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SOC 250 Lecture 3

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University of Toronto St. George
Joseph Bryant

SOC 250 Lecture 3 Social Scientific Theories of Religion  Theory o Greek for seeing  Way of seeing  Opinion o Theory in social sciences  Multiple theories  Often competing viewpoints  Bad credit relative to natural science  Excuse? o Always evolving o Social life exhibits tremendous diversity o Inner connection to what they study  Ideology problem  Inherently political  Max Weber: vershtaen(?) o Can also be a way of not seeing  Bring some things to light and leave others behind  Most theoretical perspectives on religion offer variations on 2 fundamental insights o Religion as “projection/reflection  Representations/understandings of the Divine or Transcendent correspond to aspects of particular social-historical conditions  Human beings are reflecting upon themselves in imagining the divine realm  With projection theory, the divine is modelled after the human order  Our hopes, fears, desires, practices, etc.  Find reflection and legitimation in the depiction of a divine order o Xenophanes (c.570-475 BCE)  Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods everything that is a shame and reproach among humans, stealing and committing adultery and deceiving the other  But morals consider that the gods are born and that they have clothes and speech and bodies like their own  The Ethiopians say their gods are flat-nosed and black, the Thracians say that theirs have light blue eyes and red hair  But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the works that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like the cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they had themselves o Aristotle (384-322)  “Men create the gods after their own image, not only with regard to form, but also with regard to the manner of life” Politics 1.2.7 o Religion as “social control”  Religions are part of the power structures of society and function to legitimize existing hierarchies, while also disciplining and controlling the members of the group or society  With social control theory the divine functions as a form of “supernatural police  Monitoring human conduct, rewarding and inflicting punishments o Afterlife or heaven-hell distinctions provide political-moral support for this world o Kritias of Athens (c. 460-403) Plato‟s uncle and leader of the oligarchical tyranny that briefly took power following the Athenian defeat of the Peloponnesian War  There was a time when Disorder ruled the lives of humans, who were living like the beasts, under the dominion of Force. Nor was the there reward for the good, nor punishment for the wicked…And then, it seems to me, men set up laws as punishers, so that Justice might rule and have Hubris as her slave…But though these laws held mortals back form deeds of open violence, still they committed them in secret  And so at this time, some wise and clever fellow invented for mortals a fear of gods, to frighten the wicked, should they act or speak or scheme any evil in secret. Hence it was that the Divine was introduced as daimon flourishing in undecaying life, possessing a divine nature, with a mind seeing and hearing attending and thinking who will hear al the things that are said by mortals and will see all that is done. For even if anyone plans in silence some evil deed, this will not be hidden from the gods, for their intelligence is too powerful  So speaking words like these, he introduced the most profitable and cunning of all teachings, concealing the truth with a false word  The place he spoke of as the gods‟ abode was that by which he might awe humans most, the place from which he knew terrors came to mortals and thins advantageous in their wearisome life. The revolving heaven above in which dwell lightning and the awesome claps of thunder, and the starry face of heaven from which too the meteor‟s glowing mass speeds and wet thunderstorm pours fo
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