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Chapter 10

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SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

Chapter 10: Religion 10/25/2012 4:16:00 PM 1. Religious Belief Systems  Religion is defined as a set of organized beliefs about the supernatural or spiritual worlds and their associated ceremonies that guides people’s behaviours and joins people into communities of believers o Key component of religion is the concept of faith  Faith is a belief system based on conviction that does not require objective evidence to substantiate its claims o E.g. a person can have faith that God exists without first-hand evidence E.B. Tylor saw that cultures and religions naturally evolve from simple, primitive communities to modern, complex states over time.  Argued religion evolved through distinct stages o 1ststage referred to as animism  supernatural beings or spirits are believed to inhabit both living things and inanimate objects  conscious life to natural objects or phenomena ultimately results in the notion of a soul nd o 2 stage is polytheism  occurs when a society begins to recognize a series of independent supernatural beings or gods (belief in many gods)  in diffuse polytheism all gods are considered equals  in hierarchal polytheism gods are ranked in importance or power rd o 3 stage is monotheism  occurs when a religion identifies with a single, all-powerful, all- knowing god Sociologist often use the term civil religion or secular religion to describe a system in which sacred symbols are integrated into the broader society regardless of their individual religious affiliations.  Civil religion (or secular) exists when sacred symbols are integrated into the broader society regardless of their individual religious affiliations 2. Types of Religious Groups New Religious Movement  Began as what sociologists use to call a cult  New religious movement is an informal group without defined structure; generally emerges around authoritarian and charismatic leaders who suppress rational thought to isolate members from the larger society  Max Weber used term charisma to describe a personality attribute that sets some people apart because they are believed to possess exceptional powers or qualities that in some instances can be viewed as supernatural or superhuman o Charismatic leaders often develop a special bond of trust and love with followers that reinforces loyalty and obedience  Religious movements are closely associated with a charismatic leader; disband once leader dies Sect  A sect is a small religious body, with exclusive or voluntary membership, that is aloof from or hostile to the larger society  Usually emerges after the death of a founding member of a new religious movement  Weber described this process as the “routinization of charisma”  Joining is voluntary, formed often after a group breaks away from a larger religious group(a church) Church  A church is an institution that brings together a moral community of believers in formal worship and integrates itself within the larger secular world  Is long-standing and well-integrated part of society  Religious pluralism is a system in which many religions coexist and often compete with one another for members  When a church enters into a formal relationship with the state it is called eccelsia o Is the largest, most formal, and most powerful of all religious organizations o Membership is ascribed at birth and nearly universal within a society o E.g. catholic church in Italy, Islam in Iran, the Anglican Church of England  In a religiously pluralistic society, the term denomination refers to a socially accepted religious body that has bureaucratic characteristics similar to those of a church  Denomination represent subdivisions within the church and therefore more accurately reflect the diversity encompassed by any world religion o Neither promotes or opposes the status quo, but coexists with the larger society 3. World Religions  The classification Max Weber argued that the world’s major cultures and their religions could be classified according to how they view the world and people’s places in it  He proposed 3 main orientations o World of nature: animals, fish, plants, rivers o Other people: some of whom may be seen as subhumans, inferiors, slightly different, or equals o The body: the human body is not seen as just another part of nature, but instead as something “special”  Weber contrasted “Oriental” (eastern religions) with Occidental (Western) religions (pg 268) o found those emerging from Eastern cultures sought harmony with the natural world, other people and the human body (mysticism) o found Middle-Eastern cultures focus on mastery over the natural world, other people and the human body (asceticism)  Weber called the first orientation mysticism and the second orientation asceticism  Could be either inner-worldly or other-worldly o Inner-worldly is orientation that focuses on the tangible world and our own creature comforts and aspirations  Promote accumulation of wealth and support a system of social recognition; lawyers, politicians, merchants o Other-worldly is orientation that focuses on separation from the everyday world and finding spiritual enlightenment  Support a system of social recognition; monks, priests, scholars Christianity  Began approx 2000 years ago, Jesus was born in Bethlehem to Virgin Mary and her husband  Early years, constituted a new religious movement with beliefs deeply rooted in Judaism o became worlds largest religion, 2 billion adherents  followers believe that Jesus’ virgin birth and his resurrection after being crucified confirm his divine origin and his status as God’s only son o many believe by age 30 he was a dynamic teacher, and healer who was challenging presence of the political structure of the Roman Empire  Roman empire crucified him o Jesus 12 closest followers (apostles) were present on day he died  his crucifixion is primary reason why the cross is such an important religious symbol for Christians around world  all Christian groups believe that Jesus is the son of God, the messiah, who was crucified and resurrected from the dead and who will