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SOCI 1002 Lecture Notes - Robert Neelly Bellah, Protestant Work Ethic, Social Inequality

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SOCI 1002
Christian Carron

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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
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)
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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
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
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