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sociology of Religion.docx

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John Hannigan

SOCA02 1 Religion Sociology looks at the social impact of religious ideas & historical this impact has been profound Classical sociology was preoccupied with religion as a social force they (Marx, Weber, and Durkheim) often asked what impact does religious belief have on social organization? Max Weber asked what impact does religion have on social change Many sociologists who specialize in the sociology of religion are indeed religious but when they study it they suspend their religious beliefs and look at it objectively Definition of the situation what people believe to be true is true in its consequence for example, if people believe that a particular teaching is true that belief will have consequences = sometimes known as the Thomas Theorem (invented the definition of the situation) o Thomas says its what people believe thats important, its not whether if its actually true or not o Cheddar Cheese Cult hypothetical example Looking for the impact of belief on social organization and behaviour This cult believes that the moon is made up of cheddar cheese so whenever there is a full moon the cult goes into a farmers field and proceeds to eat cheese throughout the night believing that by eating cheese this will confer salvation & everlasting life Impact of cheese festivals, economically = price of cheese will go up because behaviour of the cult produces a shortage of cheese o Leon Festinger & book called When prophecy fails About cults He asks what happens when a prophecy made by religious group/cult doesnt come to pass Festinger studied a cult that believed that on a certain date a spaceship would descent from heaven and carry believers away to an interglacial l journey where they would reside in the lap of heaven & god 1000s of people showed up (mostly farmers who gave away their land because they thought they were going to heaven) & spaceship didnt arrive they were all left in the lurch When the prophecy failed they didnt abandon the cult & they just became more firm and committed in their believes When prophecy fails indicative of many religions such as global warming (part of modern environmental religion) GAIA cult when they receive contradictory evidence on global warming such as no global warming since 1998, temperatures SOCA02 2 Religion are not increasing but CO2 levels keep rising, sea levels have dropped since 1998 this is contradictory to their belief yet they believe in global warming more strongly now Sea levels are supposed to rise as the earth warms up and melts ice in the Artic and the Antarctic but this hasnt occur Satellite data from 1970 shows that global ice cover has remained the same since this time period Religion and ultimate questions o Defining traits of religion is that they try to answer ultimate questions that we have about existence purpose of life, why are you here, why was the universe created o These questions cannot be answered by science science deals with empirical/factual issues = leaves room for religious interpretations of ultimate questions o Science can tell us when the big bang took place 10 billion light years ago, small primordial piece of matter exploded and is still exploded which is why the universe is expanding o We can calculate how long ago the big bang took place via empirical observations o BUT cant answer why it happened or who lit the fuse Religiosity o How religious are people, how deeply committed are they to their religious beliefs o Various measured have been developed to look at it o One measure that is not very reliable = how frequently do people attend their place of worship People attend for all sorts of reasons for example they may go to be socially acceptable, compelled to attend (often the case with children) o Slide 4 elements of religiosity between 1975 & 2005 More people pray privately weekly or more often increased from 1975 to 2005 Belief in god or a higher power has fallen slightly from 86 to 82 Identify with a religion has fallen, keeping with secularization Attend monthly services has fallen Attend weekly services has fallen a bit o In order to handle how religious people really are sociologists have developed religiosity measures = depth of religious commitment (slide 5) Can ask people questions to measure their strength or belief , emotional attachment to a religion, knowledge about religious SOCA02 3 Religion ideas, frequency of performing rituals through the day, and applying religious principles to everyday life o Social factors associated with religiosity (slide 6) Obligation Opportunity seniors have more time on their hands and they tend to be more religious than younger people, younger people believe that the party is never going to end and dont need to believe in death Religion you were born into and the religion that your parents attend = huge impact on religiosity Need Learning Secularization o Is the enemy o Is a modern developed many people say we live in a secularized world and its an important pattern of social change o Its a decline in the importance of the super natural and sacred o Scope of religious authority begins to decline o BUT - 2000 nationwide Canadian survey - 81% of adults & 71% of teenagers believed in God or a higher power - young people less religious than older people o Secularization is all about this religion declines in importance & same with religious authority one of the reasons is because other institutions begin to elbow religion out of the way medicine, psychiatry, criminal justice, education, etc. o Secularization is most advanced in the wealthier parts of the world o An improvement in the quality of life has a lot to do with secularization Europe in the middle ages = life was nasty, brutish, and short; people at this time called existence a vale of tears Middle ages life span = 35 they were poor when we were poor epidemics/plagues were frequent (black plaque of 1340s or black death was the worse- killed 1/3 of Europes population, 10s and millions of peoples died) people also faced violent deaths peasants which most of originate from had no legal rights, they werent citizens & had no legal rights or responsibilities social inferiors were treated by superiors like chattel ( like property) people were property and treated as such there was little law and order during most of the middle ages SOCA02 4 Religion nation state idea started in the later 16 , 17 century established law and order in a large geographical area premature painful death was a fact of life small cut on the finger could cause death due to infection blood poisoning was common in the middle ages they had no antibiotics so people died of minor infections (antibiotics only came around in the 1930s) there was no medicine and ones that did exist were hit or miss medicine was based on bloodletting they would draw blood with a special knife and would keep taking it out until you improved; people often died from loss of blood this was practiced for 2500 years and originated from Greece & popular in the middle east, India, Europe bloodletting AKA phlebotomy even upper classes who had access to medicine their medicine wasnt that great because it was based on phlebotomy (starting questioning it in 1850) the cure was worse than the disease for many people Famine was frequent and crop yields were low = little margin for error People just grew enough food to survive If it was dry over a particular summer (ex. even without drought) = could cause a famine No insecticides were used can allow you to grow mountains of food coupled with proper fertilizer o Rough correlation between quality of life and religiosity the poorer the quality of life the higher the religiosity o As the quality of life improved, focus began to change when qua
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