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University of Toronto St. George
Robert Brym

Chapter 13: Weber and ideas:  Maintained that religion, in addition to having a supernatural component, is largely oriented toward this world  Unlike Marx and Durkheim, did not really concern with whether religion is true or false  Argued that ideas, regardless of whether they are objectively true or false, represent a person’ definition of reality and therefore have the potential to influence behavior  Verstehen – the need to interpret action by understanding the motives of the actor  researchers must place themselves in the roles of those being investigated  Need to examine culture’s influence on religion  Noted that god conceptions are strongly related to the economic, social, and political conditions in which people live  The growth of monotheism (belief in one god) is relates to goals in political unification The nature of religion :  Religion is concerned with discovering life’s meaning whereas humanist perspectives are concerned with making life meaningful Personal religiosity:  much of early research used one of three basic indicators to determine the religiosity of a person. All three assumed group involvement: identification, membership, and attendance  Stark and Glock (1968) suggested that the religions of the world typically expect their most devoted followers to hold key beliefs, engage in certain practices, have supernatural experiences, and be aware of the central tenets of their faith  dimensions of religiosity  It is not enough to know or to believe or practice or experience; all four are expected of the committed  Canadians exhibit relatively high levels of religious belief, practice, experience and knowledge  8 in 10 say they believe in god  Americans are more religious than Canadians  Samuel Reimer (2003): religious devotion among Canadians is more likely to be based on conviction Collective religiosity:  Personal religiosity is highly dependent on collective religiosity, or group support of some kind  Ideas are sustained by relationships  The Church-Sect Typology o There are numerically dominant groupings such as the Roman Catholic Church o Smaller groups have broken away from the dominant bodies o From this pattern of dominant groups and break away groups, sociologists developed an analytical scheme known as the church-sect typology  framework attempts to describe the central characteristics of these two types of organizations, as well as account for the origin and the development of sects o Weber distinguished between church and sect primarily on the basis of theology (churches emphasize works, sects stress faith) and relationship to society (for churches, accommodation; for sects, separation) o Initially a spinoff from an established church, a sect forms into a church itself  Organizational approaches o Rodney Stark: religious groups are seen as “firms” or “companies” competing for “market share” o Features of religious groups:  Membership:  Vast majority of those involved are following parental footsteps  Congregations usually compete with each other for members and staff  Define meeting places as important centers for social activity  An obvious point of tension involve maintaining integrity while providing products that attract customers  Goals  Goals commonly appear to be in conflict  How to satisfy he needs of the existing clientele while reaching out to new people who are not involved, yet have important needs themselves  Norms, Roles, and Sanctions  An examination of congregational roles reveals that most groups in Canada often have a human resource problem for 2 reasons  First, they are top-heavy with men and often inadequately tap the resources of women, a reality that has been variously met with acquiescence, resistance, and a major of change  Second problems is that groups rely on volunteers to carry out key roles – religious groups are fragile   Success  Researchers have tended to emphasize “the numerical bottom lines” of religious groups and to focus on such indicators of success as attendance, membership, and finances  The size of a groups is largely a function of birth and mortality factors The Canadian situation  In the 2001 census, 84 percent of Canadians indicated that they have a religious preference  Catholics compose of the biggest part of the population (45%)  In Quebec, regular attendance has continued to decline among people young and old  Yet monthly and weekly attendance increased between 2000-2005 The Sources of Religion  Individual differences in religion’s importance have called for an explanation of why some people are religious whereas others are not Individual-centered explanations:  Reflection o Desire to comprehend reality o While reflecting on the meaning of existence, people have commonly concluded that life has a “supernatural”, “trans empirical” dimension o Weber: religion is a product of an inner compulsion to understand the world as a meaningful cosmos and take a position towards it o Reflection in itself does not usually lead to religious commitment or involvement  Socialization o Sees religious commitment as the product of learning o Freud: religion is learned pretty much like the multiplication table o Durkheim: personal religiosity has social origins and, consequently will strongly reflect the social environment from which we come, beginning with our family o Religion is very much a learned phenomenon o Social pressures – more active in response to hopes of other people around you  Deprivation o The devout are drawn primarily from the ranks of society’s deprived or disadvantaged o Religion provides with compensation (Marx, Freud?) o Stark: 5 types of deprivation are predominant in the rise and development of religious and secular movements: economic, social, organismic, psychic, and ethical o Suicide bombing since 2001? Are the attacks driven by extreme deprivation? o However, suicide bombers usually come from working class or middle class backgrounds and are generally better educated Structure-centered explanations:  Suicide bombers hardly exist in isolation – the groups to which they belong in turn are committed to getting rid of occupying forces, overthrowing existing regimes in their own countries, or in the case of the group like Hamas obliterating Israel and creating an Islamic theocracy  Commitment is strongly influenced by the broader national, regional, and groups contexts in which people find themselves  Clark and Mann: argued that historically, the emergence of sect-like groups, such as indigenous Baptists and Pentecostal, In Canada was ties to the existence of unstable conditions, which were produced by such factors as immigration and economic depression  Social environments are important determinants of religious commitment and involvement  Secularization thesis: holds that religion as it has been traditionally known is continually declining, resulting in a loss of religious authority, societally and individually, as well as changes in religious organization themselves  Persistence thesis: the assertion that religion will continue to have a significant place in the modern world, because it has never actually declined or because people continue to have interests and needs that only religion can satisfy  Some religious groups will fail but others will always emerge  Full time employment is associated with a decline in attendance and the importance given to religion The Consequences of religion:  87% percent today maintain today that people should go to church not because they feel like they have to but because they find it to be worthwhile Personal consequences:  Milton Rokeach: people with formal religious affiliation are more anxious than others. Believers complain more often of working under great tension, sleeping fitfully, and similar symptoms  research does not prove this  Overall, Canadians who exhibit religious commitment are slightly more inclined than other to claim a high level of happiness, to find life exciting, and view death with no fear  Gee and Veevers: religious involvement and life satisfaction were positively related nationally, but not in BC  Not as important as such variables such as age, education, or employment in predicting personal well-being.  Religion is having an impact but not necessarily a unique impact Interpersonal consequences:  Kirkpatrick (1949): religiously committed people were somewhat less humanitarian in their outlook than others  Rokeach (1969): religious commitment was negatively related to social compassion  for Roman Catholics, no relationship existed  With few exceptions and with various degrees of explicitness, religious groups tend to oppose “moral innovation” (opposition to changing of sexual standards, abortion)  Protestants = most harsh , Quebec Catholics = most free  There is a consistent, positive relationship between holding clear-cut belief in God and endorsing interpersonal values that make for civility – traits like honesty and the like Societal consequences:  Religion adds to the quality of life in the country and sometimes subtracts  Pluralism – everyone has to respect one another and individual rights  Peter Berger: Durkheim’s assertion that religion functions
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