SOC103H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 13: Rationality, Science Advances, American Civil Religion

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25 Mar 2013
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Chapter 13 Churches and Religion
- Most religions lay claim to an almost unassailable significance and validity
- Sociologists are concerned with
o How people act out their religious beliefs in everyday life
o How religious beliefs affect their interactions with others and with society
o How certain beliefs (and not others) are legitimized
o The rise and fall of religions
o The persistence of certain religions over centuries
o The effects of long-lived belief systems on other belief systems
- Religion is a social phenomenon
o Marx viewed religion as a form of socially organized self-deception and disguised exploitation
o Durkheim viewed religion as an opportunity for group celebration the means for social solidarity
o Weber viewed religion as a set of beliefs that give life meaning and purpose
“We are able to fully disenchant the world”
- Religion plays a central role in social life around the world despite the secularization of industrial and post-industrial societies
o Many people still turn to religion for comfort and guidance
o Some people create new religions and new religious movements
o Religion creates conflict, but also integrates people
- Religion is any system of beliefs about the supernatural, and the social groups that gather around these beliefs
o Secularization is the separation between religion and politics
o Economic growth accompanied the rationalization of society and accumulation of scientific knowledge
o Religion lost much of its social relevance in the West
o Many denied the claims of traditional sacred texts and gave up attending religious ceremonies
o Most people in the West are more autonomous because they no longer need the emotional support and communal
solidarity that religion offers
- According to Statistics Canada, 60% of the Canadian population consider themselves moderately or highly religious
o Although attendance at religious services has decreased, many people report worshipping in their own homes
o An increasing number of Canadians are turning to new religious movements (NRMs)
Groups and institutions comprising people who share similar religious or spiritual views about the world but
who are not part of mainstream religious institutions
Given up on the traditional religions and traditional ways of practicing
- According to Statistics Canada, 80% of all Canadians identify themselves as belonging to a Christian denomination
o Many Christians don’t want to share the public space with emblems derived from other religions
Ways of looking at RELIGION
- Functionalism
o Emile Durkheim
The role of religion in promoting social solidarity
Brings people together
Perpetuates social solidarity by continually reaffirming people’s shared values
The influence of religion would decline as scientific and technological thinking replaces religious thinking
- Critical theory
o Karl Marx
Religion as a form of social control and cause of conflict
Part of the dominant ideology of society
o A set of values that benefit the groups with the most power in society
Promotes the interests of society’s elites and subdues the masses
“Opiate of the masses”
o Makes the masses submissive, uncritical, and easily manipulated
Religion would lose its importance in the future
Workers in a communist society would mobilize around class concerns alone
Religion would have no place and cease to be a defining force in society
Marx’s prediction has proven incorrect
o Religion continues to be a relevant social phenomenon, cause conflicts between people and
societies, and exerts power over them
- Symbolic interactionism
o Max Weber
The subjective meaning and personal experience of religion
Allows people to understand both happiness and suffering in the world
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Provides a measure of hope, relief, and motivation
The way religion shapes people’s view of the world
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1958)
The connections between the rise of capitalism and the rise of Protestantism
Protestantism, especially strict Calvinism, supported the rise of capitalism in northwestern Europe
Classic studies: The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1968)
- Emile Durkheim
o To understand the universality of religion by understanding the rise of religion
o Totemism is the use of natural objects and animals to symbolize spirituality
Emblem (flag, cross, plant, cockroach) is a object that denotes and evokes a sense of collective loyalty
Serves as a symbol
Unites all the members of society with a common belief
Contributes to social solidarity
o Ritual activities or ceremonies (harvests, wars, marriages, births, deaths) are performed around the totemic objects
Reinforce group solidarity and shared group beliefs in the society
Provides an opportunity to escape profane life (everyday life) into a sacred plane of experience
o Religion expresses collective consciousness (the sum of people’s individual consciousnesses and a shared way of
understanding the world)
Many people still look for opportunities to share beliefs and celebrate this sharing
Many people still revere ritual objects and treat them with a degree of seriousness
o A diverse industrial society would need a form of humanism (a world view that lets people connect with one another
around their common humanity, and not around specific religious beliefs)
o Conclusions
Influence of traditional religion would decline as society modernized
Scientific thinking would replace religious thinking
Canadian society remains religious due to the continued immigration of traditionally religious people
- Definitional problems
o Religion is a difficult concept to define
Substantive definition (what religion is)
Examines the core elements of religion
Functional definition (what religion does)
Describes how religion provides a sense of connectedness between people
o Sociological theories of religion can contain both types of definition
Durkheim
Social life can be divided into sacred (religion) and profane (secular) parts
We lead most of our lives in a profane world of routine social objects
