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Chapter 11-Religion Nov 5 2008

Course Code
Sheldon Ungar

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Reading Notes
Chapter 11: Religion
Sociology and Religion
y Science and religion are compatible; science limits itself to what is perceivable, religion
maintains that reality includes the no perceivable
y Conflict arises between the two when one oversteps the boundary of the other
y Emile Durkheim
y Religion cannot override science is basic evolutionary claims or dismissing sound medical
Theoretical Traditions
Marx and Conflict
y Religion constitutes the latter response, resulting in ppl who are economically and politically
deprived redefining reality, rather than changing their oppressive conditions
y Religion soothes the disadvantaged like a narcotic- functioning as the ³opium of the ppl´, in
the process blinding them to the inequalities at hand and bottling up their creative energies
y Those who hold power encourage religious belief among the masses as a subtle tool in the
process of exploiting and subjugating them
y Aligned with interests in of the dominant few, religion serves to hold in check the potentially
explosive tensions of a society
Durkheim and Collectivity
y Religions origin is social
y People who live in a community come to share common sentiments, and as a result collective
conscience is formed
y Collective Conscience: is Durkheims term that refers to the awareness of the group being
more than the sum of its individual members and the belief that what is being expected is
the supernatural
y When they gather together they have a feeling a being in the presence of something of
something beyond themselves that is experienced by each member, yet is greater than the
sum of their individual conscience
y Once ppl experience such an alleged supernatural reality, they proceed to designate some
related objects as sacred and others as profane
y Sacred & Profane: are the two categories by which Durkheim claimed all things are classified;
the sacred represents those things that are deemed to warrant profound respect, and the
profane encompasses essentially everything else
y Religious beliefs articulate the nature of the sacred and its symbols, and religious rites
provide guidelines as to how people should act in the presence of the sacred
y Because all groups feel the need to uphold and reaffirm their collective sentiments, ppl come
together as what he refers to as a ³church´
y The idea of religion is inseparable from that of the church, since it is an eminently collective
y Even when religion seems to be entirely a matter of individual conscience, it still is nourished
by social sources
y Religion creates and reinforces social solidarity
Weber and Ideas
y In addition to having a supernatural component, religion is largely oriented toward this world
y As a result religion, religious ideas, and behaviour should frequently be evident in everyday
y Ideas, regardless of whether they are objectively true or false, represent a persons definition
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of reality and therefore have the potential to influence behaviour
y God-conceptions are strongly related to the economic, social, and political conditions in which
people live
y Monotheism: belief in one god
y Different groups in society vary in their inclination to be religious (peasants are religious
when they are threatened, the nobility find religion beneath their honour, the middle class
sees religion largely in ethical terms)
The Nature of Religion
y Humanist Perspectives: systems of meaning used to interpret the world that do not have a
supernatural referent; human-centred perspectives; concerned with making life
meaningful; life has no focus so therefore we must give it meaning
y Religions: are systems of meaning for interpreting the world that have supernatural referent;
religious perspectives; concerned with discovering lifes meaning; our existence has meaning,
preceding that which we, as humans, decide to give it
Personal Religiosity
y Personal Religiosity: how religious are you? CDNs?
y To determine how religious you are: (1) what is your religious preference, (2) do you belong
to a congregation? (3) how often do you attend religious services?
y People who indicated that they had a religious preference, belonged to a local group, or
attended services with regularity were viewed as religious
y Active/inactive members, committed/uncommitted
y Dimensions of Religiosity: it is not enough to believe or practice or experience or know; all
four traits are expected of the committed
y 8/10 CDNs believe in God
y 7/10 CDNs believe in life after death
y 6/10 CDNs pray privately at least once a month
y 5/10 believe they have experienced the presence of god
y Harder to be more religiously committed in Canada
Collective Religiosity
y Collective Religiosity: group support of some kind
y Ppl cannot hold ideas or commitment for long without a measure of social support
The Church-Sect Typology
y (1) Numerically dominant groups: Roman Catholic church in medieval Europe, the church of
England, mainline dominations in CAN/US- Anglican, Protestant, Presbyterian, Lutheran)
y (2) small groups: church of England broke away from roman catholic, Methodists broke away
from church of England, salvation army broke away from Methodists
y Today; emerging groups: Baptist, Pentecostal denominations and nondenominations
y Church-Sect Typology: this framework attempts to describe the central characteristics of
these two organizations, as well as account for the origin and development of sects
Organizational Approaches
y Religious organizations are no different from other social organizations
y Religious groups are seen as ³firms´, or ³companies´ competing for a ³market share´
y Roman Catholic, Anglican, E Orthodox churches, salvation army- part of MNC
y United church, Pentecostal assemblies of Canada- are companies CDN owned and operated
y Evangelical protestant dominations- branch plants
y Despite facts that Jews, Hindus, Muslims, sheikhs, Buddhists all have worldwide roots, none
have developed official international or national structures that oversee their CDN businesses
y Large numbers of other religious firms operate as privately owned companies- they are
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