Lecture Notes Term 2.docx

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McMaster University
Antonio Sorge

Religion and Belief -minimalist definition of religion: Belief in the existence of spiritual or supernatural powers, as well as the thoughts, actions, and feelings based on said belief. Components of Religion: 1-Beliefs -story about these beliefs are myths (stories/accounts) ex: the creation myth → does not mean that it is false or untrue -beliefs about nature, character of supernatural power, consequences of sin, spiritual animation of objects/beings, beliefs in spirit/souls/separation of body and soul etc. 2-Oral or Written Stories -reflect beliefs of the society -can be written in the form of sacred texts (have supernatural powers, cultural heroes) 3-Rituals -to direct people to supernatural powers of the group, based on power of speech and movement, Christian ritual is practised within a mass, employ symbols, have symbolic aspects, have expectations of what you should do -some anthropologists argue that ritual is what makes religion (beliefs are peripheral) -atheism is considered a non-religion (debatable) → it doesn’t contain any belief in the sacred Theories of Religion -theory: explanation for something, something that makes a set of phenomena intelligible to us, how something works 1-Intellectual/Cognitive -tend to centre on the idea that religious beliefs provide explanations for puzzling and strange events, fulfill a role, explain the inexplicable ex: misfortune, why do women suffer pain when they give birth (Eve disobeyed God), spouse ran off, have cancer and going to die 2-Psychological -look at the emotional satisfactions that people derive from religion, religion is emotionally satisfying, beliefs in the supernatural/sacred can calm fears, help of cope with life’s uncertainties and hardships -can also have opposite effects (religion is a cause of great anxiety, cause of fear and alienation) → fear of hell in Catholic regions of Ireland cause great anxiety -pollution beliefs: beliefs about contamination and impurity (will go to extreme lengths to avoid compromising their spiritual purity) 3-Sociological -focus on what religion does in society at the broader social level, looks at the effects of religion on maintaining the institutions of society as a whole by instilling common values, creating solidarity, controlling behaviour etc., religion accomplishes a number of things in society →keeps people in line, obey one another, obey a set of norms and values that helps a society cohere, say that religion and the practice of religion accomplishes something in society, religion is functional and adaptive to society ex: funerals (reaffirms the bond among the people), do unto others as they would do unto you, religiously sanctioned marriage, ten commandments of Christianity →help prevent conflict in society →serves as a mechanism that enhances social solidarity →social solidarity through ritual and the feeling of collective joy that comes about when people worship together →maintains cohesiveness in a group and reminds people of their ties to one another -accomplishes “collective effervescence”→ sense of communion that brings about feelings of warmth, togetherness, happiness -act of assembling creates a bond -religion→ religio with religare → to “re” bind together (through ritual) Supernatural Explanations of Misfortune -Sorcery -Witchcraft -Interpretations of Sorcery and Witchcraft -belief in sorcery and witchcraft explains misfortune very well→ explained by reference to spiritual powers -bad luck is caused by something -among many peoples there is no such concept as bad luck -other people believe that bad luck is unsatisfying, does not give reasons -witchcraft/sorcery is not bad luck but the act of someone who is using supernatural against you sorcery: incantation of spells and manipulation of objects to accomplish a goal →based on magic conducted to have an outcome on something (intention of harming somebody) ex: setting someone’s hair clippings on fire -witchcraft: the belief in the existence of a mystical force that can travel over a distance to harm people -this mystical force is said to come from witches -witches: man or woman -it is possible to be a witch without even knowing it -many similarities between cultures who believe in witchcraft but have never met Beliefs Among some Peoples -Navajo (US Southwest) -associate witches with the worst imaginable sins (incest, necrophilia, cannibalism) -witches exist but no one knows who they are -Nyakyusa (Tanzania) -believe witches are associated with the lust for food, suck cattle to not allow them to produce milk, destroy internal organs of humans (mystically) -Ibibio (Nigeria) -believe that witches perform a sort of cannibalism by proxy -remove souls of individuals, place it in animal and kill that animal Azande (S. Sudan) -believe that witches possess a substance that leaves their bodies at night and eats the flesh and internal organs of their victims → eat the souls of individuals -explains misfortune -explained by the cognitive theory E.E. Evans-Pritchard. Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande -all misfortune is from witchcraft -concept of death by old age does not exist -witchcraft establishes a set of understandings about the nature of causation that has an indirect effect of making sure people get along with another (if anybody could be a witch, you don’t want to anger anybody) -in the book, “After living with the Azande for a few months, I would wake up and use a rubbing oracle.” -people can accuse you of a witch because people can be witches without knowing it -people can bewitch people without even knowing it -list of possible suspects of bewitching is someone who someone has good social relations with -reinforces the social norm to live harmoniously Oracles -oracle: a technological device which provides answer to questions posed to it if read properly -come up with a list of people who might have bewitched you and consult one of the four oracles Four Types of Oracles: 1-Termine Mount Oracle -two sticks, pre-coded as yes and no, placed in termite mount as question is pronounced -client returns next day → see which stick remains 2-Rubbing-Board Oracle -three-legged waxed lower board and a top board with handle -water sprinkled on board and operator rubs the boards which either glide freely or stick (answers your question) 3-Poison Oracle -most prestigious and powerful (trumps the verdicts of all the others) -minute doses of benge (local strychinine substance derived from certain vines) being administered to small fowl -oracle poison addressed once inside fowl, acts on fowl -depending on if it kills the chick of spares them will give you your answer 4-Three-Sticks Oracle -put 2 sticks parallel to one another, put third stick on top, see whether sticks have fallen or stay in the same position (depending if falls or not answers question) Procedure of Witch-Doctors -they interview clients -they discern sources of stress and strain experienced by patient -known by their reputation → fees charged based on their past success -often test one witchdoctor with another (scepticism) -allows failures and lapses to be explained, and ultimately influences people’s faith in reliability of witchdoctors and oracles Varieties of Religious Organization -classifications based on differences and similarities → we oversimplify reality but get a general picture -developed by Anthony F.C. Wallace -cult is an umbrella term that refers to belief systems (organized and unorganized religious practices) -all forms of religious practices in the world fall into one of the 4 categories: →Individualistic Cults: each individual has a personal relationship with one or more supernatural powers who serve as a person’s guardians and protectors, aid of the powers is solicited for personal goals, emphasize direct interaction between person and supernatural →Shamanistic Cults: →Communal Cults →Ecclesiastical Cults -not mutually exclusive Individualistic Cults -the Vision Quest is a native NA individualistic cult, particularly important to plains natives -it is a rite of passage in which a young man feasts for several days and journeys into the wilderness in search of an apparition -the animal in his apparition will be his spirit helper for life, and will grant him special qualities and powers -can be living or non-living Shamanism -some individuals have relationships with supernatural that other people lack and help/cure others in need -may act on the band to cause supernatural behaviour to enemies -traditional healers -have a special relationship that no one else has that they use to cure sickness -many types of societies (hunter gatherers, foresters), shamans only people who have ability to affect supernatural and only religious practitioners in some societies -they’re not like normal people, not full-time specialists -carry out tasks whenever their services are needed in return for a girl and fee, otherwise live like everyone else -not the same as priests (full-time specialists) Communal Cults -members of a group gather periodically to perform rituals that benefit the group as a whole -there are no full-time religious specialists -elders are usually leaders of the religious rituals -form of worship done by a group of people without a priest and constitute a form of worship of the group itself ex: Chinese ancestor shrines (the worship of patrilineal ancestors is important in many Chinese holidays/festivals) Ecclesiastical Cults -organized religions with a bureaucracy of religious specialists having their origins in state-level societies ex: the Vatican, the Great Mosque -full-time religious practitioners who form a religious bureaucracy -is managed or carried out by formal specialized priests who perform calendared rituals -don’t care for crisis rituals (healing) -materially supported by institutionalized government through taxation or redistribution -exist in state-level societies -prescribe certain types of punishments for those who violate their laws -with development of priesthood becomes a strong distinction between a priest and a lay person (ordinary person) -dress/look different/hold permanent position in society as a member of the religious bureaucracy -their lives are very different from others Revitalization Movements -A.F.C. Wallace was a theorist and classifier of “revitalization movements” which include cargo cults and the Ghost Dance as typical social movements, cutting across a number of categories -one culture is able to establish political and economic dominance over another -massive introduction of items from the dominant culture onto the dominated culture can have a dramatic effect -end result: destruction of the dominated culture, living on the fringe of that culture ex: Native Americans in US/Canada -under the context of domination that revitalization movements can happen -movement that forms in order to bring about change in society -people who embark on them are people who were disadvantaged by the dominance of another culture -frequently they are religious -deliberate activities started by person or small group promising better times -all characterized by universal process to construct a better life -require number of steps: 1) a small scale society lives in a steady-state environment and then great colonial power comes in, disease wipes out a lot of the population, political system is overridden, cultural suppression 2) people are hurt (imposition and disruption) 3) cultural distortion/dislocation/damage 4) revitalization movement -leaders of society that have become marginalized deliberately seek some kind of revitalization movement that would meet their needs -have to explain why the culture is suffering, what can be come to alleviate