Sociology: Theories of Religion

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substantive definitions

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1

substantive definitions

focus on the content or substance of religious belief, such as belief in God or the supernatural

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2

disadvantages of substantive definitions

leaves no room for beliefs and practices that perform similar functions to religion but do not involve a belief in God, Western bias

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3

functional definitions

Define religion in terms of the social or psychological functions it performs for individuals or society

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4

advantages of functional definitions

inclusive - allowing us to include a wide range of beliefs and practices that perform functions such as integration, non-Western bias

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5

disadvantages of functional definitions

just because an institution helps integrate individuals into groups, does not make it a religion, such as football matches

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6

constructionist definitions

focuses on how members of society themselves define religion

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7

why are substantive definitions exclusive?

the draw a clear line between religious and non-religious beliefs. To be a religion a set of beliefs must include a belief in God or the supernatural

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8

advantages of constructionist’s approach

approach allows them to get close to the meanings of people themselves give to religion

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9

disadvantages of constructionist’s approach

impossible to generalise about the nature of religion, since people may have widely differing views

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10

Max Weber (1905) - Definition of religion

defines religion as belief in a superior or supernatural power that is above nature and cannot be explained scientifically

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11

Émile Durkheim (1915)

defines religion in terms of the contribution it makes to social integration

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12

Milton Yinger (1970)

identifies functions that religion performs for individuals, such as answering the meaning of life

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13

Alan Aldridge (2013)

For its followers, Scientology is a religion, whereas several governments have denied it legal status as a religion and sought to ban it. Shows that definitions of religion can be contested and are influences by those in power

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14

Who came up with ‘the sacred and the profane’ ?

Émile Durkheim (1915; 1962)

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15

Durkheim - sacred

things set apart and forbidden, that inspire fear, awe and wonder, and are surrounded by taboos and prohibitions

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16

Durkheim - profane

things that have no special significance - things that are ordinary and mundane

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17

Durkheim - What do sacred things represent?

they are symbols representing something of great power

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18

What did Durkheim belief the sacred represented

Society, since it is the only thing powerful enough to command such feelings

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19

When people worship sacred symbols what did Durkheim believe they were worshipping?

Society

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20

Durkheim - What function do sacred symbols perform

Uniting beliefs into a single moral community

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21

What society did Durkheim study to support his totemism thoery?

Arunta, an Aboriginal Australian tribe with a clan system

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22

How did Arunta society function according to Durkheim

Clans consist of bands of kin who come together periodically to perform rituals involving worship of a sacred totem. This totem is their emblem that symbolises the clan’s origins and indentity.

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23

What did the Arunta clan’s worshipping of their totem reinforce?

The group’s solidarity and sense of belonging

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24

What are the Arunta clan’s actually worshipping when worshipping their totem

Society, although they are not aware.

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25

Why does the totem inspire awe in the Arunta clan members?

it represents the power of the group on which the individual is ‘utterly dependent’

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26

Who coined the term ‘collective conscience’

Émile Durkheim

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27

collective conscience

shared norms, values, beliefs and knowledge that make social life and cooperiation between individuals possible

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28

Durkheim - How do regular shared religious rituals reinforce the collective consicence and social intergration?

Participating in shared rituals binds individuals together, reminding them that they are part of a single moral community to which they owe their loyalty to. They also remind individuals of the power of the society

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29

Durkheim - In what way does religion perform an important function for the individual

Making us feel part of something greater than ourselves, religion reinvigorates and strengthens us to face life’s trials

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30

What book did Durkheim and Mauss write that was published in 1903

Primitive Classification

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31

What did Durkheim and Mauss argue that religion provides in Primitive Classification

Basic categories such as, space and time. Similiarily, the division of tribes into clans gives humans their first notion of classification. For Durkheim and Mauss religion is the origin of human though, reason and science

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32

Criticism of Totemism - Worsley (1956) - sacred and profane

There is no sharp division between the sacred and the profane, clans share the same totems and this does not prove that he has discovered the essence of all religion.

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33

Criticism of Totemism - Worsley (1956) What may Durkheim’s theory apply better to

small-scale societies with a single religion. It is harder to apply to a large-scale societies where two or more religious communities may be in conflict.

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34

Criticism of Totemism - Worsley (1956) What may Durkheim’s theory explain

the societal intergration within communities, but not the conflicts between them

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35

Criticism of Totemism - Stjepan Mestrovic (2011)

Durkheim’s ideas cannot be applied to contemporary society, increasing diversity has fragmented the collective conscience, there is no longer a single shared value system for religion to reinforce

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36

How does religion promote solidarity according to Bronislaw Malinowski (1954)

By performing psychologyical functions for individuals, helping them cope with emotional stress that would undermine social solidarity

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37

What group did Malinowski study in 1954

Trobrian Islanders of the Western Pacific

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38

What two types of Trobrian Islanders’ fishing did Malinowski study?

