ON THE RATIONALITY OF THE DEVOUT OPPOSITION BY R. W. WYLLIE (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada) In 1975 Robin Horton coined the term "the Devout Opposi- tion" to describe certain writers on African religion whose Chris- tian commitments rendered them antagonistic toward causal ex- planations of religion.' According to Horton, this antagonism is misplaced, since causal explanations of religious beliefs do not and can not have negative implications for the truth-values of such beliefs. In this article we seek to clarify some of the ambiguities in Horton's argument and consider some of the issues this argument seems to raise. HORTON'S ARGUMENT IN CONTEXT Horton's argument is best understood in the context of the intellectualist approach to religion which he has developed in a number of highly stimulating articles.2 This approach, which owes its inspiration to such classical anthropologists as Tylor and Frazer, focusses upon belief rather than ritual practice, and is particularly concerned with the conscious religious thought-the intellectual ef- forts-of religious leaders and systematizers in traditional societies. In a review essay3 dealing with Peel's Aladura: a religious movement among the Yoruba,4 Horton writes approvingly of the intellectualist approach adopted in that study, but feels that
Journal of Religion in Africa – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1980
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