return as the salvation for the world Islam  Second largest and fastest-growing religion, over 1.5 billion adherents  Based on prophecy, prophethood and sacred text  Followers are called Muslims based on teachings of Prophet Muhammad  Believed that he was the most important of God’s prophets  Is not considered divine but, rather, as the greatest of all God’s messengers o Founded the first Islamic state; a theocracy in Medina o Theocracy is a form of government in which a god or other supernatural being is seen as the supreme civil ruler  Earthbound religious leaders in Islam are called imams  Following death of Muhammad, there was power struggle between Sunni and Shiite, over control of the empire o Sunni believe that only the heirs of the fourth caliph , Ali, are the legitimate successors of Muhammad o Shiite believed that they suffered a loss of divinely guided political leadership  Both fit the definition associated with denomination  All Muslims pray 5 times each day  5 pillars of Islam (pg.271) o Shahadah o Salat o Sawm o Zakat o Hajj Judaism  One of the oldest religions in the world, one of smallest (14.5mill)  Spiritual lineage to biblical Abraham  Was formed as part of divine revelation under guidance of Moses  Jewish people today view their moral guidelines and ritual obligations as a contract with God as defined at Mount Sinai  Believe in the first five books of the Hebrew bible, the Torah o Tells Messiah will eventually bring Jews to a promised land- a state of paradise  613 commandments, including The Ten Commandments God gave to Moses  divisions within Judaism are known as “movements”  today Judaism faces political and military pressure , as well as trying to come with assimilation Hinduism  Old, and third-largest of the worlds major religions  Does not have a single founder, theological system, single system of morality, or centralized bureaucratic structure  Believers seek spiritual and moral truth wherever it may be found o Each individual must find truth through his or her own effort  Is a polytheistic religion, has no single sacred text nor one autonomous and rigid belief system  Dharma: the moral responsibilities and guidelines that define an entire way of life  Samsara: reincarnation where the soul undergoes a series of births and deaths  Moksha: the state of spiritual perfection Buddhism  Grew out of Hinduism, has about 500 million proponents  Founded around 500 BCE by Siddhartha Gautama  Gautama left his luxurious palace and began a quest to discover how to stop human suffering and pain o Left his family, travelled, and sought wisdom o Experienced Nirvana from meditation under a fig tree known as the Bohdi Tree (tree of wisdom) o Became known as Buddha, the enlightened one  Believe every person experiences a process of birth and rebirth until he or she has reached the state of nirvana, in which this cycle and be broken  According to law of karma (belief in cause and effect in a person’s life; you reap what you sow) o “you are what you are and do what you do, as a result of what you were and did in a previous incarnation, which in turn was the inevitable outcome of what you were and did in still earlier incarnations”  for a Buddhist, what one will become in the next life depends on one’s action in this life  Buddhists believe that a person can break the cycle of rebirth no matter what class he or she is born into  Following a strict path of righteous living and focusing on meditation and proper conduct, and individual can achieve o Nirvana: the state of spiritual perfection Confucianism  Originated from writings of Chinese philosopher Confucius  Based on code of self-discipline and meditation designed to maintain proper relationships that enhance loyalty, respect, and morality  Two important virtues are o Jen: a benevolent and humanitarian attitude o Li: maintaining proper relationships and rituals that enhance the life of the individual, the family, and the state  Confucians hold that the individual is a socially embedded being and does not stand apart from, over, or against the larger community  Insisted on following the four virtues of sincerity, benevolence, filial piety, and propriety  Thrives in collectivistic societies which emphasizes meritocracy, hierarchy, harmony, and respect for authority and tradition Jehovah’s Witnesses  Based on a restorationist belief system founded in 1879 by Charles Taze Russell, a Pennsylvania businessman  Restoration belief systems assert that contemporary Christianity no longer reflects its foundational ideas  Jehovah’s Witnesses view themselves as the restoration of true Christianity  Believed second coming of Christ was to occur in 1914  Challenge the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity in that they believe that God (Jehovah) is the creator and Jesus is His first creation and His son, separate and not equal  Best known for their door to door witnessing campaigns Sikhism  Founded more than 500 years ago by Guru Nanak Dev  24 million proponents  followers are called Sikhs (discipline, or learner), whom follow a single, all- powerful God who has no gender or defined physical form  perception is not a physical one, but a manifestation of oneness with the universe  to find God, is not to search in remote places but instead remove one’s ego  Baptized Sikhs should carry five symbolic articles to demonstrate and confirm their faith: (known as the five Ks) o Kesh- uncut hair o Kanga- a comb o Kara- a steel bracelet o Kachera- an undergarment o Kirpan- a ceremonial sword  Sikhs believe that they should not impose their beliefs on others or entice members of other religions to convert o Require to defend the freedom to worship other religions jus as they would their own  Sikhs do not believe that followers of other religions are doomed in the eyes of God, regardless of their personal character and behaviour  Believe when a person dies, he or she is absorbed into the universal nature from which he or she came  Do not believe in heaven or hell as separate places that one attains in the afterlife o Heaven can be found when one is in tune with God when alive o The suffering and pain caused by failing to control one’s ego can considered