Six Ways of Being Religious
Dale Cannon, Western Oregon University
Copyright Year: 1996
Publisher: Wadsworth Publishing Company
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In Six Ways of Being Religious, Dale Cannon argues that the study of religion needs to account not only for the wide diversity of religious beliefs themselves, but also the range of ways in which people conceive of their own religiosity. Cannon... read more
In Six Ways of Being Religious, Dale Cannon argues that the study of religion needs to account not only for the wide diversity of religious beliefs themselves, but also the range of ways in which people conceive of their own religiosity. Cannon identifies six major ways in which religious people live out their religious belief – sacred rite, right action, devotion, shamanic mediation, mystical quest, and reasoned inquiry. Understanding a given religion is not simply a matter of understanding the metaphysical claims of that religion (its beliefs about the nature of reality), but also a question of what ways given devotees of that religion use to approach and live out those claims. After two introductory chapters laying out Cannon’s basic description of religion and giving a general outline of his methodology, he presents an overview of the six ways of being religious, followed by chapters describing how those ways relate to religion in general, and specifically the two traditions of Christianity and Buddhism. The remainder of the book provides a comparison of the expression of each of the six ways of religiosity within each of the these two traditions, ultimately providing a framework for how Cannon’s theory of religious modality could be used as a comparative model.
The content is accurate as of the original publication of the book, which was 1996. More recent scholarship, including significant work in the area of comparative scholarship related to Christianity and Buddhism is not reflected, and may therefore need to be supplemented in current courses, especially ones that are focused on these two traditions.
The text presents a strong theoretical approach to comparative study of religion, which remains relevant. Some specific updates of more recent studies of Buddhism and Christianity may be helpful in some contexts, but such works are readily available.
The work is easily accessible to students who have no specialized knowledge of comparative study of religion. Cannon presents his ideas in readily understandable terms and provides definitions of both his own terminology and other potentially unfamiliar terms used in the work.
There are few or no inconsistencies in the text.
The text is well-organized, and potentially could be excerpted rather than studied as a whole, but is intended as both an introduction to Cannon's theoretical ideas as well as an application of those ideas to two specific traditions. It would be possible for students with significant prior knowledge of world religions or methodologies of religious studies to skip over some of Cannon's general chapters in order to focus on his detailed comparative work.
The work as a whole is well-organized and well-structured.
There are no problems with the interface, but readers should note that the book is a PDF of the original work, and lacks any internal links or direct links to source material. Some students may find this cumbersome, as there is no quick and easy way to move from one point in the text to another without scrolling through the sections in between.
There are few or no grammatical errors.
The text is cognizant of the role of cultural identity in the study of religion, and does not make inappropriate assumptions about non-western traditions. The book provides an excellent example of how comparative work dealing with a western and a non-western tradition should be done in a post-colonial context. Cannon's work provides a model for future comparative studies of religions that wish to respect the role that cultural plays in religious understanding and interpretations.
Overall, the text lays out a significant theoretical approach to comparative study of religion that is worthy of further development. While portions of the work might be useful in either introductory courses in religious studies or lower division world religion courses, it is better suited to more advanced study. Its most appropriate context is likely an upper-division or graduate-level course in either methodology of comparative religions or comparative study of Christianity and Buddhism.
Dale Cannon presents and introductory textbook that can be used by students who are exploring the topic of religion, especially, the process of comparing different religions. The work is divided in 3 parts. Part I focuses on the 6 ways of being... read more
Dale Cannon presents and introductory textbook that can be used by students who are exploring the topic of religion, especially, the process of comparing different religions. The work is divided in 3 parts. Part I focuses on the 6 ways of being religious, broken down into “ways”: sacred rite, right action, devotion, shamanic mediation, mystical quest, and reasoned inquiry and presented in 6 chapters. This approach is a helpful way of helping students break down religious traditions into practicable portions to allow for the comparison to be made. In Part II, Cannon applies this comparative framework to two of the world’s main religious: Buddhism and Christianity. He uses case studies to apply and analyze the framework. In Part III, the author further compares the diverse traditions applying them to the framework. He also does an individual discussion of each of the six ways. The wide-ranging discussion provided in these seven chapters can help in the understanding of the common characteristics that the religions of the world share. The book also provides glossary at the end of the text which defines key technical terms, an index of subjects and names, and an index of religious traditions.
