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Anthropology of Religion
About the course:
 Anthropology of religion is the study
of religion in relation to other social
institutions , and the comparison of
religious beliefs and
practices across cultures.
 The anthropology of religion studies
how religious ideas shape social
practice and how religion is used both
to interpret and influence the world.
Cont.….
Chapter One: Introduction
 Like other social institutions, religion has various
key concepts that must be understood to know how it
affects society and other institutions.
 Religion is one of the largest social institutions that
Anthropologists study.
 Throughout history, religion has been a central part
of all known human societies. Anthropologists study
religion to understand religious experiences around
the world and how religion is tied to other social
institutions.
Cont.….
 They study religion objectively, and their purpose is
not to judge. They do not attempt to say whether any
religion is right or wrong.
 Instead, Anthropologists try to determine why
religions take a particular form and how religious
activities affect society as a whole.
 In common sense, religion plays a very important role
in the history of human civilization. From the earliest
times, religion has occupied a central place in human
life.
 Generally, anthropologists of religion are not
concerned with discovering the truth or falsehood of
religion. They are more interested in how religious
ideas express a people's cosmology, i.e. notions of how
the universe is organised and the role of humans within
the world.
Definition and Concepts of Religion
• There are several definition of religion given by
different scholars. Among these;
• E.B. Tylor; defined religion as “the belief in
supernatural beings.” This definition excludes much of
what people around the world actually believe.
• Emile Durkheim; …"a unified system of beliefs and
practices relative to sacred things.
• Karl Marx; "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed
creature... a protest against real suffering... it is the
opium of the people. He viewed religion as an ideology,
a way of thinking that attempts to justify inequalities in
power and status. In his view, religion created an
illusion of happiness that helped people cope with the
economic difficulties of life under capitalism.
Cont.…
• Clifford Geertz; "Religion is
–(1) a system of symbols which acts to
–(2) establish powerful, persuasive, and long-
lasting moods and motivations in [people]
by
– (3) formulating conceptions of a general
order of existence and
–(4) clothing these conceptions with such an
aura of factuality that the moods and
motivations seem uniquely realistic."
Cont.….
• Herbert Spencer; Religion is the recognition
that all things are manifestations of a power
which transcends our knowledge.
• The psychologist Sigmund Freud believed
that religion is the institution that prevents us
from acting upon our deepest and most awful
desires.
• Generally, a religion is a system of beliefs
usually involving the worship of supernatural
forces or beings. Religious beliefs provide
shape and meaning to one's perception of the
universe.
Studying religion “anthropologically
• The perspective of modern anthropology towards
religion is the projection idea, a methodological
approach which assumes that every religion is
created by the human community that worships it,
that “creative activity ascribed to God is projected
from man”.
• Anthropology offers a unique perspective for the
study of religious beliefs, the way people think
about the supernatural, and how the values and
behaviours these beliefs inspire contribute to the
lives of individuals and communities.
Cont.….
• Humans have always wondered about the
meaning of the life, the nature of the universe,
and the forces that shape our lives.
• To study supernatural beliefs, anthropologists
must cultivate a perspective of cultural
relativism and strive to understand beliefs from
an emic or insider’s perspective.
• Imposing the definitions or assumptions from
one culture on another is likely to lead to
misunderstandings.
Cont.…
• Many disciplines explore religion; psychology,
sociology, theology. Each has its own focus
and interest.
• The Anthropological study of religion must be
distinguished and distinguishable from these
other approaches in some meaningful ways.
• It must do or offer something that others do
not.
• It must raise its own specific questions, come
from its own specific perspectives and practice
its own specific method.
Cont…..
• Anthropology can best be thought of as the
science of the diversity of humans, in their
bodies and behavior.
• Thus the anthropology of religion will be the
scientific investigation of the diversity of
human religions.
1. What is the range of diversity of religion? How
many different kinds of religion and religious
belief, practices, institutions, etc exist?
Cont…..
2. What commonalities or even universals
are there between religions? Are there any
things that all religion do or believe?
3. What relationships exist between
various parts of any single religion or
between a religion and its social and even
natural environment? Are there any regular
patterns that we can distinguish across
religions?
Cont….
• Anthropology, like every discipline, starts
to address its questions from a unique
disciplinary perspective.
• If we want to understand the religion of a
society, we must also inevitably
understand its political arrangements, its
kinship system and even its economic
practices.
Cont….
• Let us aside questions of truth
concentrate on social and cultural nature
and functions of religion, which include;
• 1. Filling individual needs, especially
psychological or emotional needs.
Religion provides comfort, hope, perhaps
love, definitely sense of control and relief
from fear and despair.
Cont….
• 2. Explanation, especially of origin
or causes. How did the world start?
How did humans start? How did
society start? Religions also explain
why things happen in the present.
Why do we get sick? Why do bad
things happen to us? Why do we die?
Cont….
• 3. Source of rules and norms: Continuing
with this idea, religion can provides an answer
to where the traditions and laws of the society
come from.
• All religion contain some element of order-
establishment or culture-founding. This is the
charter function of religion: It acts as the
charter or guideline or authority by which we
organize ourselves in particular ways and
follow particular standards.
Cont….
4. Source of “ultimate sanctions”. Religion is
among other things, a means of social control.
Politics or even kinship provide a measure of this
control.
 However, the limitation of political social
control is its scope. Human agents of social
control cannot be everywhere and cannot see
everything, and the rewards and punishments
they can mete out are finite. For instance, they
cannot continue to reward or punish you after
you die.
Cont….
• But religious sanctions can be much more
extensive, exquisite, and enduring. In other
words, religious beings and/forces not only
make the rules but enforce them too.
• 5. Solution of immediate Problems: If
religion is the cause’ of variety of humans ills,
then religion can be the solution as well. If we
are sick or distressed, are the beings or forces
angry with us? What should we do about it?
Cont….
• 6. Fill the needs of society. In some ways, and
for some anthropologists, society can be seen
as nothing more than an aggregate of
individuals; individuals are real while society
is conceptual, even imaginary. Therefore the
needs of society would only be the cumulative
needs of individuals.
• Certainly, not everything that a religion
teaches or practices is good for every
individual. Religion is not always soothe
individual fears and anxieties.
Cont…..
• For instance, the belief in a punitive afterlife
may cause people to fear more, and concerns
about proper conduct of rituals can cause
anxiety.
• However, belief in punitive afterlife can cause
people to obey norms, which is good for
society.
• The primary need of society, beyond the needs
of individuals, is integration, cohesion and
perpetuation and religion can provide an
important glue toward that end.
Chapter Two
Theories of Religion
 Anthropological theories of religion
have been concerned mainly with
examining the content of various
conceptions of the supernatural as
prevalent in different societies at different
times.
 The earlier anthropologists also trace the
evolution of religion from cruder into
developed forms.
Pre-scientific Approaches/apologetic
• The premodern approach to religion
tended to involve not explaining religion
but explaining why religion is true.
• This is the realm of apologetics, the
systematic argumentative defense of a
particular religion.
• It is defending religious doctrines against
critics through systematic argumentation
and discourse.
Cont…..
• The practice of religion in every culture of
people group all over the world is as old as
human existence on earth.
• Due to lack of proper information, modern day
scholars have classified the religions that
existed before now as primitive.
• But some of 20th century scholars have
emphasized the importance of contemporary
fieldwork in recapturing a sense of the
religious life of early humankind.
Historical/Evolutionist Theories
• The study of the religious notions of primitive
people arose within the context of evolutionary
theory.
• Besides their evolutionary assumption about
religion, the followers of evolutionary theory
shows overwhelming ethnocentric biases.
• Early anthropologists used the data from the
studies of primitive societies to speculate about
the genesis and function of religion.
• Evolutionist believed that religion is a problem
solving phenomenon.
Cont…..
• John Lubbock (1834–1913), an English
anthropologist, made an early attempt to combine
archaeological evidence of prehistoric people, on
the one hand, and anthropological evidence of
primitive people, on the other, to trace the origin
and evolution of religion.
• In the late nineteenth century with the influential
works of Max Muller, W. Robertson Smith,
Edward B. Tylor, Marrett, and Sir James G.
Frazer, who also made significant contributions
towards understanding religion.
Cont…..
• These scholars were first to suggest that
tribal religions might be amenable to
study, following the rules of scientific
method, and to posit specific
methodological procedures for the
comparative analysis of religious beliefs
and practices.
• All of them required to understand
religious belief and practices at most
fundamental or basic level.
Cont….
• E.B. Tylor in his book ‘primitive culture’
proposed that Animism is the earliest and
most basic religious form.
• Animism----Polytheism----Monotheism.
• He defined religion in such way that all forms
of it could be included, namely as ‘ the belief
in supernatural being’.
• He firmly states that religion is a cultural
universal, for no known cultures are
without such belief.
E. B. Tylor (1832-1917)
Cont……
• James Frazer in his book ‘The Golden
Bough’, believes that religion is the
result of evolution from the Magic
stage of human culture.
• For Sir James Frazer human thought is
best understood as a progression from
magic to religion to science.
• According to Frazer, magic is a
primordial (ancient) form of human
thought.
James George Frazer (1854-1941)
Cont….
• He further postulates early man was
dominated by magic, which viewed
nature as ‘a series of events occurring in
constant order without the intervention
of personal activity’.
• These magicians, according to Frazer,
believed in nature and developed
imaginary laws, which are of course, not
real.
Psychological Theories
• Some of the earliest “modern” theories of
religion were psychological in nature, that is,
appealing or referring in some way to the
thought or experience of the individual.
• Some forms of psychological theory of
religion include;
– emotionalist,
– psychoanalytic, and
– Lévi-Straussian structuralism.
Emotionalist Theories
 Many scholars of religion emphasized the
emotional quality as its most distinguishing and
driving feature.
 Religion is a profound emotional response to
various aspects of life and various
emotive/sensitive factors were given to explain
the basis of religion.
 For the 17th century political philosopher Thomas
Hobbes, it was fear; bad things happened to
people beyond their understanding or control,
so religion was invented to assuage/mitigate
unavoidable fears.
 According to Emotionalist theories, religion starts
with overwhelming/intense emotion.
Psychoanalytic Theory
 Sigmund Freud was a leading figure. His thesis
is that religious rituals and beliefs are
homologous with neurotic symptoms.
 According to him, a deep unconscious
psychological conflict within social groups is
responsible for the development of religion.
• The basic Freudian premise is that religious
practices can be usefully interpreted as
expressions of unconscious psychological
forces.
Levi-Straussian Structuralism
• Surprisingly, Levi-Strauss findings and
theories have had very little influence on
contemporary accounts of religion.
• Binary oppositions are method Levi-Strauss
uses to describe culture (east-west. Male-
female, nature-culture).
• Strauss believes binary opposition are used by
all people to understand the world. It reveal
how people make sense their surroundings.
Levi-Strauss (1908-2009)
Cont…..
• He provided anthropology with a “method” to analyze
and interpret myths.
Myth: Traditional story accepted as history; serves to
explain the world view of a people or a sacred
narrative regarding a god, things, origin of the world
etc.
• He asserts that at the foundation of mythical alterations
is the nature of the human mind itself, which operates
on binary grounds.
• The mind also seeks to resolve and unify these binary
contradictions.
• Lévi Strauss’s suggestion that the mind is playful
creator of meaning and appearance, and we see the
religious results.
Cont…..
• Religious myths function to explain political,
economic, social and cosmological aspects of
the world for a given people.
