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SOCI 1002 (204)

March 7, Sociology of Religion.docx

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SOCI 1002
Christian Carron

Sociology of Religion Religion and Society - While motivation for religion may be psychological, structure of society and people’s place in society influence the following: • Content and intensity of people’religious beliefs • Form and frequency of people’s religious practices - 2000 nationwide Canadian survey found 81% of adults and 71% of teenagers believed in God or a higher power • Scope, though, of religious authority has declined in Canada  Other institutions have grown in importance, such as medicine, psychiatry, criminal justice, education, etc.  Domains where religion has strong role to play • Attempts to different kinds of services have been on the decline, yet belief in God had held steady, and even increased THEORETICALAPPROACHES TO THE SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION: Durkheim, Functionalism, and the Problem of Order - Durkheim’s definition of religious experience: • When people live together, they come to share common sentiments and value, which then form a collective conscience that is larger than the individual  On occasion, this collective conscience can be experienced directly allowing people to distinguish secular everyday world of the profane from the religious, transcendent world of the sacred… - Interested in role and function of social institutions - Durkheim, Weber, and Marx are considered ‘founding fathers’of sociology Durkheim, Functionalism, and the Problem of Order - People then designate certain objects as symbolizing the sacred (called totems by Durkheim) and invent certain public practices to connect them to the sacred (called rituals by Durkheim) • Flag/song/anthem/prayer makes people feel belonging and pride  Has its power because of emotional investment people put into it - Effect – or function – of rituals and religion as a whole is to reinforce social solidarity by: i. Heightening people’s experience of belonging to certain groups ii. Increasing people’s respect for certain institutions iii. Strengthening people’s belief in certain ideas Marx, Conflict, and Religion as a Prop for Inequality - Marx stressed how religion often tranquilizes the underprivileged into accepting their lot in life and diminishes class conflict - In Canada today, most people celebrate alleged absence of social hierarchy • Is part of what sociologist Robert Bellah calls civil religion, a set of quasi-religious beliefs and practices that binds the population together and justifies its way of life - Criticized Durkheim’s functionalist account of religion on 2 main bases: i. It overemphasizes religion’s role in maintaining social cohesion ii. It ignores the fact that when it does increase social cohesion, it often also reinforces social inequality Weber, Social Change, and Symbolic Interaction - Weber stressed the way religion can contribute to social change - In The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, Weber made connection between rise of capitalism and meanings people attached to religious ideas, such as need to prove intense worldly activity through displays of industry, punctuality, and frugality in everyday life • Protestant ethic led to unexpected capitalist development where economic conditions were favorable Feminism and Religious Leadership - Most of today’s religious traditions were shaped in agricultural societies that subordinated women to their husbands and fathers - In general, religious doctrines reinforced patriarchy - Today, feminist criticism of gender discrimination has led many people, including many religious individuals, to challenge patriarchal religious doctrines and promote gender equality in positions of religious leadership - Feminization of religious leadership has occurred only within certain religious traditions The rise, decline, and partial revival of religion: secularization - In North America society - During 17 century when life difficult and average lifespan only 35 years, magic was popular insofar as it provided easy answers to painful and unpredictable events • With improvement in material conditions, popular belief in magic, astrology, and witchcraft waned, and was replaced with organized religion of Christianity  Aided by the Church’s vigorous campaign to stamp out opposing belief systems
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