We try to shift to another way of life marked by special social objects on special occasions
o Substantive definition of religion
Drugs and alcohol have an ambiguous role in social life
Many religions use drugs (peyote, magic mushrooms) and alcohol to help people shift their consciousness
Catholic priests sip wine to represent Christ’s holy blood
Cranberry juice would not have the same meaning because it does not have the same sacred effect
o Religions vary widely in their enactment of the scared and the profane
E.g., Religions that see God as residing in all natural objects cannot easily split the sacred from the profane
o Consider the distinction between organized religion and spirituality
Organized religion is a set of social institutions (groups, buildings, resources)
Spirituality is a set of beliefs that may not be enacted with other people
E.g., People gathering together in churches is a characteristic of Christianity, but not Buddhism
Implications
Suggest that organized religion is more important than private, spiritual devotion
Suggest that professional religious hierarchies (priests, bishops) deserve special importance
o Seekers are people and groups who draw on the teachings of several religions and philosophies to fulfill their needs
for spirituality
- Religion in Canada today
o The Globe and Mail
The role of religion in social altruism
Canadians rank highly among people of the world in terms of giving to charity
People who give more to charity tend to be happier
Charity is widespread in Canada and makes Canadians happy
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Does not explain why some societies are more charitable than others
Does not explain why charitable people are more happy with life than others
Highly religious people tend to be happier
Does not connect charitable giving to religion
Most religions include charity as an important component of religious adherence
Science is concerned only with finding the laws of nature
o Science has no interest in charity or social justice
Religion is concerned with promoting ethical and charitable behaviour
o Statistics Canada
80% of Canadians identify themselves as belonging to a Christian denomination
Christianity remains the most common religion in Canada because Canadians tend to remain affiliated with
the religious background of their family
People are less likely to practice their religion with the same commitment and passion as their
grandparents or parents
Measure of religiosity in Canada
Church attendance
o Only one measure of religious participation
o Not an accurate measure of religiosity in Canada
33% go to church at least once a month
50% conduct their own private religious activities every month
21% carry out private religious practices, yet never attend religious services
Religiosity index (affiliation, attendance, personal activities, importance of religion)
o Recognizes the limitations of just using church attendance to measure religiosity
o More accurate measure of religiosity in Canada
40% have a low degree of religiosity
31% have a moderate degree of religiosity
29% have a high degree of religiosity
o Religiosity varies demographically
High degree of religiosity (older people, women, people with religious families)
o Religiosity becomes more harder to measure and generalize as religious diversity increases
Non-Christian religious groups are rising as more immigration occurs
41% of immigrants have a high degree of religiosity
26% of people born in Canada have a high degree of religiosity
Immigrants are more likely to engage in both private religious practices
and public religious services
Proportion of highly religious immigrants varies by the country they come from
High degree of religiosity (South Asia)
Low degree of religiosity (East Asia, western and northern Europe)
Canada’s religiosity increases as the number of immigrants from religious
countries increases
- Religion vs. science: The debate of the modern era
o Our society is often called a secular society (people are less religiously inclined)
People are less inclined to attend churches or think about the supernatural
We have no state religion
We believe in the value of religious multiculturalism
We try to practice inclusion across a wide range of belief systems
o Our society is characterized as being a rational-legal society (people are disenchanted about the natural world)
Disinclined to explain natural phenomena by invoking supernatural causes
Rely on scientific observation, reasoning, and evidence
o The science-religion rebate goes back to the Enlightenment centuries and continues into the 20th century
Darwin’s theory of evolution posed a significant challenge to the credibility of Christian belief
o Science is a cultural and social orientation toward the search for knowledge
Scientific revolutions that began in Europe about 500 years ago allowed for advances in technology
Based on empirical research
Robert Merton identified the norms of science
CUDO: communalism, universalism, disinterest, organized skepticism
o (1) Science advances by peer review, independent and unbiased research, public debate of findings, and application of
universal criteria of judgement
Science demands organized skepticism
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Document Summary

Most religions lay claim to an almost unassailable significance and validity. We are able to fully disenchant the world . Religion plays a central role in social life around the world despite the secularization of industrial and post-industrial societies: many people still turn to religion for comfort and guidance, religion creates conflict, but also integrates people. Some people create new religions and new religious movements. Groups and institutions comprising people who share similar religious or spiritual views about the world but who are not part of mainstream religious institutions. Given up on the traditional religions and traditional ways of practicing. According to statistics canada, 80% of all canadians identify themselves as belonging to a christian denomination: many christians don"t want to share the public space with emblems derived from other religions. The role of religion in promoting social solidarity. Perpetuates social solidarity by continually reaffirming people"s shared values.

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