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Chapter 16

SOCA02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 16: Religion In Canada

10 pages84 viewsWinter 2011

Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCA02H3
Professor
Malcolm Mac Kinnon
Chapter
16

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COMPASS
CHAPTER 16: RELIGION
RELIGION AND SOCIETY
Personal anecdote:
¾ Brym's friend has passed away, after he attends the funeral the question arises: "Why?"
¾ William James: Religion offers us immortality, hope, security of spirits who look over us;
provides meaning and purpose in a world that might otherwise seem cruel and senseless
¾ The content and intensity of our relig. Beliefs & form and frequency of relig. Practices are
influenced by the structure of society and our place in it
¾ Sociology questions: "Why does one religion predominate here, another there? Are we
becoming more or less religious?" etc. (It does not have anything to say about the truth, value or
practice of any religion)
¾ Participation in formal religious observance (ex. Mass, other worship services) is less frequent
than in the past
¾ In a survey (2000), 81% of adults and 71% of teenagers agreed with the statement "God or a
higher power cares about you"
¾ In Canada (1946), two out of three adults attended worship services every week-- in 2001 the
figure was just over one in five
¾ Other institutions such as medicine, psychiatry, criminal justice and education have grown in
importance as the scope of religious authority has declined
¾ Even though there is a decline, there are still many people involved in religious observance
¾ Growing evidence suggests that the level of participation in religious services and practices is
rising
THEORETICAL APPROACHES TO THE SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
Durkheim, Functionalism, and the Problem of Order
¾ The Stanley Cup playoffs generate a sense of what Durkheim would have called "collective
effervescence". It excites us by making us feel part of something larger than we are. Hockey
enthusiasts pause their everyday lives and experience intense enjoyment by sharing the
sentiments and values of a larger collective; banish thoughts of their own mortality and immerse
themselves in institutions that will outlast them
¾ Durkheim said that when people live together, they come to share common sentiments and
values
o Collective conscience: comprises the common sentiments and values that people share
as a result of living together (what people believe and value collectively)
o This causes us to distinguish the profane (secular, everyday world) from the religious,
transcendent world of the sacred (religious, transcendent world)
o Durkheim called objects that symbolize the sacred, totems
o Durkheim called public practices which connect people to the sacred, rituals
(Durkheim said that the function of rituals and religion as a whole is to reinforce social
solidarity)
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¾ An example supporting Durkheim's theory would be the suicide rates in Quebec from 1951 to
1992. The early ousting of the Montreal Canadiens from the Stanley Cup was associated with an
increased tendency for young men to commit suicide during the hockey series. Similarly, in the
U.S., the suicide rate dips during the two days preceeding the Super Bowl, on Super Bowl Sunday
itself, as well as the final day of the baseball World SeriesÎpatterns which are consistent with
Durkheim's theory of suicide: lower suicide rate when social solidarity increases, higher suicide
rate when social solidarity decreases (Could sports be regarded as sacred/a religion?)
µlZ]u[Z}Ç}(o]P]}v](µv]}vo]}ZZ}((insights into the role of
religion in society
Marx, Conflict, and Religion as a Prop for Inequality
}v(o]Z}]ZÀÁ}u]v]]]uP]vµlZ]u[Z}ÇX
1) /}ÀuZ]Ìo]P]}v[}o]vu]v]v]vP}]o}Z]}vX/vo]ÇUo]Pion often
increases social conflict
2) When religion does not increase social cohesion, it often reinforces social inequality (Durkheim
ignored this issue)
Marx: religion often tranquilizes the underprivileged into accepting their lot in life. Religion diminishes
class conflict; Zooo]P]}vU^Z}u}(Z}o_
À]v}(DÆ[]v]}vvÁv(}u]((vW
¾ ^dZ]ZuvZ]oUZ}}uvZ]PX'}uZuZ]PZ}o}ÁoÇv}
Z]_~Àlen from an Anglican hymnal- 1920)
