SOCA01H3 Lecture Notes - Sexual Predator, Shinto, Order Of The Solar Temple

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8 May 2012

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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 it‟s what people believe that‟s important, it‟s not whether
if it‟s actually true or not
o Cheddar Cheese Cult hypothetical example
Looking for the impact of belief on social organization and
This cult believes that the moon is made up of cheddar cheese
so whenever there is a full moon the cult goes into a farmer‟s
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
o Leon Festinger & book called „When prophecy fails‟
About cults
He asks what happens when a prophecy made by religious
group/cult doesn‟t 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 didn‟t arrive – they were all left in the lurch
When the prophecy failed they didn‟t 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
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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 hasn‟t 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
o BUT can‟t answer why it happened or who lit the fuse
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
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
Can ask people questions to measure their strength or belief ,
emotional attachment to a religion, knowledge about religious
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ideas, frequency of performing rituals through the day, and
applying religious principles to everyday life
o Social factors associated with religiosity (slide 6)
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 don‟t need to
believe in death
Religion you were born into and the religion that your parents
attend = huge impact on religiosity
o Is the enemy
o Is a modern developed many people say we live in a secularized
world and it‟s an important pattern of social change
o It‟s 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
Europe‟s population, 10s and millions of peoples died)
people also faced violent deaths
peasants which most of originate from had no legal rights, they
weren‟t 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
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