• This is accomplished through myth structure.
Social Theories
Functionalism
• Functionalism emphasizes on the interrelations
between the various elements of a social
system.
• Society is seen as a self-regulating system in
which religion, economic organization and
kinship forms part of an organic whole (organic
analogy).
• Numerous functional aspects of religion include
providing explanation or comfort; sanctions on
social, economic and political norms and
institutions; and aiding ecological adaptation and
unifying the social group.
Malinowski (1884-1942)
Cont……
• It explains the functional significance of religion and
the role it plays in the life of an individual and the
society.
• Malinowski points out with reference to the Trobriand
Islanders, that religion is closely connected with
various emotional states, which are states of tension.
• In another words, Religion arose as a response to
emotional stress.
• When technical knowledge showed insufficient, human
beings turn to magic and religion in order to achieve
their ends and as a form of catharsis (Purifications).
• Similarly, hate, greed, anger, love etc., may arise
due to various situations in a man’s life.
Cont…..
• These situations create stresses and worries and,
if permitted to exist over a long period of time,
disturb all action.
• A human being has to be an acting individual;
and normal action is not possible in an
emotionally saddened state of existence.
• Religion is made use of in such a situation as a
tool of adaptation; its purpose is to eliminate
the human mind of its stress and tension, i.e., it
is purifying in its action.
Cont….
• In other words, religion has the function of
bringing about a readjustment between man
and the supernatural in disappointed states of
existence.
• It is a device (means) to secure mental and
psychical (spiritual) stability in an individual’s
life.
• Malinowski in his work on the Trobriand
Islanders emphasizes on the close relationship
between myth and ritual.
Cont….
• As per the idea of psychological
functionalism, religious acts fulfilling the
psychological needs and satisfaction.
• Functionalism emphasizes on the
interrelations between the various
elements of a social system.
 Generally, Malinowski (psychologically
oriented theory): Religion enables
people to cope with life’s vicissitudes.
Cont…..
• Anthropologists like;
–Malinowski,
–Evans-Pritchard,
–Radcliffe-Brown, etc., who
approached religion from functionalist
perspective provide explanation that
satisfies human needs and solidarity
of the group.
Durkheim (1858-1917)
Cont….
• Durkheim says that religious notions
are born and conceived of when we
find the social group collecting
together for festivals and other
social gatherings.
• Durkheim saw society rather than the
individual as the source of both
profane, everyday norms and sacred
ones.
Cont……
• He describes religion not as an
individual response to life crises but
as the embodiment of society’s
highest goals and ideals.
• Religion acts as a cohesive social
force.
• It is conceived of as the source of all
that man has and all that man is.
Cont….
• Religion is the recognition of the
superiority, moral and physical, of the
collective over the individual.
• Evans Pritchard observes that while
emotions, desires and impulses
undoubtedly play a part in religion, the
performance of religious or magical act
need not automatically produce the
psychological effects.
Evan-Pritchard (1902-1973)
Historical Materialism
 Central to Marx’s thought is his theory of
historical materialism which argued that
human societies and their cultural institutions
(like religion, law, morality etc) were the
product of collective economic activity.
 Karl Marx has been very critical of religion
and his approach describes religion and
religious belief as fictions that support the
status quo and that maintained class
differences.
Cont…..
• Religion reflects false awareness of
people that diverts their attention
from the sufferings of their lives.
• According to Marx, religion is an
expression of material realities and
economic injustice. Thus problems in
religion are ultimately problems in
the society.
Cont….
• He said, it is used by oppressors to make
people feel better about distress they
experience due to being poor and
exploited.
• Again, he believed that religion is the
sigh of the oppressed creature.
• The heart of the heartless world, just as it
is the spirit of a spiritless situation.
• Marx is saying that religion is meant to
create illusionary fantasies for the
poor.
Cont….
• As Marx, “religion is the opium of the
people”, in that religion was not only used
by those in power to oppress the workers,
but it also made them feel better about
being oppressed when they couldn’t afford
real opium.
• It acted like a drug, cushioning the workers
from the true unhappiness of being exploited
in capitalist society.
• Religion was one of the ways in which the
bourgeoisie maintained control.
Cont…
• Generally, the basis of Marx argument is that
humans should be led by reason and that religion
was making the truth and misguiding followers.
• He believed that when one views society and life
through the lens of religion, they are blinded to
the realities of their life.
• Religion, then a false hope and comfort to the
poor. He saw that poor used their religion as a
means to find comfort in their circumstances.
• In short, for Marx, religion is not a necessary
part of human culture.
Structuralism Functionalism
• Radcliffe Brown felt that religion is to assure
a social solidarity and homogeneity.
• Radcliffe Brown (1922) provides an account
of Andamanese religious beliefs and
ceremonies.
• He asserts that the Andamanese Islander’s
main supernatural beings are sprits of the
dead, associated with the sky, forest, sea and
nature sprits which are thought of as
personifications of natural phenomenon.
Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955)
Cont….
• Structural functionalism insists that religion
plays its most important role in the creation
and maintenance of the group and society, not
the comfort of the individual.
• One argument for this perspective is that
without social maintenance society can come
to an end, endangering the lives of all the
individual members.
• So, as Durkheim stated, religion gives
members of society a common identity,
activity, interest, and destiny.
Cont…..
• Radcliffe-Brown says, religion is not to purge
fear and other emotional strains from the
human mind, but to instill a sense of
dependence in it.
• He says that, ultimately, the survival of the
group is more important than that of the
individual; and if the latter has to make some
sacrifices it is in his own interest to do so,
because without social survival individual
survival is not possible.
Cont….
• However, the individual does not seem to realize
this always, and he seeks to chart out an
individual course of action.
• If each individual were to do this there would be
utter confusion and chaos and no organized
activity would be possible.
• Adherence to a norm of behavior is essential
in terms of social survival; and it is fear of
supernatural control and punishment, as also
the anticipation of support in the case of
socially approved conduct, that brings about
this adherence.
Cont….
• Therefore, the function of religion is to create
a twofold feeling of dependence on society
and thereby obtain the individual’s
concurrence with the social norms, the
ultimate aim being social survival.
• The function of religion is the contribution it
makes to that total activity which is
designed to perpetuate society.
• Generally, Radcliffe (sociological view):
Religion is a part of the structure of society,
helping to keep it in some kind of equilibrium.
Cont….
Symbolic/Interpretive Anthropology
 Evans Pritchard, Victor Turner, Mary Douglas
and Clifford Geertz are figure anthropologists
that have contributed for our understanding of
religion from symbolic perspective.
 Victor Turner’s work on the Ndembu rituals
provides a highly detailed and enormous work
on Ndembu religious life which consists of
rituals falling under these two categorize; life
cycle crises ritual and ritual of affliction.
Clifford Geertz (1926-2006)
Cont….
• Geertz proposes religion as the part of the cultural
system.
 Theorists have relied heavily on the concept of
“symbol.”
 It seems self-evident to us that humans use symbols
and that religion in particular is a system of symbols.
 All human thought was symbolic in the sense of
condensing meaning into some sound, gesture, image,
etc.; symbols were thus “vehicles for conceptions,”
and conceptual thought would be impossible without
them.
Cont…..
• Religion in Geertz’s definition is a system of
symbols, and culture itself is a yet more extensive
and complete system of symbols.
• So, symbols play a decisive role in Geertz’s
understanding: they “are tangible formulations of
notions, abstractions from experience fixed in
perceptible forms, concrete embodiments of
ideas, attitudes, judgments, longings, or beliefs”.
• Thus, symbols are not mental but social,
observable in the “flow of behavior” and the
“pattern of life”
Cont….
Modular Theories
 The modular view of religion is grounded on
the notion that religion is not a single
homogeneous thing and perhaps not a “thing”
at all.
 Rather, it is a combination and, therefore, a
particular cumulative expression of elements.
The “building block” approach: Wallace
• Anthony Wallace (1923), in his influential
discussion of religion, suggested that religion
may ultimately be “a summative notion and
cannot be taken uncritically to imply [. . .] one
single unifying, internally coherent, carefully
programmed set of rituals and beliefs”.
• His view was that religion starts from a single
premise, the “supernatural premise” that
“souls, supernatural beings, and supernatural
forces exist” (Wallace 1966: 52).
Cont….
• The Evolutionary and Agency Approach;
Guthrie, Boyer, Atra
• In 1993, Stewart Guthrie offered his “new
theory” of religion based on a serious
appropriation of the anthropomorphic idea.
However, from his perspective,
anthropomorphism in regard to the
supernatural (and the natural) world is not a
mistake but rather a “good bet”.
Cont…..
• It is a bet because the world is uncertain,
ambiguous, and in need of interpretation.
• It is a good bet because the most valuable
interpretations usually are those that disclose
the presence of whatever is most important to
us.
• As Boyer concludes, religion is constructed
out of “mental systems.
• In this view, religion does not require a
separate explanation at all, but is rather a
product or by-product of how mind in society
functions in all.
Chapter 3
Term Paper
• Students are expected to develop their own
term paper on the contents listed under
chapter three of the course.
Chapter 4:Religious Change and
New Religious Movements
 No matter how remote, religion have been
touched by outside or even global cultural
forces.
 Malinowski noted long years ago,
uncontaminated native does not exist
anywhere.
 Therefore, the scientific anthropologist must
be the anthropologist of the changing native”
(Malinowski, 1961: 6).
 In the realm of religion, the scientific
anthropologist will then be the anthropologist
of changing religion.
Cont….
 This means that religious change is a species
of cultural change in general, which
Malinowski defines as “the process by
which the existing order of a society, that
is, its social, spiritual, and material
civilization, is transformed from one type
to another” (1961: 1).
 In religion specifically and culture generally,
the two most basic change processes are
innovation and diffusion.
Cont…..
 In the former, an individual or group within the
society invents or discovers some new idea,
object, or practice—in the case of religion, a
new entity (being) to believe in, a new myth to
tell, a new symbol to use, a new ritual to
perform, etc.
 For example, a reinterpretation of previous
beliefs and practices takes place, with old forms
given new meaning; this can occur due to
changing social circumstances and experiences
or the mere passing of the generations, new
members bringing new perspectives.
Cont….
 Other outcomes, or perhaps versions of the
reinterpretation, include elaboration, in
which a preexisting notion or practice is
extended and developed, sometimes in quite
unprecedented (unique) directions;
 simplification, in which a preexisting notion
or practice is trimmed of detail or
sophistication; and
 purification, in which members attempt to
purge (from their point of view) false or
foreign elements and to return to the “real”
or “pure” form.
Cont….
 In the latter, an idea, object, or practice from
another society is introduced into the first
society, which entails further cultural
processes such as contact, migration,
intermarriage, invasion, or conquest.
 For example, Evans-Pritchard comments, for
instance, that several aspects of Nuer religion
appeared to come from outside Nuer society,
specifically from their Dinka neighbors.
 The kwoth nhialor “spirits of the air,” had all
‘fallen’ into foreign lands and had only recently
entered into Nuer land and become known to
them” (Evans-Pritchard 1956: 29).
Cont….
• One of the most common and well-studied
change processes is syncretism, in which
elements from two or more cultural/religious
sources are mixed/blended, more or less
intentionally, to create a new culture or religion.
• The result may not be a simple combination of
sources but a truly original and creative
product; in the same way that an alloy/mix of
two metals is not only an intermediate of its
constituents/parts.
