Hume’s “Natural History of Religion” has developed in two directions. First, the emphasis in the nineteenth century on history and evolution, the interest in the sources and manifold varieties of all growing things, promoted the development of what is now called “Comparative Religion.” Missionaries, travelers, and in recent years students of anthropology and ethnography have collected the religious literature and described the religious customs of India, China, and Japan, as well as of primitive and savage peoples in all parts of the globe. Ancient religions have been made known through the development of archæology. Most important of all for the recovery of the past has been the increased knowledge of languages. The knowledge of Sanskrit opened the way to an understanding of the sources of the ancient Indian religions; the translation of hieroglyphics and cuneiform characters has brought to light the ancient religions of Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria. More refined methods have shed a wholly new light upon Greek and early Semitic religions. The possession of this wealth of material has made possible new generalizations concerning the generic character of religion, or concerning its origin and evolution.

The work of Tylor, Spencer, Max Müller, Andrew Lang, and Frazer may be said to signalize a genuinely new branch of human knowledge in which religion as a universal human interest or aspect of life is made an object of dispassionate and empirical study.

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