Original Research - Special Collection: Major Theorists of Religion

Max Müller, Charles Darwin and the science of religion

Ulrich Berner
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 2 | a6730 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i2.6730 | © 2021 Ulrich Berner | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 April 2021 | Published: 05 August 2021

About the author(s)

Ulrich Berner, Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Cultural Studies, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany


The science of religion, as a discipline distinct from theology emerging in the 19th century, from the beginning was closely related to the discourse on Darwinism. This article focusses on Max Müller, known as ‘The father of Comparative Religion’, who was involved in the Darwinian discourse, compared with Jane Ellen Harrison who emphasised the impact of the theory of evolution, approaching, however, the ‘scientific study of religion’ from a different viewpoint.

Contribution: From a historical point of view, this article discusses the relationship between different strands in Religious Studies (Religionswissenschaft), and, also, touches upon the relationship between Religious Studies and Theology.


Darwinism; comparative religion; theology; Max Müller; Jane E. Harrison


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