set of beliefs and practices; group of people arranged in clans by lineage, age group, or some religious societies; people take on roles based on knowledge, and ancestral worship.
    4. Ecclesiastical: dominant in agricultural societies and states; are centrally organized and hierarchical in structure, paralleling the organization of states. Typically deprecates competing individualistic and shamanistic cults.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - ARABIAN SEA (Feb. 3, 2012) Cmdr. Keith Shuley, chaplain aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), leads Roman Catholic Mass in the ship’s chapel