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Chapter 19

SOC101Y1 Chapter 19: Week 19 Reading: Religion

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University of Toronto St. George
Christian O.Caron

Historically, history offered: - Answers to most of life’s questions - Imbued every aspect of human social life with meaning (birth, death, rites of passage) - Religious beliefs so common that most societies had no word for religion What is Religion? - Substantive definitions 1. To be religious is to “believe” in something 2. To be religious entails actions 3. To be religious involves emotions 4. Religion is a social phenomenon - Functional definitions 1. Provides meaning and purpose to life 2. Promotes social cohesion and a sense of belonging 3. Provides social control - Durkheim Functionalism - Religion: as a system of beliefs, symbols, rituals, based on some sacred or supernatural realm, that guide human behaviour, and gives meaning to life, and unites believers into a community - Beliefs vary in content and intensity, articulate the nature of the sacred and its symbols - Practices vary in form and frequency, provide guidelines as how people should act in the presence of the sacred - Creates and reinforces social solidarity - Origin is social - People from community come to share common sentiments that form collective conscience - Collective Conscience: the awareness that a group is more than the sum of its individual members and the belief that such awareness is experienced as the supernatural - Leads people to designate some object as scared and others as profane - Criticism - Overemphasizes religion’s role in maintaining social cohesion - Downplays religion’s dysfunctions as strongly held beliefs can create social conflict - Increase social cohesion, reinforces social inequality - Marx Conflict - Religion is human creation, “the opium of the people” as it soothes the disadvantaged by minimizing the importance of “this world” - Encourages people to accept existing social inequalities - Unites people under “false consciousness”, thinking they have common interest with members of the dominant class - Teach that the existing social arrangement of society represents what God desires - Ancient rulers declared their rule was legitimated by god - Conflict between religious groups (wars) - Conflict within religious groups - Conflict between a religious group and the larger society - Criticism - Religion can promote change towards equality - Abolish slavery, civil rights movements - Sense of community is a positive force - Some contemporary religious movements challenge the rich and powerful, advocating for income redistribution - Weber - Religion is oriented toward this world, evident in everyday conduct
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