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Lecture 10

SOCA02- Lecture 10 (Religion).docx

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Malcolm Mac Kinnon

March 29, 2012 Religion  What impact do religious beliefs have on social organization? Max Weber asked how religion acts on momentous social change? 1. SELECTED THEMES FROM RELIGION (a) DEFINITION OF THE SITUATION  “what people believe to be true, is true in its consequences”- if people believe a particular teaching is true, then that belief will have consequences; sometimes known as the Thomas Theorem; what people believe is what is important, particularly in sociology (i) CHEDDAR CHEESE CULT  Cult believes that the moon is made of cheddar cheese; every time a full moon arrives, the cult goes into a farmer’s field and proceeds to eat cheese throughout the night, believing that this will confer salvation and everlasting life; economic impact of cheese festivals- price of cheese will increase because behaviour of cult will produce a shortage of cheese; Lyon Festinger- studied a cult- When Prophecy Fails- what happens when a prophecy made by a religious group doesn’t come to pass? Festinger studied a cult that believed a spaceship would descend from heaven on a certain day, and take people will them; thousands of people showed up (mostly farmers who gave away their farm), but they were left in the lurch; so did they stop believing in the cult? One would think that a rational person would abandon the cult when the prophecy failed; however, the followers became even more committed in their beliefs; members of the GAIA cult, when they get confirmation against their beliefs, they will only hold on to their beliefs even more strongly; global ice cover has remained the same since 1970; (b) ULTIMATE QUESTIONS  Religion’s defining trait is that it attempts to answer questions we have about existence; why am I here? What is the purpose of life? Why was the universe created? These issues cannot be answered by science; science deals with empirical, factual issues, not these ultimate issues, which leaves room for religious interpretations; Big Bang theory- we can calculate how long ago the big bang took place, and how fast it is expanding, but it cannot calculate questions such as who lit the fuse? (c) RELIGIOSITY  Religiosity is how religious are people? How committed are they to their beliefs? Various measures have been developed; one that is not very reliable is how frequently do people attend their place of worship; people attend places of worship for all sorts of reasons- living in a very religious community, people will attend to accepted socially; people may attend regularly because they are compelled to attend (often the case with children, who would be less inclined to attend if given the choice); sociologists have developed religiosity measures- Depth of Religious Commitment- try to measure people’s strength of belief, emotional attachment to a religion, knowledge about religious ideas, performance of rituals throughout the day;  Social factors connected to religiosity include: obligation, opportunity, need, and learning; religion one is born into is important (d)SECULARIZATION  A modern development; many say we live in a secularized world; an important pattern of social change; a decline in the importance of the supernatural and the sacred; religion declines in influence (one of the reason for this decline is that other institutions begin to elbow religion out of the way such as psychiatry, education, medicine); secularization is most advanced in the more developed parts of the world; in the time of the middle ages, Life was nasty, brutish, and short; Life was nothing to write home about; a vale of tears; average lifespan was 35; epidemics were frequent; 1340s- the black death (plague); people had to face violent deaths which was common; peasants had no legal rights (they weren’t citizens); social inferiors were treated by superiors like chatthl (likethroperty); no law and order (or very little); the advent of the nation state in the late 16 and 17 century established law and order in a large geographical area; prior to that, law and order was virtually non-existent; premature, painful death was a part of life (cut on finger); antibiotics only came along in the 1930s, thus prior to that, people died of minor infections;  medicine used to be hit and miss, it was based on bloodletting; bloodletting is a great example of a belief lasting a very long time without actual basis in truth; bloodletting was called phlebotomy; even the upper class used the same medicine; people often died due to excessive loss of blood; began in ancient Greece; popular in India, Middle East, and Europe; by 1850 or so, people began to question it; in some cases it was still used until the 1920s in the US;  famine was frequent; even a dry summer can cause famine; no insecticides were used, and fertilizer was poorly understood; rough correlation between quality of life and religiosity; the poorer the quality of life, the higher the religiosity; as quality of life improved, focus began to change to this worldly; when quality of life is poor, people think otherworldly; led to loss of functions- other institutions significantly took over functions that used to be done by religion; ex. Charity (alms to the poor, universal health care now covers that sort of thing), bereavement counseling (someone to provide comfort upon the death of a person, now done by funeral parlour directors), treatment for depression or other emotional issues, exorcism (emotionally disturbed); psychotherapists now handle this sort of thing;  religion is increasingly influenced by secular culture; in the past, religion shapes the rest of culture, but it has now changed; today, many protestant religions ordain women (in response to the women’s movement); also ordaining gays; many religions are also