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soc103 chp13.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Lorne Tepperman

Chp 13 – Churches & Religion - Religions consist of revealed truths - Sociologists are interested in how people act out their religious beliefs in everyday life and how these beliefs affect their interactions with others and with society. o They are concerned with how certain beliefs are legitimatized and who in society controls this process. - From a macro sociological perspective, they are interested in the rise and fall of religions, and the persistence of certain religions over centuries and even millennia; and they are interested in the effects of these long-lived belief systems on other belief systems: political, economic, or cultural. - In a social science perspective, the stance of sociology is that religion is merely a social phenomenon, one of many products of social life that play an important role in society’s functioning. - Marx viewed it as a form of socially organized self-deception and a way that people, especially the ruling class disguise their exploitation of the masses - Durkheim viewed religion as an opportunity for group celebration. The content of religion is less important than the opportunity it presents to express social solidarity in ritualized form - Weber viewed religion as a set of beliefs that give life meaning and purpose. These beliefs can have enormous and sometimes positive social consequences. - Religion is any system of beliefs about the supernatural and the social groups that gather around these beliefs. o The change process is called secularization, meaning that in these celebrations, and elsewhere, we continue to see the separation between religion and politics, and between scared private beliefs and secular public spheres. - West are more autonomous than before, they no longer need the emotional support and communal solidarity religion traditionally offered. - New religious movements are groups and institutions comprising people who share similar religious or spiritual views about the world but who are not part of mainstream religious institutions. - Church is any social location or building where people carry out religious rituals. WAYS OF LOOKING AT RELIGION - Emile Durkheim worked within the functionalist model o Concerned with religion’s role in promoting social solidarity. o Wanted to know why religions are universal and what functions they perform in these societies  Concluded that religion has the power to bring people together  Religion perpetuates social solidarity by continually reaffirming people’s shared values  Believes influence of religion would decline as scientific and technological thinking gradually replaced religion thinking - Karl marx established critical theory model o Viewed religion largely as a form of social control and therefore as a cause of conflict. o Believed that religion is part of dominant ideology of society, a set of values that benefit the groups that exercise the most power in society o Opiate of the masses, making them submissive, uncritical and easily manipulated.  Diverts the working class’s attention from injustices perpetrated by the owners (bourgeoisie)  Also believed that religion would lose its importance in the future  Predicted after a worldwide revolution by the working class, new socialist society would have not place for religion o Religion continues to cause conflicts between people and societies - Max Weber focused on the subjective meaning and personal experience of religion o Believed that people have inner need to understand the world as ‘meaningful’  Otherwise, how could we make sense and cope with tragedies  Especially interested in the way religious doctrines shape people’s world views, and how their world views shape their secular behaviour  His book Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, o Discussed the connections between the rise of capitalism and the rise of Protestantism  Argued that Protestantism provided a value structure that supported the rise of capitalism in NW Europe  Values lead to capitalism, explaining why capitalism arose in protestant Europe  Classic studies - The elementary forms of religious life - One of Durkheim’s work - Focused on the role of religion in social life - Goal was to understand the universality of religion, to do so, needed to understand its emergence in the very earliest societies (primitive) - Also studied totemism, the use of natural objects and animals to symbolize spirituality - Emblem serves as a symbol that unites all the members of society with a common belief, thus contributing to social solidarity o They also reinforce group solidarity and shared group beliefs o Connects people to escape everyday life, ‘profane life’ into a higher scared plane of experience. - According to Durkheim, rituals and totemic objects are important in themselves. Their meaning and significance lie only in the social cohesion they create, maintain, and celebrate - For Durkheim, religion expresses a collective consciousness, the sum of people’s individual consciousnesses and shared way of understanding the world. o Key words are shared and symbol - A diverse organic society (urban industrial society) need a form of humanism, a worldview that lets people connect with one another around their common humanity and not around specific religious beliefs as was the case with mechanical solidarity - Concluded that the influence of traditional religion would decline as society modernized, scientific thinking would replace religious thinking. o Concept of GOD would become less powerful DEFINTIONAL PROBLEMS - Religion is a difficult concept to define, as it encompasses many concepts connected to spirituality and faith and may mean different things to people. - Substantive definition focus on what religion is, and what does and does not count as religion o Identifies religion’s core elements - Functional definition describes what religion does for an individual or a social group. o Describes how religion provide a sense of connectedness between people - Durkheim believed that social life could be divided into sacred and profane (secular) parts o Religion resided in the sacred part.  People need totems and rituals, so they need a portion of life that is sacred. - On profane world, we go through normal activities
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