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Lecture 8

Lecture 8 Notes (along with Powerpoint Notes)

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Malcolm Mac Kinnon

LECTURE 8 – Religion Religious Involvement in Canada (in percent)  Religion and spirituality remain of considerable interest to a sizable number of both young and old Canadians  Classical sociology was preoccupied with religion as a social force; Marx and Durkheim asked this question, “What impact does religion have on the social organization on society and social change?”  Definition of the situation goes like this, “What people believe to be true is true in its consequences” – known as the Thomas Theorem  The impact of belief on social organization and behaviour; an example is given by the Cheddar cheese cult – belief that the moon is made of cheddar cheese, and the cult goes to the farmer‟s field and eats cheese in front of the moon and believes it will bring everlasting life; the economic impact is that the price of cheese will rise because the behaviour of the cult produces a shortage of cheese  Leon Festinger – wrote about cults called When Prophecy Fails; asked the question what happens when the prophecy made by cults doesn‟t pass  Religions try to answer ultimate questions we have about existence – these questions cannot be answered by science; science deals with factual/empirical issues Religiosity  Religiosity: Refers to how important religion is to people  Can measure religiosity in various ways: - Strength of belief - Emotional attachment to a religion - Knowledge about a religion - Frequency of performing rituals - Frequency of applying religious principles in daily life  Religiosity is how religious are people; how deeply committed people are to their beliefs; a measure that is not very reliable is how frequently do people attend their place of worship – why? Because people attend their place of worship for all sorts of reason (to be socially accepted – which doesn‟t show how deeply committed they are to their religion; sometimes people attend regularly because they are compelled to attend)  Religiosity can be measured by depth of religious commitment Social Factors and Religiosity  Social factors connected to religiosity include: 1. Obligation  Those obligated to attend religious services, such as preteens, attend more regularly 2. Opportunity  Those with more opportunity for religious service attendance, such as seniors, attend more often 3. Need  Those who have more need of religion, such as seniors, attend more often 4. Learning  Those whose parents attended religious services frequently are more likely to do so  Although young people are likely to become more religiously involved as they age, they are unlikely ever to become as involved as seniors today  This implies that “fewer young can be expected to . . . „return to church,‟ since fewer were ever active in the first place” (Bibby, 2001: 274–75)  The religion you were born into has an influence on religiosity Secularization  While motivation for religion may be psychological, structure of society and people‟s place in society influence the following: - Content and intensity of people‟ religious beliefs - Form and frequency of people‟s religious practices  2000 nationwide Canadian survey found 81% of adults and 71% of teenagers believed in God or a higher power  Scope, though, of religious authority has declined in Canada  Other institutions have grown in importance, such as medicine, psychiatry, criminal justice, education, etc  Religion governs fewer aspects of life than it used to.  Some Canadians still look to religion to deal with all of life‟s problems.  But more and more Canadians expect that religion can help them deal with only a restricted range of spiritual issues  Secularization is a modern development and is an important part of social change; it‟s a decline in the importance of the supernatural and the sacred; secularization is that religion declines in influence because other institutions begin to elbow religions out of the way (like medicine, psychiatry, education); secularization occurred in the wealthier parts of the world; the middle ages was called the vale of tears (when we were poor) because epidemics (or black plagues) were frequent during these times and social inferiors were treated by superiors like chattels (like property) during the middle ages; in the middle ages, medicine was based on bloodletting (drawing blood – this lasted 2500 years); as the quality of life improved, other worldly – people began to move from other worldly to this worldly; religion used to have specific functions and these functions are gradually taken over by other institutions - One function that used to be monopolized by religion was charity; another is bereavement counseling – it‟s when someone dies, someone is there to provide comfort; now bereavement counseling is done by funeral parlour directors; you can also become a grief counselor – treatment for depression used to handled by religions, as well as exorcisms; who handles emotional ailments and depressions and mental demons (exorcisms) – psychotherapists (these psychotherapists have elbowed religion out of the way) - Religion is increasingly influenced by secular culture; in the past, religion used to shape culture but now culture influences religion: like today, many Protestants are ordaining women and gays; international human rights is another way secular institutions influence religion; another example is pacifism; pacifism is the belief that warfare is not justified under any circumstances Secularization Thesis  Church became centre of life in both spiritual and worldly dimensions and reigned supreme in marriage, education, morality, economic affairs, and politics th  But by turn of 20 century, the West had become disenchanted with religion  Led to religious authority being replaced with science and other forms of rationalism  Weber‟s secularization thesis: That religious institutions, actions, and consciousness will become more and more irrelevant and that secularization will wipe out religion  The persistence thesis argues that religion is always be here in some form or another; Tolstoy says that there will always be room for some kind of religious belief  Quebec used to be the most religious province by far; but when the “Quiet Revolution” took place in the „60s, the influence of the Church declined; people stopped believing the church‟s ideas on birth control  The most religious and highly developed country is the U.S.; they have social conservatives and they‟re opposed to contraceptives and abortion  Science and technology (dependent variables) cause secularization (independent variable) over the years by improving living conditions  Indonesia – the Tsunami was seen as a result of natural forces (Plate tectonics is a scientific explanation of why earthquakes take place)  The secular reaction to the Tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia and an earthquake that took place in Lisbon (the Lisbon earthquake) – the Tsunami rolled in from the Atlantic ocean; Jesuits condemned those people giving others aid; the Jesuits solution was that they should pray for forgiveness because the Tsunami was God‟s way of punishing the Lisbons for their sins  Black plague was caused by fleas from rats; the church believed the Black death was God‟s punishment and their response was flatulence (whipping) and, consequently, this was a way of spreading the plague because they‟d go to highly infectious places flatulating themselves Religious Revival  Views about secularization modified during 1990s given: - Accumulated survey evidence that indicated religion not in advanced state of decay - Intensification of religious belief and practice among some people in recent decades  Since 1960s, has been increase (especially among Protestants) in fundamentalism  Literal interpretation of scriptures  Fundamentalists interpret their scriptures literally, seek to establish direct, personal relationship with higher being(s) they worship, and are relatively intolerant of non- fundamentalists  During the same period, religious movements became dominant forces outside North America too. Hindu nationalists formed the government in India.  Jewish fundamentalists were always important players in Israeli political life, often holding the balance of power in Israeli governments, but they have become even more influential in recent years  Religion is in decline  People see religion as a mark of national or ethnic identity; religion is often secon
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