Class Notes (811,321)
Canada (494,649)
Sociology (2,417)
SOCA02H3 (398)

chapter 16 Religion.pdf

6 Pages
Unlock Document

University of Toronto Scarborough
Malcolm Mac Kinnon

Chapter 16 Religion • The structure of society and a person’s place in it influence his or her religious beliefs and practices. • Under Some circumstances, religion creates societal cohesion, while under other circumstances it promotes social conflict and social change. When religion creates societal cohesion, it also reinforces social inequality. • Religion governs fewer aspects of most people’s lives today than in the past. However, a religious revival has taken place in various parts of the world in recent decades and many people still adhere strongly to religious beliefs and practices. • Diverse possibilities for religious participation compete in modern societies. For example, although most people are becoming more secularized, many people are becoming more religious. • Historical information suggests that the major world religions were movements of moral and social improvement that arose in times of great adversity and were led by charismatic figures. As they consolidated, they became more conservative. • People are more religious if they were brought up in a religious family, if they reside in regions where religion is highly authoritative, and when they are very young and very old. ---------Durkheim, Functionalism, and the Problem of Order. Durkheim said that when people live together, they come to share common sentiments and values. These common sentiments and values form a collective conscience that is larger than any individual’s. On occasion, we experience the collective conscience directly. This causes us to distinguish the secular, everyday world of the profane from the religious, transcendent world of the sacred. We designate certain objects as symbolizing the sacred. Durkheim called these objects totems. We invent certain public practices to connect us with the sacred. Durkheim referred to these practices as rituals. The effect (or function) of rituals and of religion as a whole is to reinforce social solidarity, said Durkheim. These patterns are consistent with Durkheim’s theory of suicide, which predicts a lower suicide rate when social solidarity increases and a higher suicide rate when social solidarity decreases. Thus, the Stanley Cup playoffs may fairly be regarded as a sacred event in Durkheim’s terms. They cement society in the way Durkheim said all religions do. ----------Marx, Conflict, and Religion as a Prop for Inequality Durkheim’s theory of religion is a functionalist account that offers useful insights into the role of religion in society. Yet conflict theorists have lodged two main criticisms against it. 1) It overemphasizes religion’s role in maintaining social cohesion. In reality, religion often incites social conflict. 2) When religion does increase social cohesion, it often reinforces social inequality. It was Marx who first stressed how religion often tranquilizes the underprivileged into accepting their lot in life. According to Marx, religion diminishes class conflict; he called religion “the opium of the people” Most people celebrate the alleged absence of social hierarchy. This is part of what sociologist Robert Bellah calls civil religion, a set of quasi-religious beliefs and practices that binds the population together and justifies its way of life. Tommy Douglas, a Baptist minister, the leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, and the “father of medicare,” exemplify the Social Gospel concern with social justice issues. In sum, religion can maintain social order under some circumstances, as Durkheim said. When it does so, however, it often reinforces social inequality, as Marx argued. Moreover, under other circumstances religion can promote social conflict. -----------Weber, Social Change, and Symbolic Interaction If Durkheim highlighted the way religion contributes to social order, Max Weber stressed the way religion can contribute to social change. Weber captured the core of his argument in a memorable image: “If history is like a train, pushed along its tracks by economic and political interests, then religious ideas are like railroad switches, determining exactly which tracks the train will follow.” Weber’s most famous illustration of his thesis is his short book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber was also bent on proving the one-sidedness of any exclusively economic interpretation. He did so by offering what he would today call a symbolic interactionist interpretation. For Weber, what prompted vigorous capitalist development in non-Catholic Europe and North America was a combination of 1) Favorable economic conditions, such as those discussed by Marx, 2)The spread of certain moral values by the Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century and their followers. According to Weber, the Protestant ethic had wholly unexpected economic consequences. Judaism and Christianity, these religions were rational in two senses. 1) Their followers abstained from magic. 2) They engaged in legalistic interpretation of the holy writ. In contrast, said Weber, Buddhism in India and Confucianism in China had strong magical and otherworldly components. According to Weber, this hindered worldly success in competition and capital accumulation. As a result, capitalism developed slowly in Asia. ---------Secularization The persecution of witches in this era was partly an effort to eliminate competition and establish a Christian monopoly over spiritual life. Max Weber remarked on how the world had become thoroughly “disenchanted”. By the turn of the twentieth century, he said, scientific and other forms of rationalism were replacing religious authority. His observations formed the basis of the secularization thesis. The secularization thesis says that religious institutions, actions, and consciousness are on the decline worldwide. ------------Religious Revival Despite the consensus about secularization that was still evident in the 1980s, many sociologists modified their judgments in the 1990s. There were two reasons for this. 1) Accumulated survey evidence showed that religion was not in an advanced state of decay. (The 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms assets that our country is founded on principles that recognize the supremacy of God) 2) The second circumstance that has caused many sociologists to revise their judgment about the secularization thesis is the revival of religious fundamentalism. Since the 1960s, fundamentalist religious organizations have rapidly increased their membership, especially among Protestants. • Fundamentalists interpret their scriptures literally, seek to establish a direct, personal relationship with the higher being they worship, and are relatively intolerant of non-fundamentalists. • Fundamentali
More Less

Related notes for SOCA02H3

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.