the suffering Revitalization Movements -general category of movement which may have one or more of the following emphases: →nativistic: rejection of alien values and customs →revivalistic: return to (presumed) ancient ways →vitalistic: emphasis on importing alien elements (ex: sewing machines, bottled alcohol, canned food) →millenarian: apocalyptic transformation of the world, involving overturning of present social system, predicted to occur in near future →messianic: spiritual saviour will appear, or is already present, to transform the world through his personalized power John Frum – The Cargo Cult Cargo Cult -cargo cults are revitalization movements found among certain peoples indigenous to Oceania and the South Pacific Island group of Melanesia. The word “cargo” refers to foreign goods possessed by Europeans; cult followers believe that such goods belong to themselves and that, with the help of ancestral spirits, the goods can be returned to them through magico-religious means. Some cult prophets promise that the arrival of cargo will herald a period of prosperity and well-being. John Frum -one of the more interesting phenomena encountered by US servicemen stationed in the South Pacific was the cargo cult of John Frum. Primarily based on the island of Tanna, in Vanuatu, the islanders long believed that an ancient legend foretold the arrival from the air and sea of a mighty god who would establish a time of peace and prosperity. Their legend had also claimed that 50 000 warriors were waiting inside the volcano, Mount Yasur, to lead them into victory as well as prosperity. Symbols -the most sacred symbol of the John Frum movement is a red cross. On John Frum day (Feb. 15) prayers and flowers are offered at the cross. In addition to this members involve themselves in a flag raising ceremony and a military parade in which they carry rifles made of bamboo. -cross comes from Red Cross organization -when American servicemen began landing on the island during WWII, it strengthened the islanders belief in the prophesy. Bizarre ceremonies were held to honour and worship the mythical John Frum. Carved figurines of American warplanes and military artifacts such as helmets and rifles made from bamboo were used as religious icons, and the islanders would march in parades with USA painted on their chests. Some of them burned their money, killed their cattle and abandoned their homes, awaiting the new life and world promised by the mysterious god. -When the last American GI left at the end of the war, the islanders gleefully predicted John Frum’s return. To this day, believers will utter, in worship, the phrase, “John Frum, he still come.” -paradox of cultural regimes of Christianity and John Frum → envisions the coming of a messiah known as John Frum -might have been someone named John who was close to some islanders who thought he was charismatic → eventually became enshrined as a messiah th -the movement continued to flourish and on Feb. 15 1957 an American flag was raised in Sulphur Bay to declare the religion of John Frum and it is on this date every year that John Frum Day is celebrated. During the festivities, the elders march in an imitation army; a kind of military drill mixed with traditional dance. Some carry imitation rifles made of bamboo and wear American army memorabilia such as caps of T-shirts. → form of mimicry -people believe that a US soldier named John Frum will return from heaven and distribute cargo to them. Situational Analysis -when you are confronted with a belief system like this you need to do a situation analysis and accept that we are not dealing with crazy people who are irrational but people who are proceeding to make sense of the world on the base of very limited information -reason = constant -variable = social circumstance and the knowledge that is available Addendum -John Frum cargo cult has an offshoot in a town on southern Tanna Island, Taohnanen; it is the Prince Philip Movement -according to the people in Yaohnanen, Prince Philip of Greece, Duke of Edinburgh and consort to Queen Elizabeth II is the brother of John Frum, and thus a light-skinned divine being. -townspeople from Taonanen met Prince Philip in 2007 during the filming of British reality TV show, “Meet the Natives”, and exchanged gifts which were taken back to Vanuatu. Conflict and Conflict Resolution Man the Hunter -early man was a hunter → we have an ingrained tendency to kill -people say that by looking at early man we get to look at inborn tendencies→ shows innate tendencies -first assumption: humans have been shown throughout their evolution as being carnivores→ implied that we are always hunters→ implies that we are inherently violent and aggressive Raymond Dart: -worked in South Africa -carnivorism implies that we are violent (what people thought) -Australopithecine (pre-human) excavated graves → saw what looked like tooth marks and blows and crush bones → saw that our ancestors not only hunted and killed prey, but hunted and killed one another (to eat each other) -argued that we got to where we are as a species because we are able to exert violence on other and thus adapt to our environments -argues that violence has made us a great species C.K. Brain: -refuted the killer man theory and re-examined the fossils excavated by Raymond Dart -the bones that Dart interpreted as lethal weapons and damage done to the skulls are fragments of hominids discarded by tigers and hyenas, damage was done by large carnivores -evolutionary psychologists claim that violence is adaptive, often rejected by anthropologists Our Closest Relatives -Pan paniscus→ bonobo chimpanzees →very peaceful, not warlike, not aggressive, any dispute is resolved through sexual intercourse, great degree of equality between the sexes -Pan troglodytes: very aggressive, hunt prey in groups, more warlike, pronounced inequality between males and females -in