Lagoon Fishing and Ocean Fishing

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39

Malinowski (1954) - Lagoon Fishing

Safe and uses the predictable and succeseful method of poisoning. When the islanders fish in the lagoon, there is no ritual

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40

Malinowski (1954) - Ocean Fishing

Dangerous and uncertain, always accompanied by ‘canoe magic’ - ritual to ensure safety and successful expedition

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41

Malinowski (1954) - What does the ‘canoe magic’ give the Trobrian Islanders?

A sense of control, which eases tension, gives them confidence to undertake hazardous tasks and reinforces group solidarity

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42

What does Malinowski see religious rituals serving as?

‘god of the gaps’ - fills the gaps in human beings’ control over the world, such as not being able to control the outcome of a fishing trip

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43

What events did Malinowski believe marked major and disruptive changes in social groups?

Birth, puberty, marriage and especially death

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44

Malinowski (1954) - How does religion help to minimise disruption whem major events occur?

for example, funeral rituals reinforce a feeling of solidarity among the survivors, while the notion of immortality gives comfort to the bereaved by denying the fact of death.

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45

Malinowski (1954) - What is the main reason for the existence of religious belief

Death

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46

Talcott Parsons (1967) - two essential functions that religion performs in modern society

Creates and legitimates society’s central values, is the primary source of meaning

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47

Talcott Parsons (1967) - how has religion created and legitimatised society’s basic norms and values?

By sacralasing them (making them sacred)

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48

Parsons (1967) - Protestantism in the USA

Sacralised the core American values of individualism, meritocracy, and self-discipline. This serves to promote value consensus and thus social stability

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49

Parsons (1967) - How does religion provide a source of meaning?

answers ‘ultimate’ questions about the human condition, such as why the good suffer and why some die young. These events defy our sense of justice and make life appear meaningless, which may undermine our commitment to society’s values

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50

Parsons (1967) - How does religion provide answers to ‘ultimate’ questions and what does this achieve?

By explaining suffering as a test of faith that will be rewarded in heaven. By doing so, religion enables people to adjust to adverse events or circumstances and helps maintain stability

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51

Who believed that religion provides a source of meaning and creates and legitimates society’s central values?

Talcott Parons (1967)

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52

Who is interested in how religion unifies society, especially a multi-faith one like USA

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013)

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53

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013) - What unifies American society?

An overarching civl religion

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54

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013) - What is a civil religion?

A belief system that attaches sacred qualities to society itself, in the American case, civil religion is a faith in Americanism.

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55

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013) - How does civil religion differ to different churches and denominations

It intergrates society in a way that they cannot. Civil religion can claim the loyalty of all Americans whilst different churches cannot.

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56

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013) - What does American civil religion involve?

loyalty to nation-state and a belief in God, both of which are equated with being a true American

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57

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013) - How is American civil religion expressed

Through various ritual, symbols and beliefs: Pledge of allegiance to the flag, national anthem, the Lincoln Memorial, phrases such as ‘One nation under God’

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58

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013) - How can American civil religion unite different ethnic and religious backgrounds?

Rather than being a Catholic, Protestant or Jewish God, civil religion creates an ‘American’ God and sacralises the American way fo life

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59

Who coined the term ‘civil religion’

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013)

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60

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013) - What are functional alternatives to religion

non-religious practices that perform functions similar to those of organised religion, such as reinforcing shared values or maintaining social cohesion

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61

Robert Bellah (1991; 2013) - what is an example of functional alternative to religion

Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had secular politcal beliefs and rituals around which they sought to unite society

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62

Disadvantage of functional alternatives

Same as functional definition, it ignores what makes religion distinctive and different - namely, its belief in the supernatural

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63

disadvantages of functionalism - negative aspects

it emphasises the social nature of religion and the positive functions it performs, neglecting the negative aspects, such as religion as a source of oppression of the poor or women

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64

disadvantages of functionalism - division

ignores religion as source of division and conflict, especially in complex modern, multi-religious societies - e.g. Northern Ireland where it is hard to see how it can unite and promote integration

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65

disadvantages of functionalism - civil religion

is civil religion really a religion - especially if it is not based on belief in the supernatural?

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66

How do marxists view society?

divided into two classes, the bourgeoisie which exploits the labour of the proletariat

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67

What did Marx predict would happen?

