The Birth of the Gods

The Origin of Primitive Beliefs
Guy E. Swanson
Analyzes the social structure of 50 primitive peoples to show how it determined the form of their religious worship


Not since Emile Durkheim's Elementary Forms of the Religious Life has there been a work of this scope which proposes a systematic explanation of the origins of religion.

Currently accepted theories of primitive religion, says Professor Swanson, are of doubtful value because they cannot be scientifically tested. In their place he advances a theory based on an intensive analysis of the religions of fifty primitive peoples.

The result is convincing evidence that the structure of a society determines its form of worship. Remarkable patterns come to light: Belief in reincarnation is most likely to appear in isolated or small communities with simple social structures. Monotheism is characteristic of complex societies in which the individual is subject to a hierarchy of authority. Black Magic seems to be practiced widely when government control is weak.

For anyone interested in the relation of religion to man's culture—for the serious-minded layman, for the social scientist, for the clergyman—this book is a unique contribution to our verifiable knowledge of religious experience.

Product Details

  • 5 x 8.
  • 272pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1960
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06093-1

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  • $24.95 U.S.