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SOCL 2001 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Quran, Bar And Bat Mitzvah, Age 13

Course Code
SOCL 2001
Ramazan Aydogdu

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Chapter 12: Religious Groups and Systems
What is Religion?
o A unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things which unite into one
single moral community called a Church. (Durkheim, 1915)
A system of beliefs and practices
A community or a church (social organization)
Sacred things (opposite profane)
o Any profane thing (food, clothes, tree, etc.) might be sacred! (sacredness is not inherent
to the object, rather it exists in the mind of the beholder)
Elements of Religion
o Sacred Objects such as gods, spirits, special persons or any object that is considered
o A group of believers or a community who make religion a social and personal
o A set of rituals, ceremonies, or behaviors that have religious meaning (e.g. bread and
wine that symbolize body and blood of Christ)
o A set of beliefs such as doctrine, a holy book which defined moral values, or what
happens to people when they die
o A form of organization that unites believers, carries out rituals, teaches doctrine,
initiate new members, etc.
Types of Religion
o Polytheism (e.g. Hinduism) vs Monotheism (e.g. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims)
o Neither monotheistic nor polytheistic religions based on sets of moral, ethical, or
philosophical principles. Dedicated to moral or spiritual excellence (Buddhism,
Confucianism, Shintoism, Taoism)
o Totemism (worship of plants, animals, or other natural objects)
o Shanism (the beliefs that certain individuals called “Shamans” have special skills
o Animism (the beliefs that spirits inhabit almost everything in nature)
Organization of Religion
o Church is an institutional organization of people who share common religious beliefs
o Most have bureaucratic structures with trained clergy and other officials
o The Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious group in the U.S. (62 million)
o 2 categories of Churches:
Ecclesia is an official state religion that includes all or most of the members of
society (The Church of England, Lutheran Churches in Scandinavian Countries,
It accepts state support and sanctions the basic cultural values and
norms, may even administer educational system
A denomination is a large, organized religion officially linked with the
state or government
o Churches in the U.S. are termed denominations
A denomination tends to have an explicit set of beliefs, a defined
systems of authority, and a generally respected position in society
The United States has the most denominations in the world
Sects are small groups that have broken away from church
While ecclesia and denominations are well established, sects are small
groups that have broken away from a parent of church
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