Accuracy The goal of this textbook is to help students, and readers at large, study religions, from an objective, descriptive and comparatively point of view. The author presents his “ways” of understanding, comparing and applying his framework to the chosen religions and attempts to be objective.
Relevance/Longevity This book was originally published in 1996, and because of this there are some updates that may be needed. However, the book was written in such a way that it is still very valuable. The theoretical framework can still be very practical and applicable to the study of religion, only requiring updated case studies.
Clarity This textbook is written in a very vibrant manner and it is easy to be read by new students and professionals. The use of bold and italics helps in making clear that the technical terms which are very important will be defined either in writing or at the end in the glossary.
Consistency The author is very consistent in his use of terms, vocabulary, and the framework throughout the application of the six ways of being religious.
Modularity This textbook is very well-organized chapter by chapter. The footnotes at the end of each chapter, the bibliography, and the study questions adds to the well-ordered followed throughout the book.
This textbook is very well organized and structured from theory to application of the framework, making it clear for the students/readers.
The images, numerous charts, and visual aids throughout the book are very helpful to the reader without any misrepresentations.
Spelling and grammatical errors were not found.
This is a very interesting and inclusive book that discusses not only six ways of being religious, but also provides numerous examples from both Christianity and Buddhism and illustrates various groups within each of the religions discussed.
This is a very good textbook for students who are beginning their journey through the study of religions.
It is difficult to provide a truly comprehensive introduction to the ways of being religious, but this text does an admirable job, limiting its scope (for instance, focusing primarily on Christianity and Buddhism) when necessary and providing a... read more
It is difficult to provide a truly comprehensive introduction to the ways of being religious, but this text does an admirable job, limiting its scope (for instance, focusing primarily on Christianity and Buddhism) when necessary and providing a useful framework through the six dimensions chosen. The glossary and index are both very helpful for understanding.
The content is accurate, both in its presentation of general ideas and its description of the specific case studies it employs. This is admirable as the terms and ideas cut across the field of Comparative Religion theory, Buddhism, and Christianity. In all cases, the terminology is used in a way that is accurate and largely clear for the reader to comprehend.
While the text could still be an excellent work to use in the classroom, it could be improved with a little updating with ideas or examples in the field since 1996 (the time of the book's publication). For instance, the work of Thich Nhat Han is often based on comparison between Christianity and Buddhism. Also, the field of "Transnational Buddhism" over the last few years has shown how the Buddhist tradition has taken on numerous forms in different geographic contexts. This could be illuminating in light of the six dimensions the author uses.
The prose is clear and terms are well-explained.
The text relied on its six dimensions consistently and did not waver in its definition of key terms.
The text would be very easily divisible into smaller units for use in a course. The opening chapters set a solid groundwork and the remaining pieces could be divided into segments for classroom use. One could even divide each later chapter into two segments, one on Christianity and one on Buddhism, if needed.
The book is logically organized with opening chapters that set the framework and dimensions of the approach, followed by chapters that discuss each individual "way of being religious" with specific examples and excerpts from Christianity and Buddhism.
The primary drawback I found with the text is the lack of graphics or appealing visuals and/or charts to gain the reader's interest.
The book's grammar is clear.
The book offers a variety of examples from not only the multiple forms of Christianity and Buddhism, but also other religions (though in less frequency) and contains sections on the importance of objectivity and empathy when studying religion. This is a good primer for the approach to the study of religion.
I could see this book working as a good introduction to the study of religion or also as a more targeted approach to the comparison of Christianity and Buddhism. The author does a good job of rendering complex ideas into understandable language and also choosing engaging examples and excerpts from the respective traditions.