human society→ violent societies vs. egalitarian societies → vary according to circumstance and history Conflict -all societies, communities, and families have the potential for conflict -conflict may arise over interpersonal issues, rights to property or other resources, roles, and responsibilities -different societies have different notions of what causes conflict, how disputes are to be settled and how harmonious relationships are to be re-established -some societies have more retributive vs. restorative systems of judgement Positive and Negative Sanctions -positive sanctions→ recognition and rewards (material benefits or social prestige) granted to people who behave according to social norms -negative sanctions→ formal or informal methods of discouraging people from behaving improperly Formal and Information Sanctions -information sanctions→ rewards and punishments expressed through praise, ridicule, gossip, etc. -formal sanctions→ rewards and punishments administered by persons in authority, the state, or the law Conflict Avoidance -prosocial behaviours used to repair social relationships without aggression -means of avoidance can include: →reconciliation →consolation →politeness →apology Witchcraft and Ritual in Conflict Resolution -rituals or beliefs in witchcraft may provide the means of avoiding or resolving conflict -people will suspects others of witchcraft who they have had frayed social relations with, therefore have good relations with everyone Systems of Justice -retributive→ based on principles of punishment (imprisonment, execution, fines) -restorative→ based on principles of restoration of social harmony and rehabilitation of offender (community service) Retributive Justice: Vengeance and the Blood Feud -non-state forms: →vengeance: aggression against others based on the principle of revenge, okay in non-state societies →blood feud: ongoing conflict between kin groups or communities, based on vengeance -state forms: →imprisonment: denial of basic freedoms →death penalty: denial of life -the state is classically defined by monopoly over means of coercion → you cannot use force but other people can use force for you Restorative Justice -provides opportunities for those most directly affected by a crime (victim, offender, families and other community members) to be involved in the process of addressing harms, needs and obligations -it is about offender accountability, victim healing, and community safety, through mediation and dialogue where possible First Nations Sentencing Circles -an attempt to rediscover traditional Aboriginal methods of dealing with individuals who have broken the law -when the person has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty they can ask for the judge to refer him/her to a sentencing circle -aim of the circle is to shift the process of sentencing from punishment to rehabilitation and responsibility -offender is faced with the impact of their actions in front of respected community members, elders, peers, family, the victim and their family →practiced throughout aboriginal communities across Canada -the accused must agree to be referred to a sentencing circle -the accused must have deep roots in the community, in communities where everyone knows everyone -community elders are willing to participate -the victim is willing to participate under voluntary circumstances -repeat offenders not eligible -murder is not eligible for sentencing circles *idea of community being made whole again after ruptures Sentencing Circle -takes place in town hall/in gymnasium -seats for other community members to witness sentencing circles in action -controversial from people who believe in national criminal justice system and punishment Christopher Pauchay: -after night of heavy drinking, ran out of alcohol, wanted to get some more -brought 2 small daughters outside with him with intention to take them but he left them on his front step and walked away -the 2 toddlers died -the sentencing circle suggested he should perform community service, stop drinking and stop abusing his wife -after 6 months he left and is nowhere to be found *shows a flaw Patterns of Conflict Between Groups -Warfare→ armed aggression (comes into being with the emergence of states) -Impacts of Globalization and Warfare→ increase in incidence of warfare, competition over land and resources -Welfare in State Societies→ primarily economic and political goals, standing armies, annihilation or humiliation of the enemy, internal disputes Terrorism -suicide bombing is one type of terrorism, but there are many types -terrorism→ the use of murder, mayhem, or general tactics designated to raise fear – whether by government or non-government entities – constitutes terrorism When did terrorism begin? -no true date can be determined (terror was a tool long before it was documented) -common as long as 4000 years ago -suicide terrorism with explosive devices is fairly new, using fear to make people do what you want is not new Ancient Terrorism -the most common form of terrorism was torture, maiming, arson and destruction of agricultural goods -terror tactics were used to accomplish political goals in many parts of the ancient world far beyond the Middle East Early Religious Terrorism- The Zealots -among the earliest examples of terrorist actions for political reasons were the Zealots, a 1 st century religious and political group in Judea -the Zealots strongly opposed outside (Roman) control/rule of Judea -the Zealots achieved little, except to trigger heavy Roman control over the Jews and the closing off of Jerusalem to Jews -zealot means radical in our day Theology of Zealots -zealots had a strong focus on the necessities of violent actions against the enemies of Judaism -could not accept any foreign rule or domination as they meant that the land of the Jews, Judea, only
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