Marx predicted that the proletariat would ultimately become conscious of their exploitation and unite to overthrow exploitation

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68

What would the overthrowing of the bourgeoisie bring about?

A classless society in which there would no longer be exploitation

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69

How do marxists view religion

as a feature of class-divided society. As such, there will be no need for religion in classless society and it will disappear

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70

What did marx think about idealogy?

he thought it was a belief system that distorts people’s perception of reality in ways that serve the ineterests of the ruling class

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71

What do the bourgeoisie control?

Economic production and the production and distribution of ideas in society

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72

How do the bourgeoisie produce and distribute ideas in society

Through institutions such as the church, the education system and the media

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73

How does religion operate in Marx’s view?

it operates as an ideological weapon used by the bourgeoisie to legitimate the suffering of the proletariat as something inevitable and god-given

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74

Marx - How does religion mislead the proletariat?

misleads the proletariat into believing that their suffering is virtuous and that they will be favoured in the afterlife

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75

Quote from Matthew 19:24

‘it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven

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76

Marx - false consciousness

a distorded view of reality that prevents the poor from acting to change their situation

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77

How did Lenin (1870-1924) describe religion?

‘spiritual gin’ an intoxicant doled out to the masses by the ruling class to confuse them and keep them in their place

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78

How did Lenin think the ruling class used religion

cynically to manipulate the masses and keep them from attempting to overthrow the ruling class by creating a ‘mystical fog’ that obscures reality

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79

Example of religion legitimising the power and privelage of the dominant class

16th century idea of the Divine Right of Kings by making king’s position appear to ebe divinely ordained

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80

Divine Right of Kings

16th century idea that the king is God’s representative on earth and i s owed total obedience. Disobedience is not just illegal, but a sinful challenge to God’s authority

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81

Alienation

involves becoming separated from or losing control over something that one has produce or created

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82

Marx - Alienation under capitalism

workers are alienated because they do not own what they produce and have no control over the production process and thus no freedom to express their nature as creative beings

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83

Marx - Alienation at its peak

detailed division of labour in the capitalist factory, where the worker endlessly repeats the same minute task, devoid of all meaning or skill

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84

Marx - How does alienation under capitalism lead to the pursuit of religion?

In such dehumanising, alienated conditions, the exploited turn to religion as aform of consolation

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85

Marx - quote to do with alienation and religion

‘religion is the opium of the people. It is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, the soul of the soulless conditions. the spirit of a spiritless situation’

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86

Marx- Religion is a product of…

Alienation

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87

Criticisms of Marx’s view of religion - positives

Ignore positive functions of religion, such as psychologyical adjustment to misfortune

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88

Criticisms of Marx’s view of religion - Alienation

Some Marxists, such as Althusser (1971) reject the concept of alienation as unscientific and based on a romantic idea that human beings have a ‘true self’ making it an inadequate base for a theory of religion

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89

Criticisms of Marx’s view of religion - Control

Religion does not necessarily function effectively as an ideology to control the population - Abercrombie etc.

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90

Criticisms of Marx’s view of religion - Abercrombie, Hill and Turner (2015)

argue that in pre-capitalist society, while Christianity was a major elemenet of ruling-class ideology, it had only limited impact on the peasantry

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91

How do Feminists see society

Patriarchal

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92

Patriarchy

based on male domination

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93

How do many feminists regard religion

a patriarchal institution that reflects and perpetuates sexist inequality, religious beliefs function as a patriarchal ideology that legititmates female subordonation

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94

Evidence of patriarchy in religious institutions - Religious organisations

mainly male-dominated despite the fact that women often participate more than men in these organisations. Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism forbid women to become priests

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95

Karen Armstrong (1993) - female exclusion

sees female exclusion from the preisthood as evidence of women’s marginalisation

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96

Evidence of patriarchy in religious institutions - Places of worship

often segregate the sexes and marginalise women, women’s participation may be restricted, taboos that regard menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth as polluting may also effect participation

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97

Evidence of patriarchy in religious institutions -example of how places of worship marginalise women?

seating women behind screens while the men occupy the central and more sacred spaces

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98

Evidence of patriarchy in religious institutions -example of how women’s participation may be restricted in places of worship

not being allowed to preach or to read from sacred texts

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99

Evidence of patriarchy in religious institutions - example of taboos against women

In Islam, menstruating women are not allowed to touch the Qur’an

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100

Jean Holm (2001) - menstruating women

describes menstruating women not being allowed to touch the Qur’an in Islamd as the devaluation of women in religion

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