The text is very comprehensive in its exploration of the six-part theory of the functions of religion; it then goes on to demonstrate how this theory operates using Christianity and Buddhism as case studies. Because the book uses only these two... read more
The text is very comprehensive in its exploration of the six-part theory of the functions of religion; it then goes on to demonstrate how this theory operates using Christianity and Buddhism as case studies. Because the book uses only these two major world religions in its examples, it might be better paired with another introductory text for a World Religions-type course. Instructors might find that asking students to demonstrate their understanding by applying the theory to other world religions makes for a useful assignment or exam.
This book is, as the author intended, both objective and empathetic in its study of religion. The author also helpfully situates his own cultural and religious context early on so that readers can be attentive to the possibility of his bias.
As other reviewers have noted, this text was published in 1996 and thus may not reflect some of the larger questions about religiosity that have been brought to the fore by, for example, the September 11th World Trade Center attacks. Still, because the orientation of the book revolves around the 6-part theory of how religions function, the concepts are readily applicable to more contemporary events and concerns. The study questions included at the end of chapters are helpful in indicating where students can reflect upon their own experiences with religion and bring them into conversation with the text.
This text is written by a philosopher and advances a theory of how religions may be generalized; while vocabulary is helpfully highlighted and explained, the prose itself may be challenging for first-time students in religion or philosophy or for English language learners. It might be made more accessible if paired with an informational text on various religious traditions to help ground the theoretical writing.
The text is very consistent in its use of terminology.
The six chapters that comprise Part I of the text are meant to be read in order and in their entirety, but the remainder of the book can be used with more modularity. Chapters 7 and 8 could easily be used separately from the rest of the text as introductions to Buddhism and Christianity. The chapters of Part III all contain both Buddhist and Christian examples which could be separated from one another. Chapters do helpfully contain their own footnotes.
The text flows helpfully from theoretical chapters into example-oriented chapters.
Images and charts came through clearly and were extremely helpful in summarizing certain dense blocks of text; however, this pdf did not function well on my e-reader as various, apparently random, letters were missing from within words.
This text did not contain any substantial grammatical or spelling errors.
The author is careful throughout to use a multiplicity of examples from major religious traditions and from a variety of geographic and cultural versions within each religion. While this is excellent in terms of cultural awareness and diversity, students who are new to the academic study of religion may be quickly overwhelmed by the spectrum of examples if they do not have prior background in at least one of these traditions. For that reason, instructors may need to scaffold this text by being explicit about what students are meant to gain out of each chapter; otherwise, the overarching theoretical argument may be lost behind the more eye-catching specifics.
This is a very good textbook to introduce world religions to the students from a comprehensively comparative approach. The author divided the contents into three parts: Part I focuses on the theoretical framework, in which he discussed the 6 ways... read more
This is a very good textbook to introduce world religions to the students from a comprehensively comparative approach. The author divided the contents into three parts: Part I focuses on the theoretical framework, in which he discussed the 6 ways of being religious such as sacred rite, right action, devotion, shamanic mediation, mystical quest, and reasoned inquiry in six chapters. In Part II, the author applied the framework to two major world religious traditions, i.e., Buddhism with an Indian origin but popularly practiced in East and Southeast Asian countries; and Christianity with a Middle Eastern origin and practiced worldwide. Moreover, these two selected world religions represent polytheism and monotheism respectively. It evidently demonstrates the 6 ways of being religious can be found in either of them. Lastly, the author in Part III further applied the framework to different traditions in comparison by discussing each of 6 ways individually. The comprehensive discussion in these 7 chapters is excellent that helps students understand better the common characteristics shared by world religions. The text covers almost all the areas and ideas of the subjects appropriately and provides an effective index of subjects and names, index of religious traditions, and glossary of terms.
This textbook emphasizes on the academic study of religion. The author provided a framework and applied it to world religions. He may have his opinion on some “ways” much clearly shown in one religion than the other. Overall, it is quite objective in terms of content, diagrams and supplementary materials.