• In the same manner, alloys of cultures or
religions can also generate new and unique
properties.
Cont…..
• For any number of reasons, the consequence
of religious processes may be schism (split)
or fission, the propagation of religions by
branching from prior beliefs and traditions,
leading to “sects.
• In some cases, the result of all of these
processes may be the abandonment /rejection
of a religion and its replacement or
substitution by a new or foreign one, leading
to the extinction of the former religion
The invention of traditional religion
An important popular and sometimes
academic prejudice is that “traditional
religions” were static and resistant to
change, while “modern religions” are
dynamic and open to change.
This picture cannot be sustained on
either total: Our contemporary
understanding of premodern religions
shows their lively and evolving nature,
and
Cont….
many modern religions are hostile/unfriendly
to at least some aspects of change, leading to
the phenomenon known as fundamentalism.
In fact, Durkheim used them explicitly as his
model for “elementary religion”—the
simplest, oldest, most unchanging
Note: Fundamentalism is a tendency to
reduce a religion to its most fundamental
tenets (truth) based on strict interpretation of
core texts.
From religious change to religious
movement
• For the Natives (indigenous people) today,
religious (and other cultural) change comes faster
and diverges more greatly from traditional
patterns.
• In other words, indigenous people cultural
processes did not create completely new religions
but changes of recognizably “traditional” forms.
• At a certain point, however, a clearly new kind of
religion enters the picture, which is widely
referred to as a “new religious movement.”
Cont….
• The study of new religious movements
(NRM) is even more problematic than
the study of religion in general.
• It is not always obvious what is
“religious” or not in NRMs.
• Many NRMs integrate nonreligious as
well as religious elements.
• Many NRMs also express nonreligious as
well as religious goals, including political,
economic, and personal/psychological
ones.
Cont….
• Finally, NRMs are not conceived merely
as religions but as religious “movements.”
• As such, they represent a class of social
movements or even “mass movements,”
which tend to have certain common
features. Primary among them is the social
condition out of which they emerge.
• NRMs arise as responses,
accommodations, or protests to new and
unsatisfactory social circumstances.
Cont….
• In other words, each movement is a unique
product of various social factors,
including;
• The particular society where it emerges,
• The particular external forces that impose
on it and the particular ways in which
those forces are manifested/displayed,
• The particular individual(s) who
offer/propose the response, and
• The particular intersection/joint of all of
these factors.
Cont…..
• Despite their diversity, NRMs in the modern world
tend to share some seven qualities.
1. Charismatic leadership, with a founder or
prophet who claims or is endowed/gifted with
supernatural authority and/or power.
2. Concrete goals, or a program for improving
individual or collective life, including health,
happiness, success and wealth, etc.
3. Community identification, which often involves
seeking recruits among the “hopeless and lonely,” the
“disinherited”/cut off of society, and forming them
into a new group;
Cont…..
4. highly centralized organization,
frequently quite controlling and
“undemocratic”;
5. ambitious construction projects, such
as headquarters for the movement
6. mass activities
7. syncretism, mystery, and innovation,
such as a sense of chosenness or
possession of a special revelation
/surprise or message or responsibility.
Religion and revitalization: using religion
to bring society back to life
• Throughout history, societies and their
religions have found themselves in crises of
various kinds: wars, disasters, contact with
hostile or merely different peoples and religions,
and the like.
• Sometimes they have simply discovered that
their expectations did not match reality or that
their predictions or their practices did not
produce results.
• Even more profoundly, individuals and societies
have often found themselves exposed to forces
well beyond their control and their
comprehension, world-historical forces (like
urbanization, colonialism….).
Revitalization Movements
• Such activities to revive a moribund culture
(approaching to end) or to modify a dissatisfying
one often take the form of revitalization
movements.
• Anthony Wallace defines revitalization
movements as “deliberate, conscious, and
organized efforts by members of a society to
construct a more satisfying culture” (1956: 265).
• No one may write a proposal for revitalization,
but someone will propose a specific change or
set of changes.
• Like all innovations or diffusions, revitalization
efforts have certain regular characteristics.
Cont.…
• According to Wallace, revitalization movements
emerge when individuals find themselves in
chronic psychosocial stress, caused by the
mismatch between their existing beliefs and
behaviors and the workings of their new social
world.
• In other words, social conditions change first, and
religious conceptions and practices adjust to try to
establish some new consonance/harmony.
• The first inclination (point of view) of humans
is to make the new conditions conform to the old
conceptions.
Cont.….
• At a certain point, perhaps (and usually)
one person will arrive at a new idea, a new
interpretation, a new view that is intended
to lead society out of its impasse (a road
with no exit) and into a better tomorrow.
This is the revitalization.
• The worldview of the society fits the
world adequately enough, and any threats
to that worldview or society can be
accommodated within the existing beliefs
and practices.
Cont……
•However, for reasons of contact,
conquest, disaster, globalization, and so
on, a period of increased individual
stress begins; changes in the real-life,
on-the-ground conditions no longer
match the traditional worldview or
beliefs.
•People may continue doing what they
always did but with diminishing or no
effect.
Cont…..
•This is followed by a phase of cultural
distortion, where the prolonged and
serious stress of cultural failure may
lead to negative responses like;
•alcoholism,
•depression,
•violence,
•neurosis,
•suicide, and
•the breakdown of social institutions.
Cont…..
• People perceive that things are going wrong
fast, but most do not know how to respond
effectively.
• Many give up, perhaps integrating into
another social system, often the one that
brought the disjunction in the first place.
• No doubt, in many other cases the society
simply disintegrated.
• However, in more than a few instances in
human history, a response has emerged; this
is what Wallace calls the period of
revitalization.
Cont…..
•This phase of cultural or religious
innovation has several significant sub-
phases;
1. Cultural/psychological reformulation
 Existing elements of society and/or new
elements are put forth by a creative
individual, a prophet or a leader who has
a “moment of insight (this insight may
come from dream, vision)-a gift from
outside (Wallace, 1956: 270).
Cont…..
•The potential revitalizer is a
person in crisis, perhaps
someone given to visions and
dissociative breaks.
•He or she is very often someone
who suffers a serious, even life-
threatening illness or other
personal failure.
2. Communication
• In the next step, the innovator must express and spread his
or her vision of things to come.
• What is wrong, why is it wrong, and what must we do to
remedy it?
• The prophet may achieve a kind of prestige from having
survived the illness-having “come back from death’s
door.”
• Two recurring themes in this campaigning phase are;
• the establishment of a new community under the
care of the spirits and
• a promise of success (in whatever terms) for the
members of that community;
• They may attain/get material wealth, or regain control of
their land etc.
3. Organization
• A basic organizational structure emerges: leader,
“inner circle” of disciples or supporters, and the
rest.
• Often enough, effective leadership of the
movement may pass into the hands of “men of
action,” practical “political” leaders who act for or
in the name of the spiritual messenger.
• As the movement gains energy - and numbers -it
will have to reorganize again.
• It must often “bureaucratize” to cope with its
growing membership and its growing influence in
society.
4. Adaptation
• Like any instance of culture change, a revitalization
movement may not and most likely will not remain
the same doctrinally, behaviorally, or
organizationally over time.
• It will encounter resistance, disbelief and
misunderstanding, challenges and failures, and
rivals and threats.
• The movement, if it achieves any growth at all, will
employ a variety of adaptations, including;
• doctrinal modification,
• political and diplomatic strategy, and dynamism
among others and in various combinations
(Wallace 1956: 274).
Cont….
• Modifications may adjust it to the perceptions,
preferences, and preconceptions of the
believers as well as to changes in the social
context.
• Often enough, hostility/antagonism from some
or all of the society (and forces outside the
society) radicalize the movement, transforming
it “from cultivation of the ideal to combat
against the unbeliever” (Wallace 1956: 275).
• Those who resist or fight the movement, or
simply fail to join it, may be branded as
demonic or subhuman.
5. Cultural Transformation
•If the movement achieves
sufficient proportions, a new
cultural pattern is created by and
around it.
•A sense of excitement/pleasure,
of fortunes and of ascending
power and success, can arise.
•The previous worsening seems
to have ended.
6. Routinization
If the movement survives all of the
traps and pitfalls above, it will and
must eventually settle into a routine
pattern.
Organizational structures are put into
place, lines of succession are
established, and doctrines are worked
out and formalized.
If the movement is sufficiently
successful, it can even become the
“new accepted view.”
Cont….
•Having passed through all of these
stages, the final destination of a
revitalization movement is the new
steady state, in which the movement
has institutionalized itself, matured into
a culture and worldview that solves the
problems it depart to solve, giving
people that sense of security,
confidence, and satisfaction that they so
tangibly lacked in the previous era.
Types of Revitalization Movements
•Anthropologists have
distinguished a variety of
different types of revitalization
movements, based on their aims
and methods.
• But, these types are not pure or
mutually exclusive types.
1. Syncretism
• Syncretism (from the Greek syn for “with” or
“together with”) refers to an attempt to mix
or blend elements of two or more cultures
or belief systems to produce a new, third,
better culture or system.
• In syncretism, an individual or group devises
a particular mixture of cultural elements and
offers it to the wider society as the “new
way.”
• In a very real sense, all culture, and certainly
all religion, is syncretistic.
Cont…..
• It might even be argued that the most basic
and universal cultural and religious process is
syncretism:
• Humans are forever borrowing from various
sources and combining them in ways to
produce whatever it is we call “our culture”
or “our religion.”
• Of course, this borrowing and combining is
not always as deliberate or as clearly
perceived as we are describing here, but no
culture, religion, or any other human activity
is “pure” or “original” in any significant or
meaningful way.
Cont.….
• All of us live in a melting pot of culture.
Religious syncretism can obviously draw from
diverse religious sources.
• For example, Cao Dai, a new religion that
originated in Vietnam in the early twentieth
century, overtly incorporated conceptual and
organizational elements from Buddhism, Chinese
religions (especially Confucianism and Taoism),
and Christianity (especially Catholicism).
• Syncretism, even in religion, can and often does
draw upon other nonreligious sources too, which
can contribute elements to a new religion.
2. Millenarianism
• Millenarianism is a familiar concept to those
versed in Christianity, which is an inherently
millenarian religion.
• Christianity teaches that at some point in the
future, the world as we know it will end.
• Opinions about the specific order of events, and
what is to follow, vary between denominations
and sects, but it is generally agreed that the
transformation will not be easy or painless.
• So the point of millenarianism is notion that the
world proceeds through historical or spiritual
periods, the current one of which will end-and
often soon.
Cont…..
• Thus, millenarianism is a type of movement
based on the conception that the present
age of the world (an inferior, unhappy, or
wicked one) is about to end and that a
superior age is about to begin.
• The followers of the movement must either
prepare for the coming change (which
may be opposed by the forces of evil and
darkness or by the human forces of power
and wealth) or act to set the change in
motion.
Cont…..
• Although not universal, millenarianism is a
surprisingly common dimension of NRMs.
• There are probably two reasons for this.
• One is the global influence of Christianity,
which has transported the expectation to other
cultures.
• The second reason is the general “protest” nature
of many NRMs, which are explicitly aimed at
modifying or eliminating the reigning religious
and cultural circumstances.
• In fact, if there is one thing that new religions
commonly anticipate - and seek-it is the end of “life
as they know it” and the establishment of a better life,
at least for followers.
3. Messianism
• Messianism is another term drawn from the
Judeo-Christian tradition, which believes that
a messiah or “anointed one” will appear (or
has appeared) to lead the society to victory
and happiness.
