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Lecture 2

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Joseph Bryant

Week two September 19 2012th Soc250 RELIGION the sociological study of religion attempts to identify: a) the social factors or bases for religious beliefs, actions, experiences, communities b) the relevance or significance of religion in social life and history but the sociological study of religion confronts unique interpretive challenges: ontology- concerned with the nature of ‘being’, reality or existence, causally and constitutively (= ‘what the world is and how it works’) epistemology- concerned with nature of knowledge, how we know things religion is based on a distinct ontology- the claim that there are supernatural beings or powersm or a super sensible reality, an absolute, divine or transcendent realm that is ultimately primary and causally responsible for both the natural world and social world social science has no direct or objective ‘acces’ to that purported transcendent reality, it cannot be visited for purposes of measurement or examination (unlike the realities of politics, art, war, etc) religion is based on and creates an epistemological dualism or split: religious believers claim the reality of the divine or ttranscendent, but social scientis and historians have no way of assessing or testing legitimacy or accuracy of that belief. For science, the divine or supernatural is not empirically verifiable …. Or falsifiable epistemologically, faith statemetns, i.e the claims of believers to spiritual or divine truths are not fundamentally factual or empirical. Rather, they are essentially declarative (God is love , nirvana is ultimate bliss, paradise will be your reward etc… ) performative (I have been saved by the lord, Om, There is no god but god, and Muhammad is his messenger.) or emotive i.e expressing or soliciting feelings of awe, reverence, dependence, joy etc. (on many key points of a faith tradition, religious language is closer to poetry than to prose) “ faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11-1) Accordingly, the evidence or proofs for faith statements are “internal” to each particular religious tradition--- the specific faith claims of one tradition are not convincing to those believing in other traditions, nor to skeptics and atheists Parable of the Two Explorers and the Garden (find on google, too much to type) This epistemological situation results in 1. an ‘insider’- ‘outsider’ polarity (believers vs non believers/believers in other religious traditions) 2. a split or polarity between subjective and objective ways of knowing i.e religious experience is sustained by cultivated faith in the claims of a tradition: those without that faith will not experience or comprehend true nature of that religiosity- so say the insiders the dilemma or tension: social science cannot access that posited domain of the divine or transcendent yet believers claim their actions and experiences derived from that source, social science accounts which attribute the actions and beleifs of believers to sundry social and historical forces/factors will thus appear superficial or reductionist to the religious actors themselves social scientists must accordingly bracket the ontological claims of the religion what berger calls methodological atheism and Smart methodologicall agnosticism and focus soley on their historical, social and psychological consequences and effects historical social science studies causes and consequences of religious belief— not the validity of it (that is a concern for theology and philosophy of religion) social science example of the dilemma: carlos Castaneda….. case illustrates basic dilemma of insider vs outsider, subjective vs objective ways of knowing: scientific standards are deemed inadequate or distortional by ‘believers/insiders’ while scientists insist that only by maintaining ‘objective distance’ can we hope to discover true social causes and forces at work if you cant view it from inside spirit world, and are external, level of analysis is not adequate, but the risk of doing this, getting too involved, is you go from an observer to an insider who is just giving testimony. religion: a system or complex of social relationships that human beings create and modify—in history – with supernatural or divine powers ((impersonal/personal) for purposes of establishing order and protection and for securing meaning and purpose religion is thus: a) a way of making sense = the COGNITIVE function understand world through religion religions provide mappings of the cosmos for us, where/when did it begin/ is it headed, what are the forces at work diff religious traditions give us diff mappings of the world and its people b) a way of gaining security, support, protection = the PRACTICAL function turn to divine powers to assist us in some way, give us things we want/need and are hard to acquire a lot centered on health and healing (turn to them be like heal me abeg ohh or make mama no die ohh ) religious rituals to improve outcomes of ordinary life events. E.g birth, marriage. Human beings not completely reliant on religion for these functions, there’s competition : we have : (common sense, science, law, morality, technology, art, etc, share those functions) E.g in prior societies, more emphasis on religion to heal, but now niggas go to the hospital, if they say you dying bro, you start the prayer power. Mod
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