Although published 22 years ago, the theoretical framework can work in the contemporary times because its application stays true. The textbook could be easily updated considering the arrangement and organization of its contents. It would be nice if the religions of East Asia or Chinese religions, i.e., Confucianism and Daoism included in the updated edition.
It is written very clearly for professionals and students. The terms are in bold and italics that are very well defined in the text and in the glossary at the end of the textbook. The text shows scholarly integrity in its lucid and clear writing style.
The terminology used through the text in chapters demonstrates its consistency, and framework of six ways of being religious applied in the entire book consistently.
The textbook is organized by chapters that makes easy to read by sections especially in chapters 7-15. The first 6 chapters that explain the theoretical framework probably should read in its order.
It is well-structured and well-organized that is presented in a logical order and clear fashion: from theory to application.
Images/charts in this textbook greatly help readers without any distortion.
Grammatical/spelling error not found except a few minor typo mistakes.
This is a textbook discussing 6 ways of being religious. The title already says its cultural relevance; in particular, the examples used from Buddhism and Christianity further exhibits its inclusive of various race, ethnicity and background.
It is a good textbook for students who are interested in comparative study of religions at the beginning.
This is an introductory textbook for students who are first exploring the phenomenology of religion, most notably those who are beginning the process of comparative religion. Cannon’s approach to the six ways of being religion is a helpful tool... read more
This is an introductory textbook for students who are first exploring the phenomenology of religion, most notably those who are beginning the process of comparative religion. Cannon’s approach to the six ways of being religion is a helpful tool which can help students break religious traditions down into manageable portions that can be focused so that helpful comparison can be made. His approach deliberately balances reading with empathy (an emic view through the eyes of insiders) with objectivity (etic scholarly analysis). He does this through first presenting the comparative framework of the 6 ways of being religious as broken down into the following “ways”: sacred rite, right action, devotion, shamanic mediation, mystical quest, and reasoned inquiry. He spends 6 chapters presenting carefully the theory of these “ways,” their justification, and their use. He carefully posits that these are neither exclusive nor exhaustive, but does suggest that they are helpful heuristic avenues through which one can then apply a comparative structure. He then spends 9 chapters in practical application of this comparative framework to Buddhism and Christianity through carefully selected case studies which are excerpted within the chapters themselves so that the primary texts and their analyses are in one place. This book, is therefore both theory and application. This is a good comprehensive discussion to show the validity of the theory he posits. Students will be able to understand what he is arguing and why it matters within the confines of this book without having to reference several other texts. While it is not exhaustive in that it does not cover all the religions of the world in his application, this is not the goal of the book and it is a very good approach to teach students to apply a theory to real examples. One particularly helpful element for students is the glossary at the end of the text which defines key technical terms which are either bolded or italicized throughout the text. The glossary does not only define terms, but also provides internal references for where to find the key definitions within the actual text of the book itself. There is also a comprehensive index that can aid students.
As a book on the theory of religion, this works hard to find the balance between empathy with religious insiders while at the same time remaining objective. Therefore, it is not a book that judges the rightness or wrongness of any religious tradition from any particular perspective. Instead, the goal is to understand religions objectively to describe and manage what any particular religion is doing by means of comparison with another religious tradition. This is very objective. The only place where there is possibly some normative judgment is in Cannon’s division of “virtues” and “vices” of each particular way of being religious in chapter 5. He finds in each way of religion some characteristics that are that way’s practice at its “best” and “worst.” Here, he seems to mean that “best” and “worst” are code for most productive uses of a particular way of religion for the particular adherents and which is least productive. This is, in some ways, a normative judgment. However, he does this for two reasons. First, it is not a structure of “good” and “bad” but rather the applicability of one particular way over against another for any particular religion. He also does this because the adherents of the particular traditions would agree with these normative judgments. Some “ways” of religion will function for some religions far more closely than others.