big fans of modern environmentalism; many have some sympathy for GAIA stories and the like; aid to the third world, as well as poverty; international human rights is another way in which secular culture has influenced religion; finally, pacifism; Quakers were pacifists; the belief that warfare is not justified under any circumstances  the secularization thesis- religious institutions, actions, and consciousness will become even more relevant; secularization will wipe out and replace religion; some sociologists prescribe to this view  Persistence thesis- argues that religion will always be here in some form or another; not for any personal reasons, but for sociological reasons; some ultimate issues in life that cannot be answered by science; what shall I do? How shall I live? There will always be some room for religious beliefs  Secularization in Canada- Quebec used to be the most religious province in Canada by far; beginning in the 1960s, the Quiet Revolution took place; the influence of the church declined; church attendance dropped; people stopped believing in the church’s ideas on birth control; church’s belief was that withdrawal would work as birth control; church’s strong opposition to abortion was also ignored; deep seeded beliefs can still be found in various parts of the world, and various religions; religion is not in an advanced stage of decay; among Christians, fundamentalism has experienced tremendous growth; to accept a holy book, literally;  Most religious, highly developed country is the US; Rick Santorum, opposed to abortion and also contraception; at one time in the West, religion controlled education; elements of that seen today (TCDSB); science and technology (independent variables) are part of secularization as well, they both cause secularization (dependent variable) by improving living conditions; as quality of life improves, people tend to become more secular; they begin to focus on this worldly affairs; as science and technology create more wealth and secularization, more wealth (feedback loop) is put into science and technology; it is a reinforcing relationship; in the world today, there is a greater tendency to see birth, illness, death, fortune, as a result of natural forces and not so much as a result of a divine power;  In 2007, Indonesia, tsunami hits the country; it was seen as the result of natural forces; what natural forces? Plate tectonics (the Earth is made up of a bunch of plates that float on a bed of molten lava); they are constantly moving (causing earthquakes); in contrast to an earthquake that took place in Lisbon, in 1775; Jesuits in Lisbon condemned those people giving aid, arguing that prayers for forgiveness was the only way to respond to the tragedy; giving aid was a punch in the face of God’s will; tsunami was God’s way of punishing people for their sins;  Secularized psychology- in the middle ages, fleas on rats caused the Black Death, which was supposedly God’s punishment for human’s sins; flagellants- the church ordered flagellants; people walked around whipping themselves; turned out to be a way of spreading the disease, rather than preventing it; the germ theory of disease  Revised secularization thesis- religion will stick around but in a diminished form at least for the foreseeable future; US, one of the most highly developed societies in the world, is very religious; Canada is similar to Europe in its religious beliefs; some see it today as a mark of national or ethnic identification; religion is often secondary to national or ethnic identification; Russia (Orthodox Christianity)- supported Serbia on ethnic grounds (same religious beliefs); Conservatives and liberals are political positions, usually on two minds on religion; social conservatives (Rick Santorum) see it as a moral decline, losing touch of religious pasts; liberal leftists tend to be more secular, and see secularization as a kind of liberalization from intolerance of the past; sometimes secularization can be dogmatic and intolerant in its own right; some university student groups (notably in Carleton and McGill) attempts have been made to ban prolife groups; all ideologies and spiritual beliefs tend to have intolerance; 2. A NORTH AMERICAN CLASSIFICATION OF  Atheism is the rejection of the belief in God; Marxists are by definition atheists; Soviet Union was an atheist state; agnostics are people who sit on the fence, there may be a God or there may not be a God; Deists are of the belief that a God or supreme power created the th planet/universe and then left it alone; Pantheists came alone in Europe in the 18 century, and comes before modern day environmentalism; believe God exists in everything we see (life, non- life/ animate or inanimate objects); Animism (before Pantheism) was common to band and tribe societies who believed that breath or soul or spirit exists in every object; soul exists in humans; Totemism is believing that animals have an ancestral relationship to human beings (look up definition); GAIA (movie Avatar)- life has an interconnectedness; idea of using resources of the globe is anathema; some aboriginals are opposed to the oil sands (some are on board with oil companies)  European classifications of religion- church- strict hierarchy of roles; division of labour within the church; very specific rules and regulations; teachings are non-threatening, and recruits from all classes; another part is sect (breakaway religious groups usually due to disagreements) are less structured, more spontaneous, less integrated into society, more separated; strict enforcement of rules; insider/outsider mentality; early scholars said that the North American continent is different from Europe, in that North America was born in religious freedom, resulting in more variety of religions; about 3200 different religions in N.A.; being def
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