• Perhaps one of the key traits of messianic
movement is the belief that some individual
will appear to found and/or lead the
movement.
• This figure may not always be a messiah but
is generally a prophet or innovator or founder
of some sort.
Cont…..
• The role of the founder, and of his or her
personal qualities, has been noted since Max
Weber.
• Weber regarded “charisma” as a critical non-
traditional as well as non-rational form of
power and authority, based on the
extraordinary and even supernatural
characteristics of the leader-his or her ability
to perform miraculous /amazing acts, display
wisdom and answer questions, prophesy the
future, and achieve results.
4. Irredentism
•Irredentism (from the Italian irredenta
for unredeemed) is another recurring, if
less familiar, feature of movements.
•Irredentist movements are efforts to
reclaim and reoccupy a lost homeland;
not all are religious in nature, but
religion can serve as a huge justification
for the movement.
•They are at the heart of many of the
ethnic conflicts in the modern world.
5. Modernism/vitalism
• Modernism or vitalism seeks to import and accept alien
cultural ways, in part or in total.
• Modernism does not always take the form of religion.
• For instance, when Japan was finally “opened” to the
West in 1854, it began to adapt itself to this new contact
by appropriating much from the Western world.
• Technology, military organization, language, and styles of
dress and music were absorbed.
• By 1868, a “revolution” known as the Meiji (Japanese for
enlightenment) was underway.
• A modern constitution was written, establishing the
emperor as the head of state.
• The feudal system was abolished, mass state-sponsored
education was put in place, and concentrated efforts to
industrialize and to modernize the army were made.
Cont.….
• The most complete version of modernism is
conversion, the wholesale acceptance of a foreign
set of beliefs, values, and practices, and, in the
realm of religion, this means conversion to a foreign
religion.
• Indigenous religions can also modernize themselves
by incorporating aspects of new and foreign religion
and culture, in particular, beliefs in a single god or
in an apocalyptic end-time, or values and practices
like monogamy or avoidance of alcohol.
• Members may go so far as to condemn and reject
their traditional religion and associated practices
and institutions (often under the influence of foreign
agents of change like missionaries).
6. Nativism/fundamentalism
• At the opposite end of the revitalization spectrum are
nativist or fundamentalist movements.
• Nativism or fundamentalism is a form of movement that
emphasizes indigenous or traditional culture and
resistance to or even expulsion of alien culture.
• Linton defined a nativistic movement as “any
conscious, organized attempt on the part of a society’s
members to revive or perpetuate selected aspects of its
culture” (1943: 230).
• This is a significant definition, since it indicates that
nativism or fundamentalism is not merely “tradition”
but tradition selectively and intentionally revived or
perpetuated.
• Thus, it can never be entirely traditional, in spirit or in
content
Chapter 5: Religious Fundamentalism
 The Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary defines
fundamentalism as;
 “the practice of following very strictly
the basic rules and teachings of any
religion; (in Christianity) the belief that
everything that is written in the Bible is
completely true”.
• The term fundamentalism was coined by Curtis
Lee Laws in 1920 in the United States.
• At a meeting of the Northern Baptist Convention
in 1920, Curtis Lee Laws defined the
“fundamentalist” as one who was ready to regain
territory which had been lost to Antichrist and “to
do battle royal for the fundamentals of the faith.
Cont.….
Despite its extensive use in the media and in scholarly
works, there seems to be no consensus on the definition of
religious fundamentalism.
The term is usually used to refer to extremism, fanaticism,
and literal thinking in connection with a religious faith.
When used by the West with reference to Muslim groups,
religious fundamentalism also implies terrorism and
oftentimes evokes a powerful image of persons who are
irrational, immoderate, and violent.
Religious fundamentalisms are gaining strength within the
world’s major and minor religions, and across all the world’s
regions.
Fundamentalism is not only a phenomenon of religions, but
also of political and ideological world views.
Cont.…
• Religious fundamentalism as a term has been applied
to various types of development that hold religious
and political dimensions.
• Religious fundamentalisms are a global phenomenon
that responds to shifting global forces and
developments.
• While many contend that fundamentalist movements
only exist in North American Protestantism and in
Middle Eastern Islam, fundamentalist groups can be
found in every region of the globe and among all of
the world's religions.
• In addition to becoming a global phenomenon,
fundamentalist groups exert considerable social,
cultural, and political pressure within the nations they
inhabit.
Cont.….
•Following Thomas Meyer (2000),
we might more accurately refer to it
as a “style” of religion.
•It is not the only style of religion, of
course and also not exclusive to any
particular religion.
•There is a fundamentalist Christian
style, a fundamentalist, Muslim
style, and a fundamentalist Hindu
style, and on and on.
Cont.…
• In fact, fundamentalism is not exclusive to
religion at all
• Meyer calls it a “style of civilization” (2000:
29), which can occur in any area of culture.
• One can be fundamentalist about politics or
economics or race or gender or baseball.
• Thus, fundamentalism is a cultural concept
with multiple cultural contexts.
• It is not a single, simple fact but a diverse and
ambiguous construct and practice.
Cont.….
There were five basic points to the developing
fundamentalist position:
1. the absolute truth and inerrancy of the
Christian scriptures;
2. the virgin birth of Jesus;
3. the atonement of sin through the substitutive
sacrifice of Jesus on the cross;
4. the bodily resurrection and future second
coming of Jesus;
5. the divinity of Jesus and/or the reality of the
miracles he performed.
Cont…
Anthropology of Fundamentalism
• Religious fundamentalism derives its name (and
much of its energy) from the notion of
“fundamentals,” those things—beliefs, behaviors,
organizational structures, and/or moral injunctions:
that are felt by members to be most essential and
central, the oldest, deepest, and truest aspects of it.
• The popular and often scholarly view is dominated
by impressions of Christian and Muslim
fundamentalisms:
• George Marsden, for instance, defines a
fundamentalist as “an evangelical Protestant who is
militantly opposed to liberal theologies and to some
aspects of secularism in modern culture” (1990: 22).
Cont.…
• Religious fundamentalism is very different from
other ideologies; it is not concerned with any
specific religion.
• It cuts across all the religions, regardless of their
differences.
• For example whether or not the different religions
believe in one god, many gods, or what scriptures
they use, or how they view morality or social
conduct.
• It is also recognized that whilst some
fundamentalisms have been associated with
violence and anti-constitutional politics, others have
supported law-abiding, peaceful behaviour.
Cont.…
• Not all religious fundamentalisms have the same goals
nor do they adopt the same methods.
• And, of course, not all fundamentalisms are religious at
all. Not concerned with any specific religion
• A style of political thought, rather than a collection of
ideas and values
• Religious Fundamentalism sees religion as a set of firm
principles that cannot be challenged, and that , these
principles should be the guiding light in issues such as
personal conduct and the organization of social,
economic and political life.
• Fundamentalism refers to a commitment to ideas and
values that are seen as basic or foundational.
• Also, these founding principles are seen to be enduring
and unchanging in character.
Fundamentalisms in cross-cultural perspective
• Other religions have their own
fundamentalisms; in addition, the
fundamentalisms within a religion differ
depending on the society or country and even
further on the specific group or movement
within the society or country.
• Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of
fundamentalism, as demonstrated by the
growth of fundamentalist movements since
the late 20th C is in its ability to generate
political activism and mobilize the faithful.
Christian Fundamentalism
• Modern Christian fundamentalism started in the
USA in the 19th century as a movement of
Protestantism projected to counteract
modernistic liberal theology and the teachings of
Darwin concerning the evolution of species.
• In defense of uniqueness of the Christian bible
and Christian religion this fundamentalist
movement stresses, as fundamental to
Christianity, the final authority of scripture, the
virgin birth and deity of Jesus Christ his
substitutory atonement, bodily resurrection and
literal return.
Jewish Fundamentalism
• Even in ancient times, Hebrew prophets and other
devotees were constantly trying to bring the people back
to the right worship of their god;
• One of the most persistent and pernicious issues among
the ancient Jews was the influence of “baals” or gods
of foreign neighbors, and they were repeatedly
admonished to abandon these false gods and return to
their own god.
• When Israel came under the influence, first of the
Greeks and then of the Romans, this created a new
fundamentalist dynamic; now they were faced with
cultural as well as religious assimilation and syncretism.
• As in every case of culture contact, some Israelites
adopted the culture of the outsider, as prestige or as
defiance of traditional Jewish authority; some mixed old
and new cultures and molded something locally unique
from the mixture.
Cont.….
• Modern Jewish fundamentalism can be
traced to the early 1700s as a response to
the modernist or “enlightenment” shifts in
Jewish culture.
• In the late nineteenth century, Jewish culture
and politics took a new direction with the
Zionist movement, represented by Theodor
Herzl and his efforts to establish a Jewish
state.
• The movement grew until it succeeded,
after World War II, in creating the state of
Israel.
Islamic Fundamentalism
• The history of Islamic fundamentalism goes
back to 1928.
• In 1928, Hassan al Banna established the
Islamic organization called ‘Ikwan al
Muslimin’ or the society of Muslim brothers in
Egypt.
• Brotherhood pledged to revitalize Islamic faith
and provide alternative to Western domination.
• Islamic fundamentalism started from this time
onwards. By 1930, it had spread in Lebanon
and Syria too.
Cont.…
• However, it was at the time of the Iranian revolution
of 1979 that the Islamic fundamentalism flourished
in the west when the first supreme leader of Iran,
A.R. Kaomeini made an attempt to apply the Sharia
across all the institutions in the country.
• Sharia is the religious laws based on Quran that all
Muslims must follow.
• Some observers believe that Islamic
fundamentalism was a combination of two things –
the religion and the state.
• They believe in the supremacy and universality of
Islam. It denies rationalism and historicism.
• It also reflects detest towards freedom, democracy
and secularization.
Cont.…
• Generally, Muslim fundamentalism has
spread almost all over the world.
• The Taliban in Afghanistan, the al-Qaida and
the Islamic militant groups in Kashmir and
Pakistan, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
are well known
Hindu Fundamentalism
• There has been an upsurge of Hindu fundamentalism in
India.
• One of its manifestations is the campaign against
"foreign influences" in India.
• What we think of as Hinduism was (and largely is) a
“mosaic of distinct cults, deities, sects, and ideas”
(Frykenberg 1993:237).
• Not surprisingly, the formalization and advancement of
“Hinduism” paralleled the formalization of the bounded,
inclusive “society” and “state” of India, essentially an
achievement of modernization and colonialism.
• “The ‘Hinduism’ promulgated by mass mobilizations-
the rising ideal of an all-embracing monolithic ‘Hindu
community’-is, accordingly, a recent development”
(Frykenberg 1993: 237).
Buddhist Fundamentalism
• The popular impression of Buddhism is of a religion of
moderation and peace and, therefore, not one susceptible to
extremism, fundamentalism, and violence.
• For example, More modernized Burmese developed a
heightened self-identity as Buddhists, along with a more
activist and “political” agenda.
• For instance, Sri Lanka provides the best case of a
Buddhism that rose to political power and to religious
violence.
• Sri Lanka is an island containing two main “ethnic” or
religious/identity groups, the majority Sinhalese (Buddhists)
and the minority Tamils (Hindus).
• The Sinhalese also claimed to be the original and rightful
inhabitants, and, at various times in the past, strong Buddhist
kingdoms in the name of Buddhism.
