Chapter 5: Belief and Religious Ideology
What is religion?
Religion are beliefs to supernatural beings
Atheist do not have a religion, the remain neutral
Sir Edward Tylor wrote that magic, religion, and science are alike
o He considered science to be most superior out of the three
James Frazer defined magic as something that people attempt to compel supernatural
forces and beings that act a certain way.
Frazer broken down magic into 2 sub-divisions:
o The law of similarity
When two things share a common similarity. Ex. voodoo doll. If a person
resembles the voodoo doll, then what’s done to the voodoo doll would
be done the same to the resembling person
o The law of contagion
Are things that once had contact with that person, those possessions can
still have an affect on that individual even if they don’t have it anymore.
In cultures, people are careful on how the dispose their wastes
Ex. Hair trimming, nail clipping, teeth, blood, saliva etc.
Religious beliefs are shared by groups of people and are passed down to generations.
Elders teach kids about religion through songs, pictures, stories etc.
o Ex. Buddhism, Christianity etc.
Beliefs can be split into two main points
Stories about supernatural beings or forces
Oral tradition, and many are unwritten myths
Statements about religious beliefs
Defines how the world came to be (Big bang theory), supernatural
(religion) and peoples relation between others and supernatural
Deals with large-scale religion such as Christianity, not “folk” religion
Ex. A new doctrine is introduced to the Catholic Church by many
Why do myth exist?
o Bronislaw Malinowski answered, myth exist to express beliefs and teach
Chapter 5: Belief and Religious Ideology 1 o Claude Lévi-Strauss answered; myth helps in a philosophical and psychological
ways. It involves with helping people deal with contradictions such as life and
death, good and evil by providing stories
o Cultural materialist answered, myths helps people by giving information based
on types of living (hunger, food storage, etc.) and how to manage economic crisis
Supernaturals can be known as all powerful creators such as God or spirits
Animatism are beliefs that supernaturals that is created as a impersonal power
Zoomorphic are beliefs that a God or Goddess are in the form of a animal
o Ex. Hinduism how they think the cow is sacred
Anthropomorphic are beliefs that the supernatural are in the form of humans. Some
cultures view dead ancestors as supernaturals, so we pray to them
o Ex. How we have picture of our great grandfather. **Think about how we pray to
him** (Burning money, making the food and having them eat “first”)
Many religion have many scared spaces such as rock formations or rivers are either
marked or unmarked permanently. Aboriginal people are closely tied to sacred spaces
o Rock formations that are often unmarked resembles humans, animals, or birds
Rituals are practices that are focused towards supernatural realm. It can broken into
o Sacred rituals
Rituals that are related to beliefs stated in myth and doctrine
Ex. Christian communions
o Secular rituals
Rituals that have no relation to the supernatural realm
o Are rituals performed annually to commemorate an important date
Ex. Christmas Day, to remember the birth of Jesus
o Are rituals performed randomly
Ex. Birth, marriage, death
Life-cycle ritual or rite of passage
o Ritual performed to change a persons status in society
Three stages of rite of passage are:
Separated from society
Chapter 5: Belief and Religious Ideology 2 o Transition
Undergoing the ritual to transition into the next phase of their life
Goes back into society with a new status
Pilgrimage is travels to sacred places with respect to religious devotion or ritual. It
transforms individuals and for people who has gone on pilgrimage often:
o Gains higher public status
o Spiritual benefits
Ritual of inversion is when social roles and relations are temporarily reversed. This ritual
relives social pressure and maintains social order. When the ritual is over, peoples
everyday roles are back to normal
o Example of ritual of inversion is Carnival. Carnival allows people take roles that
are normally not assigned to them in society. Men do women things and vice-
Sacrifice involves offerings to something to the supernatural. This can include, killing
and offering animals, offering fruits, vegetables, grains etc.
Shaman is a religious specialist that has direct relationships to the supernatural.
o This role is opened to anyone
o More involved in nonperiodic rituals
Priest/Priestess (not relating to the catholic priest) is someone that promotes
development of religion.
o Are full-time religious specialists
o Role is inherit or passed down from previous priest in the lineage
o Performs wider-range of rituals such as periodic rituals
Other religious specialists are:
o Diviners are ones that knows the will and wishes of the supernatural
o Prophets are those that represents the will of the supernatural through visions
and dreams (American Dad, Steve became the prophet)
o Witches affects people through emotions and thought by using psychic powers