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SOC250Y1 Lecture Notes - Agnosticism, Reductionism, The Dilemma

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Joseph Bryant

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SOC 250Y1 Lecture 1
Sociologies of politics, art, war, science, literature, etc. and RELIGION
o Do not compartmentalise
o From a point of view to understand, none are superior
o The social sciences cannot function without history
There are things rooted in the past that still activate the present
To fully understand the present we need to understand the past
The sociological study of religion attempts to identify:
o The social factors or bases for religious beliefs, actions, experience, communities, etc.
o The relevance or significance of religion 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 the nature of knowledge, how we know
Religion is based on a distinct ontology
o The claim that there are supernatural beings or powers, or a super-sensible reality
An Absolute, Divine, or Transcendent realm that is ultimately primary and causally
responsible for both the Natural world and the Social world
Social science has no direct or objective “access” to that purported Transcendent reality; it cannot be
visited for purposes of measurement or examination
o Unlike the realities of politics, art, war, etc.
Modernity has been the big change to religion
o Past people have turned religion for answers on everything
o Modernity: we have created new institutions separating us from religion
o Many institutions have a base in religion
Many were created by religious institutions
There are no societies since the emergence of complex societies which have not practiced some sort of
religious traditions
o Modernity again introduces a change
Introduced a significant growth in non believers or questioners
The degree of disbelief being large is a new phenomenon
Religion is based on and creates an epistemological dualism or split
o Religious believers claim the reality of the Divine or Transcendent
Social scientists and historians have no way of assessing or testing the legitimacy or
accuracy of that belief.
That is to say for science, the Divine or supernatural is not empirically verifiable…or
Epistemologically, faith statements (the claims of believers to spiritual or divine truths) are not
fundamentally factual or empirical
o Not empirical or factual
Most faith based language is similar
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