J. Samuel Preus traces the development and articulation of a modern "naturalistic" approach to the study of religion by examining ideas about the origin of religion in the works of nine western thinkers: Jean Bodin, Herbert of Cherbury, Bernard Fontenelle, Giambattista Vico, David Hume, Auguste Comte, Edward Brunett Tylor, Emile Durkheim, and Sigmund Freud. He argues that beginning in the sixteenth century increasing critical detachment from theological presuppositions and commitments made it possible for the question of origins to be posed from an altogether non-religious point of view. This new modernist paradigm was characterized by the conviction that religion could be explained in scientific terms, like any other object of critical investigation.
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