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Chapter 13

SOC101Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 13: Mainline Protestant, Church Attendance, Protestant Work Ethic


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC101Y1
Professor
Adam Green
Chapter
13

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SOCIOLOGY REVIEW
CHAPTER 13: RELIGION
INTRODUCTION:
In recent years, religion has received worldwide attention
Religion’s presence and importance is blatant in the conflict, terrorism, and peacemaking efforts
in the Middle East
The reality of religion is readily apparent in the tendency of the vast majority of people to
continue to identify with a religious tradition
Many early social scientists were convinced that religion’s days were numbered
Through the 1990s, the widespread consensus was that religion’s influence was declining and
people in most technologically advanced countries were leaving religion behind
We now know that such observers were wrong
Interest in religion and spirituality is actually on the upswing in many parts of the world,
including North America, Russia and Asia
Today, religion is frequently associated with conflict and division; also brings meaning,
sustenance and hope to billions
SOCIOLOGY AND RELIGION:
A basic rule of science is that what counts as real is what we can detect through our senses
(empirical knowledge)
Proponents of religion have asserted that the world we know through the sense is only part of a
greater reality that, because of the limitations of sense perception, can only be known through
faith
Science and religion are compatible

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Science limits itself to what is perceivable and religion maintains that reality includes the non-
perceivable
Conflict between the two should only arise when one oversteps its boundaries and invades the
other’s territory
Religion cannot overrule science in refuting basic evolutionary claims or dismissing sound
medical diagnoses
Science is limited to conclusions about the observable
Sociology consequently suffers from one methodological limitation in studying religion: it cannot
probe the supernatural claims that religion so often is about, but sociologists can offer
considerable insight
Whether or not religious ideas are true is not as important as the fact that they are believed to
be true
If we define things as real, they are real in their consequences
THEORETICAL TRADITIONS:
1. MARX:
- Believed that religion is a human creation
- “man makes religion; religion does not make man”
- It has been argued that we can resolve undesirable conditions by either changing them or
reinterpreting them
- According to him, religion constitutes as a response, resulting in people who are
economically and politically deprived redefining reality, rather than changing their
oppressive conditions
- Religious status is substituted for social status
- Marx maintained that those who hold power encourage religious belief among the masses
as a tool in the process of exploiting and subjugating them
- H.R Niebuhr said that religion helped African Americans to become better slaves
- Marx said that historically, society and religion were so intertwined that attacks on
feudalism were attacks on the church, while revolutionary social and political doctrines were
viewed as theological heresies
- Religion was an inadequate salve for a sick society; when the sickness was remedied, there
would be no need for the salve
2. DURKHEIM:
- Argued that religion’s origin is social
- People who live in a community share common sentiments = COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE
- when they gather, they have a feeling of being in the presence of something beyond
themselves that is experienced by each member, yet is greater than the sum of their
individual consciences
- the experience is so vivid that people called it “GOD”; the group is experiencing itself
- The experience is real, it’s just that it isn’t what those involved think it is
- Once people experience it, they designate related objects as sacred and others profane

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- Religious beliefs articulate the nature of the sacred and its symbols, and religious rites
provide guidelines as to how people should act in the presence of the sacred
- Because all groups feel the need to uphold and reaffirm their collective sentiments, people
come together as a CHURCH
- Religion creates and reinforces social solidarity
- Collective life is both the source and product of religion
- The dominant groups and forms of expression might change, but the social sources remain
- There will always be a place for religious explanations
- Science is fragmentary and incomplete, advancing too slowly and life cannot wait, so
religion will continue to have a “gap-filling” role
3. WEBER:
- Had little interest in the question of whether religion is true of false, but focused on how
religion is largely oriented toward this world
- Religious ideas and behaviour should frequently be evident in everyday conduct
- Examined the possibility that the moral tone that characterizes capitalism in the western
world (protestant ethic) can be traced back to the influence of the Protestant Reformation
- Took the position that ideas represent a person’s definition of reality and therefore have the
potential to influence behaviour
- Emphasized the need to interpret action by understanding the motives of the actor
- Weber embarked on comparative and historical studies of religion and its relationship to
social and economic life in China, India and Israel; he noted that god-conceptions are related
to the economic, social, and political conditions in which people live (Example: heavenly
gods that rule the celestial order have been related to the more abstract problems of death
and fate)
- The growth of monotheism is related to goals of political unification
- His approach is typical in contemporary studies of religion
THE NATURE OF RELIGION:
Many people use religion in a functional sense: what people most value becomes their religion;
but if everything is religion, then it is nothing
C. Glock and R. Stark pointed out that, in defining religion for social scientific purposes, we
should begin by recognizing that humans develop systems of meaning to interpret the world
Two perspectives:
1) HUMANIST PERSPECTIVES = concerned with making life meaningful; assume that life has
no ultimate meaning and therefore focus on giving it meaning
2) RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES = concerned with discovering life’s meaning; suggest that our
existence has meaning, preceding that which humans decide to give it
TYPES OF RELIGIOSITY:
A. PERSONAL
- = refers to the level of religious commitment characterizing an individual
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