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Chapter 9

Religion chap 9.docx

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ANTH 1150
Marta Rohatynskyj

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Religion Chapter 9 • Anthony F. C. Wallace's definition of religion: "belief and ritual concerned with supernatural beings, powers and forces." • Many definitions of religion focus on groups of people who gather together regularly for worship. • The word religion derives from the latin religare - "to tie, to bind" • in studying religion cross-culturally, anthropologists pay attention to religion as a social phenomenon as well as to the meanings of religious doctrines, settings, acts and events. • Verbal manifestations of religious beliefs include prayers, chants, myths, texts, and statements about, including rules of, ethics and morality. • The anthropological study of religion also encompasses notions about purity and pollution, sacrifice, initiation, rites of passage, vision quests, pilgrimages, spirit possession, prophecy, study, devotion, and moral actions. • Religion is associated with social divisions within and between societies and nations. • Religion both unities and divides. • Many anthropologists argue that such categories such as religion, politics and the economy are arbitrary constructs that apply best, and perhaps only, to Western, Christian and modern societies. • Nonindustrial societies, religion typically is more embedded in society. • Religious beliefs may help regulate the economy or permeate politics. • Anthropologists agree that religion exists in all human societies' it is a cultural universal. • Expressions of Religion • Animism, the earliest form of religion, was a belief in spiritual beings. • Polytheism (the belief in multiple gods) and then monotheism (the belief in a single, all powerful deity) developed later. • Melanesians believed in mana, a sacred impersonal force existing in the universe. Mana an reside in people, animals, plants and objects. • Magic refers to supernatural techniques intended to accomplish specific aims. • These techniques include magical actions, offerings, spells, formulas, and incantations used with deities or with impersonal forces. • Magicians employ imitative magic to produce a desired effect by imitating it. • With contagious magic, whatever is done to an object is believed to affect a person who once had contact with it. • Religion helps people face death and endure life crises. • Magical techniques can dispel doubts that arise when outcomes are beyond human control. • Rituals are formal - stylized, repetitive, and stereotyped. • Rituals include liturgical orders - sequences of words and actions
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