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Haydon, A. Eustace


HAYDON, A. EUSTACE (18801975), was a Canadian historian of religions and a founder of the modern humanist movement in North America. Born in Brampton, Ontario, Albert Eustace Haydon attended McMaster University, where he received his B. A., Th.B., B.D., and M.A. degrees; the University of Saskatchewan, where he received another master's degree; and the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. After serving as a Baptist pastor in Canada (19031913), a YMCA general secretary (19131916), and a Unitarian minister (19181924), Haydon joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1919; he became chairman of the department of comparative religion there in 1921 and a full professor in 1929, and he stayed at Chicago until his retirement in 1945.

Haydon was critical of theories of religion that understood it to be grounded in "religious consciousness" or in a response to a trans-human religious object or power, and of prior appropriations of the comparative method in the study of religion, which he saw to be apologetic in character; he in turn articulated a theory of religion that was influenced by the social sciences. Rejecting efforts to discover a unilinear evolutionary theory of religion as misdirected quests for origins, he considered religion to be basically social in character. In a manner consistent with his functionalist approach to religion, Haydon saw the religious sensibility as characterized by a shared social quest for the good (that is, the completely satisfying) life. The study of the history of religions became for him the continuing effort to describe the various manifestations of the persistent human quest to realize idealized values of the good life in diverse cultural contexts.

There were, he suggested, three components of religion: a socially envisoned set of ideal values, a program for the realization of these values, and a worldview in which the quest for these values is related to the natural and human environments. In his scholarly publications, Haydon implemented his understanding of the task of the historian of religions by describing the ways in which this human quest has been manifested in the particular religions that appear, in concrete forms, in diverse and endlessly varied cultural and conditioning environments. He understood humanism to have an essentially religious dimension. Haydon was one of the authors of both the Humanist Manifesto of 1933 and of the revised Humanist Manifesto of 1973.


Works by Haydon

"From Comparative Religion to History of Religions." Journal of Religion 2 (November 1922): 577587. An important essay that marks a transition from a focal emphasis on the comparative method in the study of religions to history of religions.

"Twenty-five Years of History of Religions." Journal of Religion 6 (January 1926): 1740. A discerning, comprehensive article that notes the major scholarly developments in the field.

The Quest of the Ages. New York and London, 1929. An artful statement of Haydon's approach to religion, which he understood as the social and shared quest for idealized human values. The author's broad knowledge of the major religious traditions and his appreciation of all forms of religion are evident.

Man's Search for the Good Life: An Inquiry into the Nature of Religion. New York, 1939. A further statement of Haydon's functional approach to religion as providing a synthesis of socially sanctioned values.

Biography of the Gods. New York, 1941. A facilely written account of the rise of the "gods" of the major religions, which are born (in Haydon's view) out of human need as projections of sought-for values and are modified correlatively with changing psychological, sociological, and cultural conditions.

Work Edited by Haydon

Modern Trends in World Religions. Chicago, 1934. A symposium of four series of lectures by sixteen scholars, each discussing aspects of the then-current situation in one of six major religions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism. These were originally presented as the Haskell Lectures in Comparative Religion.

New Sources

Stone, Jerome A. "The Line between Religious Naturalism and Humanism: G. B. Foster and A. E. Haydon." American Journal of Theology & Philosophy 20, no. 3S (1999): 217240.

F. Stanley Lusby (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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