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SOC101 Lecture Notes - New Religious Movement, Christian Symbolism, Religious Pluralism

Course Code
Barry Mc Clinchey

of 5
March 6, 2013
Chapter: 13
1. Belief Systems
o A set of organized beliefs about the supernatural or spiritual worlds and their associated
ceremonies that guides people’s behaviour and joins them into communities of believers
o Need in collective consciousness for ceremonies, religious nonsense
o A belief system based on convictions that does not require objective evidence to substantiate its
1. People accept understandings on the basis of faith
E.B Tylor (1832-1917)
o Religions evolve from simple and primitive to modern and complex over time
o Stages of religious evolution
1. Animism: supernatural beings or spirits inhabit both living things and inanimate objects
2. Polytheism: society recognizes a set of independent supernatural beings or gods
3. Monotheism: religion identifies with a single, all-powerful, all-knowing god
Religion is a human creation
Greek God have been discredited
Social scientists dispute Tylor’s stages arguing that religions do not progress along a simple and universal
line of development
o Piaget, Erickson, other stage theorists
o Civil (or secular) religion: a system in which sacred symbols are integrated into the broader
society regardless of their individual religious affiliations
Religious symbols exist within are day to day lives, despite are religious affiliations
“in god we trust
Ties to patriotism, nationalism, charter of rights and freedoms, Christian-based
2. Types of Religious Groups
New Religious Movement
o An informal group without defined structure
o Emerges around authoritarian and charismatic leaders
o Isolate members and supress rational thought
o Usually disband once leader dies
o Small religious body with exclusive or voluntary membership that is aloof or hostile to the larger
o Technically illegal in Canada
o Formed when a group breaks from a larger religious groups
o More long term, not dependent on one charismatic leader
Church (mosque, synagogue)
o An institution that brings together a moral community of believers in formal worship and integrates
itself within the larger secular world
o Most prevalent in societies with a high degree of religious pluralism
o Not at all against the community
o Ecclesia: a state religion
Ascribed membership
March 6, 2013
Chapter: 13
Ex. Catholic Church in Italy, Islam in Iran, Lutheran Church of Sweden, and Anglican
Church of England
o Denomination: socially accepted religious body that has bureaucratic characteristics similar to
those of the church
Different sorts of emphasis on certain beliefs, within the larger church
Some accept gay marriages, women in roles of authority etc
Seen as midpoint between church and sect
3. World Religions
Max Weber’s classification
o Contrasted Oriental religions (Eastern) with Occidental (Western) religions
o Middle Eastern cultures (Persia, Arabia, and North America) focus on mastery over the natural
world, other people, and the human body (asceticism)
Jehovah’s Witness
Agnosticism and Atheism
4. Religion in Canada
One of the most pluralistic societies in the world
Largely a Christian Nation
7 out of 10 Canadian identify selves as either Catholic of Protestant
Traditional religions loose memberships, while sub-groups gain membership
Immigration affects religious distribution
Those who do not report partaking in religious practices still have some sort of religious affiliation
March 6, 2013
Chapter: 13
5. Theoretical Insights into Religion
o Durkheim (1912, 1954)
1. All religions originate in society, separating the world into the profane and the sacred
2. God was invented for very specific purposes
3. The profane encompasses the secular aspects of life (objects, practices, behaviours)
4. The sacred encompasses those things that we set apart, ritualize and form emotional
connections to
5. Totem: an object that has special significance and meaning for a group of believers, needs
no explanation
Ex. soldier in middle ages at battle, profane use of weapon. Difference person has
special sword after battle, celebrate victory with celebration in which that sword
becomes a center focus of that ritual, that part. Object takes on sacred meaning
6. Religion functions to join members of the group according to shared meanings and world
7. Religion conforms, doesn’t necessarily say God was there and we worshipped, we created,
binds us together and whatnot in community and societies - therefor it functions
Functions of Religion
1. Religion joins people into communities of believers that promote social stability and a sense of
a. Common set of moral and values and beliefs etc
2. Religion provides people with a social identity
a. Who we are, where were placed, what we mean to other people
3. Religion provides social control through the establishment of moral standards of behaviours
a. Commonly accepted belief system that promotes social control to function, happens
through set standard of social behaviour
b. Helps keep societies manageable
c. Ex. Moses and the 10 commandments