• From that time at least, if not before, Buddhist monks were
politically important, seeing it as their right and duty to
preserve and promote the religion and the kingdom.
Cont.….
• Immediately after becoming a British colony in
1802, Christian missionaries began to flood the
island.
• Within decades, Buddhist associations were formed
in 1862, to “protect and develop Buddhism,” and
contested with Christianity, even conducting public
debates.
• Interestingly, the American-based Theosophical
Society played a part in encouraging Buddhist self-
identity, and Sinhalese journals and newspapers
were established (both in 1881) to advance Buddhist
identity and interests.
Cont.…
• As independence approached in the 1940s, Buddhist
elements became more active, to advance Buddhism, by
means of the overthrow of the colonial government if
necessary.
• In 1956, the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress issued a
report titled “The Betrayal of Buddhism” complaining
about the condition of Buddhism, government, and
society; it demanded discontinuation of aid to Christian
schools and the reestablishment of unity
• Not surprisingly, the same year, the dominant political
party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, turned more pro-
Buddhist and pro-Sinhalese, promulgating laws to
advantage the Buddhist religion and the Sinhalese
language.
Thank You

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Anthropology of Religion Study

  • 1. Anthropology of Religion About the course:  Anthropology of religion is the study of religion in relation to other social institutions , and the comparison of religious beliefs and practices across cultures.  The anthropology of religion studies how religious ideas shape social practice and how religion is used both to interpret and influence the world.
  • 2. Cont.…. Chapter One: Introduction  Like other social institutions, religion has various key concepts that must be understood to know how it affects society and other institutions.  Religion is one of the largest social institutions that Anthropologists study.  Throughout history, religion has been a central part of all known human societies. Anthropologists study religion to understand religious experiences around the world and how religion is tied to other social institutions.
  • 3. Cont.….  They study religion objectively, and their purpose is not to judge. They do not attempt to say whether any religion is right or wrong.  Instead, Anthropologists try to determine why religions take a particular form and how religious activities affect society as a whole.  In common sense, religion plays a very important role in the history of human civilization. From the earliest times, religion has occupied a central place in human life.  Generally, anthropologists of religion are not concerned with discovering the truth or falsehood of religion. They are more interested in how religious ideas express a people's cosmology, i.e. notions of how the universe is organised and the role of humans within the world.
  • 4. Definition and Concepts of Religion • There are several definition of religion given by different scholars. Among these; • E.B. Tylor; defined religion as “the belief in supernatural beings.” This definition excludes much of what people around the world actually believe. • Emile Durkheim; …"a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things. • Karl Marx; "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature... a protest against real suffering... it is the opium of the people. He viewed religion as an ideology, a way of thinking that attempts to justify inequalities in power and status. In his view, religion created an illusion of happiness that helped people cope with the economic difficulties of life under capitalism.
  • 5. Cont.… • Clifford Geertz; "Religion is –(1) a system of symbols which acts to –(2) establish powerful, persuasive, and long- lasting moods and motivations in [people] by – (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and –(4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."
  • 6. Cont.…. • Herbert Spencer; Religion is the recognition that all things are manifestations of a power which transcends our knowledge. • The psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that religion is the institution that prevents us from acting upon our deepest and most awful desires. • Generally, a religion is a system of beliefs usually involving the worship of supernatural forces or beings. Religious beliefs provide shape and meaning to one's perception of the universe.
  • 7. Studying religion “anthropologically • The perspective of modern anthropology towards religion is the projection idea, a methodological approach which assumes that every religion is created by the human community that worships it, that “creative activity ascribed to God is projected from man”. • Anthropology offers a unique perspective for the study of religious beliefs, the way people think about the supernatural, and how the values and behaviours these beliefs inspire contribute to the lives of individuals and communities.
  • 8. Cont.…. • Humans have always wondered about the meaning of the life, the nature of the universe, and the forces that shape our lives. • To study supernatural beliefs, anthropologists must cultivate a perspective of cultural relativism and strive to understand beliefs from an emic or insider’s perspective. • Imposing the definitions or assumptions from one culture on another is likely to lead to misunderstandings.
  • 9. Cont.… • Many disciplines explore religion; psychology, sociology, theology. Each has its own focus and interest. • The Anthropological study of religion must be distinguished and distinguishable from these other approaches in some meaningful ways. • It must do or offer something that others do not. • It must raise its own specific questions, come from its own specific perspectives and practice its own specific method.
  • 10. Cont….. • Anthropology can best be thought of as the science of the diversity of humans, in their bodies and behavior. • Thus the anthropology of religion will be the scientific investigation of the diversity of human religions. 1. What is the range of diversity of religion? How many different kinds of religion and religious belief, practices, institutions, etc exist?
  • 11. Cont….. 2. What commonalities or even universals are there between religions? Are there any things that all religion do or believe? 3. What relationships exist between various parts of any single religion or between a religion and its social and even natural environment? Are there any regular patterns that we can distinguish across religions?
  • 12. Cont…. • Anthropology, like every discipline, starts to address its questions from a unique disciplinary perspective. • If we want to understand the religion of a society, we must also inevitably understand its political arrangements, its kinship system and even its economic practices.
  • 13. Cont…. • Let us aside questions of truth concentrate on social and cultural nature and functions of religion, which include; • 1. Filling individual needs, especially psychological or emotional needs. Religion provides comfort, hope, perhaps love, definitely sense of control and relief from fear and despair.
  • 14. Cont…. • 2. Explanation, especially of origin or causes. How did the world start? How did humans start? How did society start? Religions also explain why things happen in the present. Why do we get sick? Why do bad things happen to us? Why do we die?
  • 15. Cont…. • 3. Source of rules and norms: Continuing with this idea, religion can provides an answer to where the traditions and laws of the society come from. • All religion contain some element of order- establishment or culture-founding. This is the charter function of religion: It acts as the charter or guideline or authority by which we organize ourselves in particular ways and follow particular standards.
  • 16. Cont…. 4. Source of “ultimate sanctions”. Religion is among other things, a means of social control. Politics or even kinship provide a measure of this control.  However, the limitation of political social control is its scope. Human agents of social control cannot be everywhere and cannot see everything, and the rewards and punishments they can mete out are finite. For instance, they cannot continue to reward or punish you after you die.
  • 17. Cont…. • But religious sanctions can be much more extensive, exquisite, and enduring. In other words, religious beings and/forces not only make the rules but enforce them too. • 5. Solution of immediate Problems: If religion is the cause’ of variety of humans ills, then religion can be the solution as well. If we are sick or distressed, are the beings or forces angry with us? What should we do about it?
  • 18. Cont…. • 6. Fill the needs of society. In some ways, and for some anthropologists, society can be seen as nothing more than an aggregate of individuals; individuals are real while society is conceptual, even imaginary. Therefore the needs of society would only be the cumulative needs of individuals. • Certainly, not everything that a religion teaches or practices is good for every individual. Religion is not always soothe individual fears and anxieties.
  • 19. Cont….. • For instance, the belief in a punitive afterlife may cause people to fear more, and concerns about proper conduct of rituals can cause anxiety. • However, belief in punitive afterlife can cause people to obey norms, which is good for society. • The primary need of society, beyond the needs of individuals, is integration, cohesion and perpetuation and religion can provide an important glue toward that end.
  • 20. Chapter Two Theories of Religion  Anthropological theories of religion have been concerned mainly with examining the content of various conceptions of the supernatural as prevalent in different societies at different times.  The earlier anthropologists also trace the evolution of religion from cruder into developed forms.
  • 21. Pre-scientific Approaches/apologetic • The premodern approach to religion tended to involve not explaining religion but explaining why religion is true. • This is the realm of apologetics, the systematic argumentative defense of a particular religion. • It is defending religious doctrines against critics through systematic argumentation and discourse.
  • 22. Cont….. • The practice of religion in every culture of people group all over the world is as old as human existence on earth. • Due to lack of proper information, modern day scholars have classified the religions that existed before now as primitive. • But some of 20th century scholars have emphasized the importance of contemporary fieldwork in recapturing a sense of the religious life of early humankind.
  • 23. Historical/Evolutionist Theories • The study of the religious notions of primitive people arose within the context of evolutionary theory. • Besides their evolutionary assumption about religion, the followers of evolutionary theory shows overwhelming ethnocentric biases. • Early anthropologists used the data from the studies of primitive societies to speculate about the genesis and function of religion. • Evolutionist believed that religion is a problem solving phenomenon.
  • 24. Cont….. • John Lubbock (1834–1913), an English anthropologist, made an early attempt to combine archaeological evidence of prehistoric people, on the one hand, and anthropological evidence of primitive people, on the other, to trace the origin and evolution of religion. • In the late nineteenth century with the influential works of Max Muller, W. Robertson Smith, Edward B. Tylor, Marrett, and Sir James G. Frazer, who also made significant contributions towards understanding religion.
  • 25. Cont….. • These scholars were first to suggest that tribal religions might be amenable to study, following the rules of scientific method, and to posit specific methodological procedures for the comparative analysis of religious beliefs and practices. • All of them required to understand religious belief and practices at most fundamental or basic level.
  • 26. Cont…. • E.B. Tylor in his book ‘primitive culture’ proposed that Animism is the earliest and most basic religious form. • Animism----Polytheism----Monotheism. • He defined religion in such way that all forms of it could be included, namely as ‘ the belief in supernatural being’. • He firmly states that religion is a cultural universal, for no known cultures are without such belief.
  • 27. E. B. Tylor (1832-1917)
  • 28. Cont…… • James Frazer in his book ‘The Golden Bough’, believes that religion is the result of evolution from the Magic stage of human culture. • For Sir James Frazer human thought is best understood as a progression from magic to religion to science. • According to Frazer, magic is a primordial (ancient) form of human thought.
  • 29. James George Frazer (1854-1941)
  • 30. Cont…. • He further postulates early man was dominated by magic, which viewed nature as ‘a series of events occurring in constant order without the intervention of personal activity’. • These magicians, according to Frazer, believed in nature and developed imaginary laws, which are of course, not real.
  • 31. Psychological Theories • Some of the earliest “modern” theories of religion were psychological in nature, that is, appealing or referring in some way to the thought or experience of the individual. • Some forms of psychological theory of religion include; – emotionalist, – psychoanalytic, and – Lévi-Straussian structuralism.
  • 32. Emotionalist Theories  Many scholars of religion emphasized the emotional quality as its most distinguishing and driving feature.  Religion is a profound emotional response to various aspects of life and various emotive/sensitive factors were given to explain the basis of religion.  For the 17th century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, it was fear; bad things happened to people beyond their understanding or control, so religion was invented to assuage/mitigate unavoidable fears.  According to Emotionalist theories, religion starts with overwhelming/intense emotion.
  • 33. Psychoanalytic Theory  Sigmund Freud was a leading figure. His thesis is that religious rituals and beliefs are homologous with neurotic symptoms.  According to him, a deep unconscious psychological conflict within social groups is responsible for the development of religion. • The basic Freudian premise is that religious practices can be usefully interpreted as expressions of unconscious psychological forces.
  • 34. Levi-Straussian Structuralism • Surprisingly, Levi-Strauss findings and theories have had very little influence on contemporary accounts of religion. • Binary oppositions are method Levi-Strauss uses to describe culture (east-west. Male- female, nature-culture). • Strauss believes binary opposition are used by all people to understand the world. It reveal how people make sense their surroundings.
