Chapter 16- Religion
Civil religion is a set of sacred beliefs so commonly accepted by most people that it
becomes part of the national culture
What is religion?
Religion is a system of beliefs and practices around sacred things, a set of shared
"stories" that guide belief and action
Sacred are holy things meant for special use and kept separate from the profane
Profane are the things of mundane, everyday life
Religion take three major forms:
o Theism, the worship of a god or gods as in Christianity, Islam and Hinduism
o Ethicalism, the adherence to certain principles to lead a moral like as in
Buddhism and Taoism
o Animism, the belief that spirits roam the natural world, as in totemism
Denominations are big groups of congregations that share the same faith and are
governed under one administrative umbrella.
Congregations are groups of people that gather together, especially for worship
Secularism is a general movement away from religiosity and spiritual belief toward a
rational, scientific orientation, a trend adopted by industrialized nations in the form
of separation of church and state
Theory: Marx, weber, and Durkheim
In accordance with his belief that all social facts of life are grounded in
conflict, Karl Marx argued religion was used to keep workers from questioning
their oppressed position in everyday life by promising them riches in the afterlife.
Max Weber argued that Protestantism was a prerequisite for the development of
capitalism because it introduced the idea that a person fulfilled his duty to God
through hard work and asceticism. Making money was not frowned upon,
although spending that money on pleasure and personal enjoyment was.
Émile Durkheim argued that religions perform the social function of promoting
solidarity by strengthening the collective conscience. He also felt that sacred
symbols become powerful because people collectively invest them with power
through their shared beliefs.
Secularization or speculation?
Pluralism is the presence and engaged coexistence of numerous distinct groups in
Pluralism has been viewed as having a negative effect on religion overall because
the plethora of choices weakens the credibility of any one church. A more positive view of pluralism sees it as a way for diverse religions to engage with one another
to build a common sense of community.
Attendance at religious services is declining overall in the United States, but the
number of people who profess to have religious or spiritual beliefs is holding
steady or rising.
Sacred canopy is Peter Berger's term to describe the entire set of religious norms,
symbols and beliefs that express the most important thing in life- namely the
feeling that life is worth living and reality is meaningful and ordered, not the
random chaos of the stars.
Evangelicals are members of any protestant denomination distinguished by four
main beliefs: the bible is without error, salvation come only through belief in Jesus
Christ, personal conversion is the only path to salvation and others must also be
converted. They proselytize by engaging with wider society
Fundamentalists are religious adherents who follow a scripture using a literal
interpretation of its meaning
At the micro level: is it a great big delusion?
Micro-sociologists look at religion in terms of its meaning and uses in people’s
Religious experience is an individual's experience of spiritual feelings and acts
Reflexive spirituality is a contemporary religious movement that encourages
followers to look to religion for meaning, wisdom, and profound thought and
feeling rather than for absolute truths on how the world works.
The power of religion: social movements
The mid-nineteenth century was a time of rapid growth in the United States and
the development of national, secular institutions did not always keep pace.
Religious organizations were also growing quickly and provided an important
infrastructure for the development of social movements such as the antislavery
and temperance campaigns.
Churches and church organizations also played a key role in the civil rights
movement through coalition building, fundraising, a