This book, originally published in 1996, is obviously not the most up to date text on the theory of religion two decades later. However, it is written in a way that shows its value over time. The drive of the book is its theory which are able to applied just as well today as in the mid-1990s. That being said, the text could be, if the author so chose, to be updated. It might be very simple for the author, for example, to find more up to date case study examples in the application chapters. However, because these are to be illustrative rather than exhaustive, there is no problem using slightly more dated examples to illustrate the point.
This book is incredibly clear for novitiates and professionals. It does a very good job of continuing to use the scholarly terms necessary for the professional field of religion, yet through the use of bold and italics type face makes clear to the student that these are technical terms that are clearly defined either in text or in the glossary at the end. It therefore does not sacrifice scholarly integrity for clarity while still being very clear and lucid in its presentation.
The use of the careful technical terminology throughout the text creates a very consistent vocabulary throughout the book.
Structurally, this text is organized chapter by chapter. Each chapter has its own footnotes, bibliography, and study questions internal to itself which makes it ideal to be excerpted chapter by chapter. It might be somewhat difficult to read chapters 2-6 on the theory of the ways of being religious out of order, but a careful selection of readings could be possible. By contrast, the application chapters (chapters 7-15) could easily be excerpted. Because these are structured around case studies and because Cannon quotes the case studies themselves within the structure of the text itself, it does not require abundant internal references outside the chapter itself.
This text was very clear and the structure of theory leading to practice is very clear for readers.
There were numerous charts and helpful visual aids throughout the book. The text and the visual aids were incredibly clear with no distortion. The only display feature which could be improved would be to restructure the internal page numbers of the book with the .pdf page numbers. Because of the front matter of the text, there is a discrepancy so that the text’s page 1 is the .pdf’s page 16.
The text was very clear and free of grammatical or spelling errors. The only two errata that I found were that Origen of Alexandria’s name is misspelled as “Origin” on page 268 and the table of contents misspells “sacred right” for “sacred rite.” Otherwise, there were no issues.
This book is a very inclusive book that not only uses many examples from both Buddhism and Christianity, but it includes primary examples from various types of Christianity and Buddhism which only illustrates the variety of groups within each tradition and leads the reader to imply this same diversity is present in all religions. Further, the structure of the 6 ways of being religious builds within it an automatic respect for diverse experiences of differing groups.
This is a valuable source, particularly for students coming to the academic study of religion for the first time.
Table of Contents
Part I Generic Ways Of Being Religious
- Chapter 1 General Introduction
- Chapter 2 Thinking Generically About Religion
- Chapter 3 Different Ways Of Being Religious
- Chapter 4 The Ways Of Being Religious Exemplified
- Chapter 5 Variations In Quality Of Practice Of The Ways
- Chapter 6 Using The Framework
Part II Applying The Framework To A Comparison Of Whole Traditions
- Chapter 7 Applying The Framework To The Whole Of Buddhism
- Chapter 8 Applying The Framework To The Whole Of Christianity
Part III Applying The Framework To A Comparison Of Parallel Ways In Different Traditions
- Chapter 9 The Way Of Mystical Quest
- Chapter 10 The Way Of Reasoned Inquiry
- Chapter 11 The Way Of Right Action
- Chapter 12 The Way Of Devotion
- Chapter 13 The Way Of Shamanic Mediation
- Chapter 14 The Way Of Sacred Rite
- Chapter 15 Concluding Reflections: Comparing Buddhism And Christianity By Means Of The Framework
Glossary Of Terms
Index Of Subjects And Names
Index Of Religious Traditions
About the Book
The book proposes the hypothesis that six generic ways of being religious may be found in any large-scale religious tradition such as Christianity or Buddhism or Islam or Hinduism: sacred rite, right action, devotion, shamanic mediation, mystical quest, and reasoned inquiry. These are recurrent ways in which, socially and individually, devout members of these traditions take up and appropriate their stories and symbols in order to draw near to, and come into right relationship with, what the traditions attest to be the ultimate reality.
About the Contributors
Dale Cannon is a retired professor of philosophy and religious studies at Western Oregon University.