  • 36. Cont….. • He provided anthropology with a “method” to analyze and interpret myths. Myth: Traditional story accepted as history; serves to explain the world view of a people or a sacred narrative regarding a god, things, origin of the world etc. • He asserts that at the foundation of mythical alterations is the nature of the human mind itself, which operates on binary grounds. • The mind also seeks to resolve and unify these binary contradictions. • Lévi Strauss’s suggestion that the mind is playful creator of meaning and appearance, and we see the religious results.
  • 37. Cont….. • Religious myths function to explain political, economic, social and cosmological aspects of the world for a given people. • This is accomplished through myth structure.
  • 38. Social Theories Functionalism • Functionalism emphasizes on the interrelations between the various elements of a social system. • Society is seen as a self-regulating system in which religion, economic organization and kinship forms part of an organic whole (organic analogy). • Numerous functional aspects of religion include providing explanation or comfort; sanctions on social, economic and political norms and institutions; and aiding ecological adaptation and unifying the social group.
  • 40. Cont…… • It explains the functional significance of religion and the role it plays in the life of an individual and the society. • Malinowski points out with reference to the Trobriand Islanders, that religion is closely connected with various emotional states, which are states of tension. • In another words, Religion arose as a response to emotional stress. • When technical knowledge showed insufficient, human beings turn to magic and religion in order to achieve their ends and as a form of catharsis (Purifications). • Similarly, hate, greed, anger, love etc., may arise due to various situations in a man’s life.
  • 41. Cont….. • These situations create stresses and worries and, if permitted to exist over a long period of time, disturb all action. • A human being has to be an acting individual; and normal action is not possible in an emotionally saddened state of existence. • Religion is made use of in such a situation as a tool of adaptation; its purpose is to eliminate the human mind of its stress and tension, i.e., it is purifying in its action.
  • 42. Cont…. • In other words, religion has the function of bringing about a readjustment between man and the supernatural in disappointed states of existence. • It is a device (means) to secure mental and psychical (spiritual) stability in an individual’s life. • Malinowski in his work on the Trobriand Islanders emphasizes on the close relationship between myth and ritual.
  • 43. Cont…. • As per the idea of psychological functionalism, religious acts fulfilling the psychological needs and satisfaction. • Functionalism emphasizes on the interrelations between the various elements of a social system.  Generally, Malinowski (psychologically oriented theory): Religion enables people to cope with life’s vicissitudes.
  • 44. Cont….. • Anthropologists like; –Malinowski, –Evans-Pritchard, –Radcliffe-Brown, etc., who approached religion from functionalist perspective provide explanation that satisfies human needs and solidarity of the group.
  • 46. Cont…. • Durkheim says that religious notions are born and conceived of when we find the social group collecting together for festivals and other social gatherings. • Durkheim saw society rather than the individual as the source of both profane, everyday norms and sacred ones.
  • 47. Cont…… • He describes religion not as an individual response to life crises but as the embodiment of society’s highest goals and ideals. • Religion acts as a cohesive social force. • It is conceived of as the source of all that man has and all that man is.
  • 48. Cont…. • Religion is the recognition of the superiority, moral and physical, of the collective over the individual. • Evans Pritchard observes that while emotions, desires and impulses undoubtedly play a part in religion, the performance of religious or magical act need not automatically produce the psychological effects.
  • 50. Historical Materialism  Central to Marx’s thought is his theory of historical materialism which argued that human societies and their cultural institutions (like religion, law, morality etc) were the product of collective economic activity.  Karl Marx has been very critical of religion and his approach describes religion and religious belief as fictions that support the status quo and that maintained class differences.
  • 51. Cont….. • Religion reflects false awareness of people that diverts their attention from the sufferings of their lives. • According to Marx, religion is an expression of material realities and economic injustice. Thus problems in religion are ultimately problems in the society.
  • 52. Cont…. • He said, it is used by oppressors to make people feel better about distress they experience due to being poor and exploited. • Again, he believed that religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature. • The heart of the heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. • Marx is saying that religion is meant to create illusionary fantasies for the poor.
  • 53. Cont…. • As Marx, “religion is the opium of the people”, in that religion was not only used by those in power to oppress the workers, but it also made them feel better about being oppressed when they couldn’t afford real opium. • It acted like a drug, cushioning the workers from the true unhappiness of being exploited in capitalist society. • Religion was one of the ways in which the bourgeoisie maintained control.
  • 54. Cont… • Generally, the basis of Marx argument is that humans should be led by reason and that religion was making the truth and misguiding followers. • He believed that when one views society and life through the lens of religion, they are blinded to the realities of their life. • Religion, then a false hope and comfort to the poor. He saw that poor used their religion as a means to find comfort in their circumstances. • In short, for Marx, religion is not a necessary part of human culture.
  • 55. Structuralism Functionalism • Radcliffe Brown felt that religion is to assure a social solidarity and homogeneity. • Radcliffe Brown (1922) provides an account of Andamanese religious beliefs and ceremonies. • He asserts that the Andamanese Islander’s main supernatural beings are sprits of the dead, associated with the sky, forest, sea and nature sprits which are thought of as personifications of natural phenomenon.
  • 57. Cont…. • Structural functionalism insists that religion plays its most important role in the creation and maintenance of the group and society, not the comfort of the individual. • One argument for this perspective is that without social maintenance society can come to an end, endangering the lives of all the individual members. • So, as Durkheim stated, religion gives members of society a common identity, activity, interest, and destiny.
  • 58. Cont….. • Radcliffe-Brown says, religion is not to purge fear and other emotional strains from the human mind, but to instill a sense of dependence in it. • He says that, ultimately, the survival of the group is more important than that of the individual; and if the latter has to make some sacrifices it is in his own interest to do so, because without social survival individual survival is not possible.
  • 59. Cont…. • However, the individual does not seem to realize this always, and he seeks to chart out an individual course of action. • If each individual were to do this there would be utter confusion and chaos and no organized activity would be possible. • Adherence to a norm of behavior is essential in terms of social survival; and it is fear of supernatural control and punishment, as also the anticipation of support in the case of socially approved conduct, that brings about this adherence.
  • 60. Cont…. • Therefore, the function of religion is to create a twofold feeling of dependence on society and thereby obtain the individual’s concurrence with the social norms, the ultimate aim being social survival. • The function of religion is the contribution it makes to that total activity which is designed to perpetuate society. • Generally, Radcliffe (sociological view): Religion is a part of the structure of society, helping to keep it in some kind of equilibrium.
  • 61. Cont…. Symbolic/Interpretive Anthropology  Evans Pritchard, Victor Turner, Mary Douglas and Clifford Geertz are figure anthropologists that have contributed for our understanding of religion from symbolic perspective.  Victor Turner’s work on the Ndembu rituals provides a highly detailed and enormous work on Ndembu religious life which consists of rituals falling under these two categorize; life cycle crises ritual and ritual of affliction.
  • 63. Cont…. • Geertz proposes religion as the part of the cultural system.  Theorists have relied heavily on the concept of “symbol.”  It seems self-evident to us that humans use symbols and that religion in particular is a system of symbols.  All human thought was symbolic in the sense of condensing meaning into some sound, gesture, image, etc.; symbols were thus “vehicles for conceptions,” and conceptual thought would be impossible without them.
  • 64. Cont….. • Religion in Geertz’s definition is a system of symbols, and culture itself is a yet more extensive and complete system of symbols. • So, symbols play a decisive role in Geertz’s understanding: they “are tangible formulations of notions, abstractions from experience fixed in perceptible forms, concrete embodiments of ideas, attitudes, judgments, longings, or beliefs”. • Thus, symbols are not mental but social, observable in the “flow of behavior” and the “pattern of life”
  • 65. Cont…. Modular Theories  The modular view of religion is grounded on the notion that religion is not a single homogeneous thing and perhaps not a “thing” at all.  Rather, it is a combination and, therefore, a particular cumulative expression of elements.
  • 66. The “building block” approach: Wallace • Anthony Wallace (1923), in his influential discussion of religion, suggested that religion may ultimately be “a summative notion and cannot be taken uncritically to imply [. . .] one single unifying, internally coherent, carefully programmed set of rituals and beliefs”. • His view was that religion starts from a single premise, the “supernatural premise” that “souls, supernatural beings, and supernatural forces exist” (Wallace 1966: 52).
  • 67. Cont…. • The Evolutionary and Agency Approach; Guthrie, Boyer, Atra • In 1993, Stewart Guthrie offered his “new theory” of religion based on a serious appropriation of the anthropomorphic idea. However, from his perspective, anthropomorphism in regard to the supernatural (and the natural) world is not a mistake but rather a “good bet”.
  • 68. Cont….. • It is a bet because the world is uncertain, ambiguous, and in need of interpretation. • It is a good bet because the most valuable interpretations usually are those that disclose the presence of whatever is most important to us. • As Boyer concludes, religion is constructed out of “mental systems. • In this view, religion does not require a separate explanation at all, but is rather a product or by-product of how mind in society functions in all.
  • 69. Chapter 3 Term Paper • Students are expected to develop their own term paper on the contents listed under chapter three of the course.
  • 70. Chapter 4:Religious Change and New Religious Movements  No matter how remote, religion have been touched by outside or even global cultural forces.  Malinowski noted long years ago, uncontaminated native does not exist anywhere.  Therefore, the scientific anthropologist must be the anthropologist of the changing native” (Malinowski, 1961: 6).  In the realm of religion, the scientific anthropologist will then be the anthropologist of changing religion.
  • 71. Cont….  This means that religious change is a species of cultural change in general, which Malinowski defines as “the process by which the existing order of a society, that is, its social, spiritual, and material civilization, is transformed from one type to another” (1961: 1).  In religion specifically and culture generally, the two most basic change processes are innovation and diffusion.
  • 72. Cont…..  In the former, an individual or group within the society invents or discovers some new idea, object, or practice—in the case of religion, a new entity (being) to believe in, a new myth to tell, a new symbol to use, a new ritual to perform, etc.  For example, a reinterpretation of previous beliefs and practices takes place, with old forms given new meaning; this can occur due to changing social circumstances and experiences or the mere passing of the generations, new members bringing new perspectives.
  • 73. Cont….  Other outcomes, or perhaps versions of the reinterpretation, include elaboration, in which a preexisting notion or practice is extended and developed, sometimes in quite unprecedented (unique) directions;  simplification, in which a preexisting notion or practice is trimmed of detail or sophistication; and  purification, in which members attempt to purge (from their point of view) false or foreign elements and to return to the “real” or “pure” form.
  • 74. Cont….  In the latter, an idea, object, or practice from another society is introduced into the first society, which entails further cultural processes such as contact, migration, intermarriage, invasion, or conquest.  For example, Evans-Pritchard comments, for instance, that several aspects of Nuer religion appeared to come from outside Nuer society, specifically from their Dinka neighbors.  The kwoth nhialor “spirits of the air,” had all ‘fallen’ into foreign lands and had only recently entered into Nuer land and become known to them” (Evans-Pritchard 1956: 29).
  • 75. Cont…. • One of the most common and well-studied change processes is syncretism, in which elements from two or more cultural/religious sources are mixed/blended, more or less intentionally, to create a new culture or religion. • The result may not be a simple combination of sources but a truly original and creative product; in the same way that an alloy/mix of two metals is not only an intermediate of its constituents/parts. • In the same manner, alloys of cultures or religions can also generate new and unique properties.