¾ In Russian and other Slavic languages, the words for rich (bogati) and God (bog) have the same
root (may suggest that wealth is God-given, perhaps even that it makes the wealthy godlike)
¾ Civil religion: a set of quasi-religious beliefs and practices that bind a population together and
justify its way of life (ex. When we think of Canada as a land of opportunity, anyone can achieve
µPo}(UPv}UÁP]vPÀ}]}v[]À]oo]P]}vX
Paradoxically, our civil religion may divert attention from the many inequalities existing in
Canada
¾ dZhv]Z}(vZ]Pv]}v(o]Ço]vPZ^oo}vUPo}(
their sexual orientation, are welcome to become full members of the church and are eligible for
}]v]}vu]v]_
Religion can maintain social order under some circumstances (as Durkheim said), but when it does so, it
often reinforces social inequality (as Marx argued)(and under other circumstances, promote social
conflict)
Weber, Social Change, and Symbolic Interaction
Æ
Durkheim highlighted the way religion contributes to social order, Max Weber stressed the way
religion can contribute to social change
}}(t[PµuvW
^/(Z]}Ç]o]l]v, pushed along its tracks by economic and political interests, then religious ideas
o]l]o}Á]ZUu]v]vPÆoÇÁZ]ZlZ]vÁ]oo(}oo_
- Weber
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¾ t[]ooµ]}v}(Z]Z]](}µv]vZ]Z}}}lUThe Protestant Ethic and the
Spirit of Capitalism
¾ Like Marx, Weber was interested in explaining the rise of modern capitalism
¾ >]lDÆUtÁ}}PvZ^vuvo]u}v}(Z}v}u]
(}_]vZ]Æov]}v
¾ Weber was also determined to prove the one-sidedness of any exclusively economic
interpretation. He did so by offering what we would today call a symbolic interactionist
interpretation of religion (Focused on the worldly significance of the meanings people
attach to religious ideas)
¾ Weber said what prompted vigorous capitalist development in non-Catholic Europe and
North America was a combination of 1) Favourable economic conditions, such as those
discussed by Marx, and 2) the spread of certain moral values by the Protestant reformers of
the sixteenth century and their followers
¾ Followers of the Protestant theologian John Calvin stressed the need to engage in intense
worldly activity and to display industry, punctuality, and frugality in their everyday life. Men
like John Wesley and Benjamin Franklin had the view that people could reduce their
religious doubts and ensure a state of grace by working diligently and living simply. Many
Protestants took up this idea which Weber called the Protestant ethic
¾ Weber compared Protestant Western Europe and North America with India and China. In
t[À]ÁUW}v]uÁ}vµ}vZ(}µv]}v}(Á}o]ÀoÇ]}vo
relgions (Christianity and Judaism). Their followers abstained from magic and they engaged
in legalistic interpretation of the holy writ. In contrast, Weber sad that Buddhism in India
and Confucianism in China has strong magical and otherworldly components. This, in
t[À]ÁoÇÁ}oµ]v}u]]}vv]oµuµo]}v~ÁZÇ
capitalism developed slowly in Asia)
¾ Two problems confronted his argument
1) The correlation between Protestant ethic and the strength of capitalist development is
weaker than Weber though. In some places, Catholicism has coexisted with vigorous
capitalist growth and Protestantism with relative economic inactivity
2) t[(}oo}ÁZÀv}o]ZW}vZ]Z](µot]
(they have more of a one-sided explanation Weber warned against). Since the 1960s, the
economies of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore have grown quickly. Some
argue that Confucianism in East Asia acted much like Protestantism in 19th century Europe,
invigorating rapid economic growth by its strong work ethic. This argument ignores the fact
that Weber himself regarded Confucianism as a brake on economic growth on Asia ÆIt
downplays the economic and political forces that stimulated the economic development
Feminism and Religious Leadership
In general, religious doctrines reinforced patriarchy.
¾ Feminist criticism of gender discrimination has led many people, including many religious
individuals to challenge patriarchal religious doctrines and promote gender equality in positions
of religious leadership
¾ In Canada, the proportion of female clergy grew 61% from 1991 to 2001 (the proportion of
females who are attaining religious leadership positions is rising overall)
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