Chapter 16 pp 411-18
Theoretical Approaches to the Sociology of Religion
Durkheim’s Functionalist Approach
Hockey is Canada’s “national religion” with 80% of people tuning in the
hockey game between Canada and U.S. at the 2010 Vancouver Winter
Stanley Cup Playoffs generate Durkheim’s collective effervesce - excites us by
making us feel part of something larger the spirit of Canada gain a
glimpse of eternity as we immerse ourselves in institutions
o Collectiveconscience – comprises the common sentiments and values
that people share as a result of living together.
We experience it directly causes us to distinguish the
profane – refers to the secular, everyday world from the sacred
– refers to the religious, transcendent world.
o We label totems – objects that symbolize the sacred
o We invent rituals – public practices designed to connect people to the
sacred reinforce social solidarity
Losing city’s hockey team causing men commit suicide during the hockey
series Durkheim’s theory of suicide = predicts a lower suicide rate when
social solidarity increases
o Totems are the Stanley Cup and team insignia – represent groups we
o Trophy signifies the qualities that professional hockey stands for
o Hockey games are public rituals enacted according to rules and
conventions. We reenact these rituals and we get a sense of belonging
to certain groups, respect for institutions and belief in ideas. These
groups, institutions and ideas all transcend us.
o Stanley cup is a “sacred event”
Religion, Feminist Theory, and Conflict Theory
Durkheim’s theory of religion is a functionalist account.
o Insights into the role of religion in society:
1. It over emphasizes religion’s role in maintaining social
cohesion REALITY: religion incites social conflict
2. Ignores that when religion does increase social cohesion
reinforces social inequality. Religion and Social Inequality
Social conditions rise to the first world religions Judaism and Hinduism,
3800 to 400 years ago
Impulse to find a better world is encouraged by adversity rise of
Buddhism, Christianity and Islam between 2700 and 1500 years ago.
Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha promoted equality and freedom
Over time routinization of charisma – Weber’s term for the transformation
of divine enlightenment into a permanent feature of everyday life.
o Religion inspiration turned to stable social institution with defined
roles religion less responsive to the needs of ordinary people and
supports social inequalities and injustices.
Religion and the Subordination
Marx stressed how religion tranquillizes the underprivileged into accepting
their lot in life. Religion is “the opium of the people.”
Marx’s interpretation of the subordination of women:
o New Testament women should be kept silent in churches,
o Siddur (Jewish) prayer Thank you Lord who did not make