  • 76. Cont….. • For any number of reasons, the consequence of religious processes may be schism (split) or fission, the propagation of religions by branching from prior beliefs and traditions, leading to “sects. • In some cases, the result of all of these processes may be the abandonment /rejection of a religion and its replacement or substitution by a new or foreign one, leading to the extinction of the former religion
  • 77. The invention of traditional religion An important popular and sometimes academic prejudice is that “traditional religions” were static and resistant to change, while “modern religions” are dynamic and open to change. This picture cannot be sustained on either total: Our contemporary understanding of premodern religions shows their lively and evolving nature, and
  • 78. Cont…. many modern religions are hostile/unfriendly to at least some aspects of change, leading to the phenomenon known as fundamentalism. In fact, Durkheim used them explicitly as his model for “elementary religion”—the simplest, oldest, most unchanging Note: Fundamentalism is a tendency to reduce a religion to its most fundamental tenets (truth) based on strict interpretation of core texts.
  • 79. From religious change to religious movement • For the Natives (indigenous people) today, religious (and other cultural) change comes faster and diverges more greatly from traditional patterns. • In other words, indigenous people cultural processes did not create completely new religions but changes of recognizably “traditional” forms. • At a certain point, however, a clearly new kind of religion enters the picture, which is widely referred to as a “new religious movement.”
  • 80. Cont…. • The study of new religious movements (NRM) is even more problematic than the study of religion in general. • It is not always obvious what is “religious” or not in NRMs. • Many NRMs integrate nonreligious as well as religious elements. • Many NRMs also express nonreligious as well as religious goals, including political, economic, and personal/psychological ones.
  • 81. Cont…. • Finally, NRMs are not conceived merely as religions but as religious “movements.” • As such, they represent a class of social movements or even “mass movements,” which tend to have certain common features. Primary among them is the social condition out of which they emerge. • NRMs arise as responses, accommodations, or protests to new and unsatisfactory social circumstances.
  • 82. Cont…. • In other words, each movement is a unique product of various social factors, including; • The particular society where it emerges, • The particular external forces that impose on it and the particular ways in which those forces are manifested/displayed, • The particular individual(s) who offer/propose the response, and • The particular intersection/joint of all of these factors.
  • 83. Cont….. • Despite their diversity, NRMs in the modern world tend to share some seven qualities. 1. Charismatic leadership, with a founder or prophet who claims or is endowed/gifted with supernatural authority and/or power. 2. Concrete goals, or a program for improving individual or collective life, including health, happiness, success and wealth, etc. 3. Community identification, which often involves seeking recruits among the “hopeless and lonely,” the “disinherited”/cut off of society, and forming them into a new group;
  • 84. Cont….. 4. highly centralized organization, frequently quite controlling and “undemocratic”; 5. ambitious construction projects, such as headquarters for the movement 6. mass activities 7. syncretism, mystery, and innovation, such as a sense of chosenness or possession of a special revelation /surprise or message or responsibility.
  • 85. Religion and revitalization: using religion to bring society back to life • Throughout history, societies and their religions have found themselves in crises of various kinds: wars, disasters, contact with hostile or merely different peoples and religions, and the like. • Sometimes they have simply discovered that their expectations did not match reality or that their predictions or their practices did not produce results. • Even more profoundly, individuals and societies have often found themselves exposed to forces well beyond their control and their comprehension, world-historical forces (like urbanization, colonialism….).
  • 86. Revitalization Movements • Such activities to revive a moribund culture (approaching to end) or to modify a dissatisfying one often take the form of revitalization movements. • Anthony Wallace defines revitalization movements as “deliberate, conscious, and organized efforts by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture” (1956: 265). • No one may write a proposal for revitalization, but someone will propose a specific change or set of changes. • Like all innovations or diffusions, revitalization efforts have certain regular characteristics.
  • 87. Cont.… • According to Wallace, revitalization movements emerge when individuals find themselves in chronic psychosocial stress, caused by the mismatch between their existing beliefs and behaviors and the workings of their new social world. • In other words, social conditions change first, and religious conceptions and practices adjust to try to establish some new consonance/harmony. • The first inclination (point of view) of humans is to make the new conditions conform to the old conceptions.
  • 88. Cont.…. • At a certain point, perhaps (and usually) one person will arrive at a new idea, a new interpretation, a new view that is intended to lead society out of its impasse (a road with no exit) and into a better tomorrow. This is the revitalization. • The worldview of the society fits the world adequately enough, and any threats to that worldview or society can be accommodated within the existing beliefs and practices.
  • 89. Cont…… •However, for reasons of contact, conquest, disaster, globalization, and so on, a period of increased individual stress begins; changes in the real-life, on-the-ground conditions no longer match the traditional worldview or beliefs. •People may continue doing what they always did but with diminishing or no effect.
  • 90. Cont….. •This is followed by a phase of cultural distortion, where the prolonged and serious stress of cultural failure may lead to negative responses like; •alcoholism, •depression, •violence, •neurosis, •suicide, and •the breakdown of social institutions.
  • 91. Cont….. • People perceive that things are going wrong fast, but most do not know how to respond effectively. • Many give up, perhaps integrating into another social system, often the one that brought the disjunction in the first place. • No doubt, in many other cases the society simply disintegrated. • However, in more than a few instances in human history, a response has emerged; this is what Wallace calls the period of revitalization.
  • 92. Cont….. •This phase of cultural or religious innovation has several significant sub- phases; 1. Cultural/psychological reformulation  Existing elements of society and/or new elements are put forth by a creative individual, a prophet or a leader who has a “moment of insight (this insight may come from dream, vision)-a gift from outside (Wallace, 1956: 270).
  • 93. Cont….. •The potential revitalizer is a person in crisis, perhaps someone given to visions and dissociative breaks. •He or she is very often someone who suffers a serious, even life- threatening illness or other personal failure.
  • 94. 2. Communication • In the next step, the innovator must express and spread his or her vision of things to come. • What is wrong, why is it wrong, and what must we do to remedy it? • The prophet may achieve a kind of prestige from having survived the illness-having “come back from death’s door.” • Two recurring themes in this campaigning phase are; • the establishment of a new community under the care of the spirits and • a promise of success (in whatever terms) for the members of that community; • They may attain/get material wealth, or regain control of their land etc.
  • 95. 3. Organization • A basic organizational structure emerges: leader, “inner circle” of disciples or supporters, and the rest. • Often enough, effective leadership of the movement may pass into the hands of “men of action,” practical “political” leaders who act for or in the name of the spiritual messenger. • As the movement gains energy - and numbers -it will have to reorganize again. • It must often “bureaucratize” to cope with its growing membership and its growing influence in society.
  • 96. 4. Adaptation • Like any instance of culture change, a revitalization movement may not and most likely will not remain the same doctrinally, behaviorally, or organizationally over time. • It will encounter resistance, disbelief and misunderstanding, challenges and failures, and rivals and threats. • The movement, if it achieves any growth at all, will employ a variety of adaptations, including; • doctrinal modification, • political and diplomatic strategy, and dynamism among others and in various combinations (Wallace 1956: 274).
  • 97. Cont…. • Modifications may adjust it to the perceptions, preferences, and preconceptions of the believers as well as to changes in the social context. • Often enough, hostility/antagonism from some or all of the society (and forces outside the society) radicalize the movement, transforming it “from cultivation of the ideal to combat against the unbeliever” (Wallace 1956: 275). • Those who resist or fight the movement, or simply fail to join it, may be branded as demonic or subhuman.
  • 98. 5. Cultural Transformation •If the movement achieves sufficient proportions, a new cultural pattern is created by and around it. •A sense of excitement/pleasure, of fortunes and of ascending power and success, can arise. •The previous worsening seems to have ended.
  • 99. 6. Routinization If the movement survives all of the traps and pitfalls above, it will and must eventually settle into a routine pattern. Organizational structures are put into place, lines of succession are established, and doctrines are worked out and formalized. If the movement is sufficiently successful, it can even become the “new accepted view.”
  • 100. Cont…. •Having passed through all of these stages, the final destination of a revitalization movement is the new steady state, in which the movement has institutionalized itself, matured into a culture and worldview that solves the problems it depart to solve, giving people that sense of security, confidence, and satisfaction that they so tangibly lacked in the previous era.
  • 101. Types of Revitalization Movements •Anthropologists have distinguished a variety of different types of revitalization movements, based on their aims and methods. • But, these types are not pure or mutually exclusive types.
  • 102. 1. Syncretism • Syncretism (from the Greek syn for “with” or “together with”) refers to an attempt to mix or blend elements of two or more cultures or belief systems to produce a new, third, better culture or system. • In syncretism, an individual or group devises a particular mixture of cultural elements and offers it to the wider society as the “new way.” • In a very real sense, all culture, and certainly all religion, is syncretistic.
  • 103. Cont….. • It might even be argued that the most basic and universal cultural and religious process is syncretism: • Humans are forever borrowing from various sources and combining them in ways to produce whatever it is we call “our culture” or “our religion.” • Of course, this borrowing and combining is not always as deliberate or as clearly perceived as we are describing here, but no culture, religion, or any other human activity is “pure” or “original” in any significant or meaningful way.
  • 104. Cont.…. • All of us live in a melting pot of culture. Religious syncretism can obviously draw from diverse religious sources. • For example, Cao Dai, a new religion that originated in Vietnam in the early twentieth century, overtly incorporated conceptual and organizational elements from Buddhism, Chinese religions (especially Confucianism and Taoism), and Christianity (especially Catholicism). • Syncretism, even in religion, can and often does draw upon other nonreligious sources too, which can contribute elements to a new religion.
  • 105. 2. Millenarianism • Millenarianism is a familiar concept to those versed in Christianity, which is an inherently millenarian religion. • Christianity teaches that at some point in the future, the world as we know it will end. • Opinions about the specific order of events, and what is to follow, vary between denominations and sects, but it is generally agreed that the transformation will not be easy or painless. • So the point of millenarianism is notion that the world proceeds through historical or spiritual periods, the current one of which will end-and often soon.
  • 106. Cont….. • Thus, millenarianism is a type of movement based on the conception that the present age of the world (an inferior, unhappy, or wicked one) is about to end and that a superior age is about to begin. • The followers of the movement must either prepare for the coming change (which may be opposed by the forces of evil and darkness or by the human forces of power and wealth) or act to set the change in motion.
  • 107. Cont….. • Although not universal, millenarianism is a surprisingly common dimension of NRMs. • There are probably two reasons for this. • One is the global influence of Christianity, which has transported the expectation to other cultures. • The second reason is the general “protest” nature of many NRMs, which are explicitly aimed at modifying or eliminating the reigning religious and cultural circumstances. • In fact, if there is one thing that new religions commonly anticipate - and seek-it is the end of “life as they know it” and the establishment of a better life, at least for followers.
  • 108. 3. Messianism • Messianism is another term drawn from the Judeo-Christian tradition, which believes that a messiah or “anointed one” will appear (or has appeared) to lead the society to victory and happiness. • Perhaps one of the key traits of messianic movement is the belief that some individual will appear to found and/or lead the movement. • This figure may not always be a messiah but is generally a prophet or innovator or founder of some sort.
  • 109. Cont….. • The role of the founder, and of his or her personal qualities, has been noted since Max Weber. • Weber regarded “charisma” as a critical non- traditional as well as non-rational form of power and authority, based on the extraordinary and even supernatural characteristics of the leader-his or her ability to perform miraculous /amazing acts, display wisdom and answer questions, prophesy the future, and achieve results.
