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Chapter 13

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Chapter 13 Churches and Religion Chapter Summary Despite the increasing secularization of Canadian society, religion continues to be one of its most significant social institutions. Religion explains the unexplainable; it brings aid and comfort to adherents; it brings people together—and it also tears people apart. Sociologists have long had an interest in studying religion and its relationship with social forces; not surprisingly, early sociologists such as Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Max Weber have differed in their views of religion and the role it plays in society. Emile Durkheim noted that religion promotes social solidarity and social cohesion; it unites people through shared symbolism, values, and norms. Karl Marx, on the other hand, viewed religion as a form of social control that supports social inequality. Max Weber focused on the subjective meaning and personal experience of religion. He viewed religion as a way of making sense of a seemingly indifferent universe. He also noted that religious doctrines shape people’s world views, and in turn, their world views shape their secular behaviour. While religion may have lost much of its social relevance, the majority of Canadians consider themselves either moderately or highly religious. In our multicultural society, religion is increasingly becoming diverse. While Christianity is still the dominant religion in Canada, immigration from non-Christian countries is growing. New religious movements are also altering the religious landscape. This chapter shows that religion may be changing, but it is not becoming obsolete. Learning Objectives In this chapter, you will • define religion as a social phenomenon; • recognize the role of religion today and the characteristics that define a religion; • identify the trends of religious participation in Canada today; • evaluate the contributions of religion to social well-being; and, • understand how religion can both include and exclude others in civic relationships. Key Terms church: Any social location or building—church, mosque, synagogue, or temple—where people carry out religious rituals. 2 civil religion: An organized secular practice that serves many of the same social functions as traditional religion, by giving people direction, explaining how the world works, and providing solidarity. 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. religion: Any system of beliefs about the supernatural, and the social groups that gather around these beliefs. secularization: A steadily dwindling influence of formal (institutional) religion in public life. seekers: People and groups who draw on the teachings of several religions and philosophies to fulfill their needs for spirituality. Recommended Readings Beaman, L. G., & Beyer, P. (eds.) (2008). Religion and Diversity in Canada. Leiden; Boston: Brill. The essays that make up this book explore the many diversities of religion in Canada today, including the many different religions that come from cultures around the world and the different ways people have adopted a variety of religious practices into their everyday lives. Bibby, R. W. (2002). Restless Gods: The Renaissance of Religion in Canada. Toronto: Stoddart. In this work, well-known Canadian sociologist Bibby asserts that organized religion is increasing its influence in Canada, rather than decreasing it. He presents statistical data to support his argument and offers a guideline for mainstream Christian religious leaders to promote their spiritual causes. Choquette, R. (2004). Canada’s Religions: An Historical Introduction. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. This book is about the history and diversity of religion in Canada and the persistent influence of religion in modern society. It also examines the connection between religion and other social institutions, including communities, the educational system, workplaces, and politics, essentially placing religion within a social context. 3 Dawson, L. L. (2006). Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Religious Movements, 2nd ed. Don Mills, ON; New York: Oxford University Press. This is a comprehensive introduction to new religious movements, also known as cults, viewed as social phenomena. Dawson summarizes major theories of cult formation, examines the type of people that are most likely to join cults, and discusses various issues surrounding cults, such as social stigma. Durkheim, E. (1968 [1912]). Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (Joseph Ward Swain, trans. London: Allen and Unwin. This is a classic work in the sociology of religion, and is the last major work published by Durkheim. It is a case study of Australian Aboriginals, whose culture Durkheim believed exemplified rudimentary forms of religious practice. McGuire, M. B. (2005). Lived Religion: Faith and Practice in Everyday Life. New York: Oxford University Press. This book considers religion in contemporary society, complete with some of the diverse religious practices evident there. It argues that people today do not necessarily commit themselves to one form of organized religion but instead often find spiritual fulfillment in a mélange of religious practices. This book is useful in orienting researchers to understand religious behaviour in a new way. Palmer, S. (2004). Aliens Adored: Rael’s UFO Religion. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. This book provides an analysis of the Raelian religion, led by Claude Vorilhon. The result of 15 years of fieldwork with the Raelians, the book draws information from interviews with the leader and members, observing meetings, and witnessing rituals and religious practices. Recommended Websites Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter Wonder Café www.wondercafe.ca Thank God for Evolution! http://thankgodforevolution.com 4 Info-Secte/Cult http://infosect.freeshell.org Multiple Choice Questions 1. Which of the following is not a reason that sociologists study religion? a) They are interested in how people act out their religious beliefs in everyday life. b) They are concerned with how certain beliefs are legitimized while others are not. c) They are interested in the persistence of certain religions over centuries. d) They are interested in whether God exists. 2. __________ refers to any system of beliefs about the supernatural, and the social groups that gather around these beliefs. a) Spirituality b) Totemism c) Religion d) Organized religion 3. Groups and institutions comprising people who share similar religious or spiritual views about the world but who are not part of mainstream religious institutions are known as a) cults. b) new religious movements. c) sects. d) denominations. 4. According to Statistics Canada, close to _____ percent of all Canadians identify themselves as belonging to a Christian denomination. a) 50 b) 65 c) 80 d) 90 5. Which of the following statements is not an argument made by Émile Durkheim about religion? a) Religion is a cultural universal. b) Religion promotes social solidarity. 5 c) Religion promotes social cohesion. d) Religion fosters social conflict. 6. The __________ perspective views religion largely as a form of social control and a cause of conflict. a) critical b) functionalist c) symbolic interactionist d) feminist 7. Karl Marx believed that religion a) promotes social solidarity. b) promotes social inequality. c) promotes social cohesion. d) none of the above 8. __________ focused on the subjective meaning and personal experience of religion. a) Max Weber b) George Herbert Mead c) Émile Durkheim d) Robert Bellah 9. The use of natural objects and animals to symbolize spirituality is known as a) animism. b) totemism. c) supernaturalism. d) voodoo. 10. According to Émile Durkheim, the __________ refers to everyday secular l
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