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The Making of Religion

1889 to 1890
University of St. Andrews

In a positivist, perhaps unconscious approach, in his The Making of Religion, Andrew Lang begins with the ‘mystical phenomena of savage life’ and ends by saying ‘the exclusive Theism of Israel receives its complement in a purified Animism, and emerges as Christianity.’

In answering the question of how one gets at the idea of God, Lang demolishes commonly held beliefs. It is not through evolution, by missionaries or as the remnant of some fallen civilised race that the concept of God develops. The idea of God ‘occurs in the lowest-known grades of savagery’. The key for Lang is the prevalent alliance of ethics with religion that leads to a conception of a supreme Being. ‘Even in its rudest forms Religion was a moral force, the powers that man reveres were on the side of social order and moral law; and that the fear of the gods was a motive to enforce the laws of society.’ So strong is this ethic that one can surmise ‘much of the Decalogue and a large element of Christian ethics are divinely sanctioned in savage religion.’


The Making of Religion

The Making of Religion
Longmans, Green and Co.
  • David Kahan, University of Glasgow