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Lecture 10

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McMaster University
Bryan Cummins

Anthropology 1A03 November 23, 2011 Religion and the Supernatural o What is religion? Vast number definitions of religion. Four of which are: 1) Karl Marx (1843) The opiate of the people  keeps the people from working towards a truly egalitarian and fair society for all. 2) Emile Durkheim (1912)  Functionalist Religion as the foundation of society, therefore a metaphor for society itself  Anything that was practiced outside of society, was considered to be magic, it was outside the realm of religion (I.e. Shamans)  Durkheim believes religion helped society maintain solidarity  Separation between religion and magic Critique: People practicing religion on their own, without society? 3) Clifford Geertz (1966)  He has functionalist perspectives  Interpretive  (1) System of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) Critique: Based from a Christian and western point of view, which prevents it from being interpreted universally  Role of subjectivity? 4) Melford Spiro (1951)  Psychoanalytical and psychological  Religion is culturally patterned interactions wit h culturally postulated superhuman beings  Most anthropologists favour his definition  Takes into account: 1) Belief 2) Ritual 3) Supernatural referent (in all religions there is belief in something outside of our world – (higher authority I.e. God or Karma for Buddhists o Functions of religion  Explain the unexplicable - origin myths  Explain the meaning of life and death - gives death meaning  Ease anxiety - Dolls, the Cold War, H1N1  Integrates society - Iroquois - establishing, codifying, enforcing fundamental values that integrate society  Provides social identity - Parish, church group - sense of community among members of religion, lets us get to know one another through a social group – take on an identity within that realm  Conflict resolution - it can be the reason for why we have conflict, it also acts as a resolution I.e. in court, people swear on bibles, they swear to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth.  Reinforces the status quo OR foment social change - Harold Camping- predicted the end of the world twice this year - I.e. revitalization movements, when a groups anxiety and frustrations become so intense that the only way to reduce it is over turn the entire system
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