  • 110. 4. Irredentism •Irredentism (from the Italian irredenta for unredeemed) is another recurring, if less familiar, feature of movements. •Irredentist movements are efforts to reclaim and reoccupy a lost homeland; not all are religious in nature, but religion can serve as a huge justification for the movement. •They are at the heart of many of the ethnic conflicts in the modern world.
  • 111. 5. Modernism/vitalism • Modernism or vitalism seeks to import and accept alien cultural ways, in part or in total. • Modernism does not always take the form of religion. • For instance, when Japan was finally “opened” to the West in 1854, it began to adapt itself to this new contact by appropriating much from the Western world. • Technology, military organization, language, and styles of dress and music were absorbed. • By 1868, a “revolution” known as the Meiji (Japanese for enlightenment) was underway. • A modern constitution was written, establishing the emperor as the head of state. • The feudal system was abolished, mass state-sponsored education was put in place, and concentrated efforts to industrialize and to modernize the army were made.
  • 112. Cont.…. • The most complete version of modernism is conversion, the wholesale acceptance of a foreign set of beliefs, values, and practices, and, in the realm of religion, this means conversion to a foreign religion. • Indigenous religions can also modernize themselves by incorporating aspects of new and foreign religion and culture, in particular, beliefs in a single god or in an apocalyptic end-time, or values and practices like monogamy or avoidance of alcohol. • Members may go so far as to condemn and reject their traditional religion and associated practices and institutions (often under the influence of foreign agents of change like missionaries).
  • 113. 6. Nativism/fundamentalism • At the opposite end of the revitalization spectrum are nativist or fundamentalist movements. • Nativism or fundamentalism is a form of movement that emphasizes indigenous or traditional culture and resistance to or even expulsion of alien culture. • Linton defined a nativistic movement as “any conscious, organized attempt on the part of a society’s members to revive or perpetuate selected aspects of its culture” (1943: 230). • This is a significant definition, since it indicates that nativism or fundamentalism is not merely “tradition” but tradition selectively and intentionally revived or perpetuated. • Thus, it can never be entirely traditional, in spirit or in content
  • 114. Chapter 5: Religious Fundamentalism  The Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary defines fundamentalism as;  “the practice of following very strictly the basic rules and teachings of any religion; (in Christianity) the belief that everything that is written in the Bible is completely true”. • The term fundamentalism was coined by Curtis Lee Laws in 1920 in the United States. • At a meeting of the Northern Baptist Convention in 1920, Curtis Lee Laws defined the “fundamentalist” as one who was ready to regain territory which had been lost to Antichrist and “to do battle royal for the fundamentals of the faith.
  • 115. Cont.…. Despite its extensive use in the media and in scholarly works, there seems to be no consensus on the definition of religious fundamentalism. The term is usually used to refer to extremism, fanaticism, and literal thinking in connection with a religious faith. When used by the West with reference to Muslim groups, religious fundamentalism also implies terrorism and oftentimes evokes a powerful image of persons who are irrational, immoderate, and violent. Religious fundamentalisms are gaining strength within the world’s major and minor religions, and across all the world’s regions. Fundamentalism is not only a phenomenon of religions, but also of political and ideological world views.
  • 116. Cont.… • Religious fundamentalism as a term has been applied to various types of development that hold religious and political dimensions. • Religious fundamentalisms are a global phenomenon that responds to shifting global forces and developments. • While many contend that fundamentalist movements only exist in North American Protestantism and in Middle Eastern Islam, fundamentalist groups can be found in every region of the globe and among all of the world's religions. • In addition to becoming a global phenomenon, fundamentalist groups exert considerable social, cultural, and political pressure within the nations they inhabit.
  • 117. Cont.…. •Following Thomas Meyer (2000), we might more accurately refer to it as a “style” of religion. •It is not the only style of religion, of course and also not exclusive to any particular religion. •There is a fundamentalist Christian style, a fundamentalist, Muslim style, and a fundamentalist Hindu style, and on and on.
  • 118. Cont.… • In fact, fundamentalism is not exclusive to religion at all • Meyer calls it a “style of civilization” (2000: 29), which can occur in any area of culture. • One can be fundamentalist about politics or economics or race or gender or baseball. • Thus, fundamentalism is a cultural concept with multiple cultural contexts. • It is not a single, simple fact but a diverse and ambiguous construct and practice.
  • 119. Cont.…. There were five basic points to the developing fundamentalist position: 1. the absolute truth and inerrancy of the Christian scriptures; 2. the virgin birth of Jesus; 3. the atonement of sin through the substitutive sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; 4. the bodily resurrection and future second coming of Jesus; 5. the divinity of Jesus and/or the reality of the miracles he performed.
  • 120. Cont… Anthropology of Fundamentalism • Religious fundamentalism derives its name (and much of its energy) from the notion of “fundamentals,” those things—beliefs, behaviors, organizational structures, and/or moral injunctions: that are felt by members to be most essential and central, the oldest, deepest, and truest aspects of it. • The popular and often scholarly view is dominated by impressions of Christian and Muslim fundamentalisms: • George Marsden, for instance, defines a fundamentalist as “an evangelical Protestant who is militantly opposed to liberal theologies and to some aspects of secularism in modern culture” (1990: 22).
  • 121. Cont.… • Religious fundamentalism is very different from other ideologies; it is not concerned with any specific religion. • It cuts across all the religions, regardless of their differences. • For example whether or not the different religions believe in one god, many gods, or what scriptures they use, or how they view morality or social conduct. • It is also recognized that whilst some fundamentalisms have been associated with violence and anti-constitutional politics, others have supported law-abiding, peaceful behaviour.
  • 122. Cont.… • Not all religious fundamentalisms have the same goals nor do they adopt the same methods. • And, of course, not all fundamentalisms are religious at all. Not concerned with any specific religion • A style of political thought, rather than a collection of ideas and values • Religious Fundamentalism sees religion as a set of firm principles that cannot be challenged, and that , these principles should be the guiding light in issues such as personal conduct and the organization of social, economic and political life. • Fundamentalism refers to a commitment to ideas and values that are seen as basic or foundational. • Also, these founding principles are seen to be enduring and unchanging in character.
  • 123. Fundamentalisms in cross-cultural perspective • Other religions have their own fundamentalisms; in addition, the fundamentalisms within a religion differ depending on the society or country and even further on the specific group or movement within the society or country. • Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of fundamentalism, as demonstrated by the growth of fundamentalist movements since the late 20th C is in its ability to generate political activism and mobilize the faithful.
  • 124. Christian Fundamentalism • Modern Christian fundamentalism started in the USA in the 19th century as a movement of Protestantism projected to counteract modernistic liberal theology and the teachings of Darwin concerning the evolution of species. • In defense of uniqueness of the Christian bible and Christian religion this fundamentalist movement stresses, as fundamental to Christianity, the final authority of scripture, the virgin birth and deity of Jesus Christ his substitutory atonement, bodily resurrection and literal return.
  • 125. Jewish Fundamentalism • Even in ancient times, Hebrew prophets and other devotees were constantly trying to bring the people back to the right worship of their god; • One of the most persistent and pernicious issues among the ancient Jews was the influence of “baals” or gods of foreign neighbors, and they were repeatedly admonished to abandon these false gods and return to their own god. • When Israel came under the influence, first of the Greeks and then of the Romans, this created a new fundamentalist dynamic; now they were faced with cultural as well as religious assimilation and syncretism. • As in every case of culture contact, some Israelites adopted the culture of the outsider, as prestige or as defiance of traditional Jewish authority; some mixed old and new cultures and molded something locally unique from the mixture.
  • 126. Cont.…. • Modern Jewish fundamentalism can be traced to the early 1700s as a response to the modernist or “enlightenment” shifts in Jewish culture. • In the late nineteenth century, Jewish culture and politics took a new direction with the Zionist movement, represented by Theodor Herzl and his efforts to establish a Jewish state. • The movement grew until it succeeded, after World War II, in creating the state of Israel.
  • 127. Islamic Fundamentalism • The history of Islamic fundamentalism goes back to 1928. • In 1928, Hassan al Banna established the Islamic organization called ‘Ikwan al Muslimin’ or the society of Muslim brothers in Egypt. • Brotherhood pledged to revitalize Islamic faith and provide alternative to Western domination. • Islamic fundamentalism started from this time onwards. By 1930, it had spread in Lebanon and Syria too.
  • 128. Cont.… • However, it was at the time of the Iranian revolution of 1979 that the Islamic fundamentalism flourished in the west when the first supreme leader of Iran, A.R. Kaomeini made an attempt to apply the Sharia across all the institutions in the country. • Sharia is the religious laws based on Quran that all Muslims must follow. • Some observers believe that Islamic fundamentalism was a combination of two things – the religion and the state. • They believe in the supremacy and universality of Islam. It denies rationalism and historicism. • It also reflects detest towards freedom, democracy and secularization.
  • 129. Cont.… • Generally, Muslim fundamentalism has spread almost all over the world. • The Taliban in Afghanistan, the al-Qaida and the Islamic militant groups in Kashmir and Pakistan, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are well known
  • 130. Hindu Fundamentalism • There has been an upsurge of Hindu fundamentalism in India. • One of its manifestations is the campaign against "foreign influences" in India. • What we think of as Hinduism was (and largely is) a “mosaic of distinct cults, deities, sects, and ideas” (Frykenberg 1993:237). • Not surprisingly, the formalization and advancement of “Hinduism” paralleled the formalization of the bounded, inclusive “society” and “state” of India, essentially an achievement of modernization and colonialism. • “The ‘Hinduism’ promulgated by mass mobilizations- the rising ideal of an all-embracing monolithic ‘Hindu community’-is, accordingly, a recent development” (Frykenberg 1993: 237).
  • 131. Buddhist Fundamentalism • The popular impression of Buddhism is of a religion of moderation and peace and, therefore, not one susceptible to extremism, fundamentalism, and violence. • For example, More modernized Burmese developed a heightened self-identity as Buddhists, along with a more activist and “political” agenda. • For instance, Sri Lanka provides the best case of a Buddhism that rose to political power and to religious violence. • Sri Lanka is an island containing two main “ethnic” or religious/identity groups, the majority Sinhalese (Buddhists) and the minority Tamils (Hindus). • The Sinhalese also claimed to be the original and rightful inhabitants, and, at various times in the past, strong Buddhist kingdoms in the name of Buddhism. • From that time at least, if not before, Buddhist monks were politically important, seeing it as their right and duty to preserve and promote the religion and the kingdom.
  • 132. Cont.…. • Immediately after becoming a British colony in 1802, Christian missionaries began to flood the island. • Within decades, Buddhist associations were formed in 1862, to “protect and develop Buddhism,” and contested with Christianity, even conducting public debates. • Interestingly, the American-based Theosophical Society played a part in encouraging Buddhist self- identity, and Sinhalese journals and newspapers were established (both in 1881) to advance Buddhist identity and interests.
  • 133. Cont.… • As independence approached in the 1940s, Buddhist elements became more active, to advance Buddhism, by means of the overthrow of the colonial government if necessary. • In 1956, the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress issued a report titled “The Betrayal of Buddhism” complaining about the condition of Buddhism, government, and society; it demanded discontinuation of aid to Christian schools and the reestablishment of unity • Not surprisingly, the same year, the dominant political party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, turned more pro- Buddhist and pro-Sinhalese, promulgating laws to advantage the Buddhist religion and the Sinhalese language.