hell on earth Fundamentalism (pg. 276)  Fundamentalism is not a belief system or religion but, instead, a movement suggesting that a return to past practises is necessary to confront the challenges that contemporary society faces  Is an anti-modern socio-cultural movement that is more reactionary then conservative  Focused on upholding traditions and maintaining the “true faith” as a defensive reaction to a perceived threat o E.g. moral breakdown of contemporary society  Do not accept functionalist view that adaptation is necessary in order to maintain religious integrity  Often linked to religious intolerance but not necessarily to using violence to achieve goals Agnosticism and Atheism  Roughly 1 billion people have no formal religion meaning that they are agonists or atheists  Agonistic: is someone who thinks it is impossible to know whether gods exist but who does not deny the possibility  Atheist: is someone who denies the existence of any supernatural beings or forces  This movement challenges religious beliefs as a misguided attempt to find purpose and meaning in our loves o Believe that the world and our position within it can be understood without looking to supernatural forces or beings 4.Religion in Canada (pg 278)  one of the most religiously pluralistic societies in the world o 7 of every 10 Canadians seeing themselves as either Roman Catholic or Protestant o protestants use to account for well over half of the total population (56%), compared to 42 Roman Catholic o groups of immigrants were reason for decline in protestants, Catholic ranks began to grow o main reason for decline of both Protestantism and Catholicism is immigration 5. Theoretical Insights into Religion Functionalism (282)  All religions originate in society, which creates religion by separating the world into the profane and the sacred o Profane: elements of the everyday world that do not inspire or motivate o Sacred: things or activities that are set apart, ritualized, and at times inspire emotional reactions  Sacred objects can become what Durkheim is called a totem (An object that has special significance and meaning for a group of believers)  According to Durkheim, the sacred originates within members of society who collectively assign special meanings to certain objects or rituals  Religion is a extension of society and functions to join members of the group according to shared meanings and world views (collective conscience) o Collective conscience created religion as the expression of an all- encompassing representation of collective morality  Durkhiem also believed that religion was a strong source of social power that could inspire collective action o When people feel caught up in a heightened sense action and join together for a common purpose (collective effervescence)  Expressed when a social group achieves a new and dynamic expression of the group’s will and can motivate rapid changes in social structure  Functionalists perceive that a group of people gathered together around a common belief system serves an important purpose  Perceive many other functions of religion within a society o Religion joins people into communities of believers that promote social stability and a sense of belonging o Religion provides with a social identity o Religion provides social control through the establishment of moral standards of behaviour o Religion provides people with a sense of purpose and brings meaning to their lives o Religion provides a social service function Conflict Theory  Grounded by three primary assumptions o Religion is socially constructed and built upon economic relationships o Religion diminishes feelings of frustration resulting form the forces of alienation o Religion is used by the social, political, and economic elite to control the workers  Marx viewed religion as a form of social control that dulls the pain of oppression for the proletariat and prevents members form seeing the world as it truly exists  Believes one of primary ways bourgeoisie ensures proletariat maintains a state of false consciousness, a misunderstanding of one’s true social condition and true social self o Religion is an illusion that makes proletariats pain of oppression bearable , keeps them submissive o Remain malleable out of fear of going to hell if they challenge rich or church  first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion  religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless condition. It is the opium of the people  Marx perceived that religion is an ideological expression of the contradictions and tensions present in human relations o Studying it uncovers the problems at the root of social relations  Weber argues religion can be the inspiration behind great social change o Predestination: the doctrine that God alone chooses who is saved) o Calling: one’s work, believed to be an expression of God’s will, particularly if that work brings financial success  Argued some contemporary religious movements actually challenge the rich and powerful by advocating income redistribution in society o Liberation theology: a movement by religious fundamentalists who advocate a literal interpretation of the Bible to promote greater social equality  Argued sense of community that some people find in religion is a positive force, inspiring many to help the less fortunate and to participate in political movements Symbolic Interactionism  view religion as an important source of rituals and symbols that help to define people’s perceptions of their social world  Rituals bond group of believers into a moral community by o Ritual as remembering o Ritual as social bonding o Ritual as regulating moral behaviour o Ritual as empowerment  Religious Indoctrination and Identity (pg 285) Feminist Theory  Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) o Made the woman’s Bible, correcting biblical interpretation biased against women. Feminists argue that religion is written by men and constitutes a clear patriarchal culture, which is why, in virtually all religions, women have lower status than men. Post-Structuralist Theory (pg 287)  Post-modern theorists emphasize on
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