Four Categories of Religion

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.

By Official Navy Page from United States of America MCSN Dean M. Cates/U.S. Marine Corps [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 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



  1. Jump up^ Anthony Wallace

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