Unit 3 Sociology A2: Beliefs in Society
1 Different theories of ideology, science and religion, including both Christian and non-
Christian religious traditions.
Theories of ideology: Marxist, neo-Marxist, pluralist and feminist accounts; hegemony. Green Amber Red
What do sociologists mean by the term ‘ideology’?
Can you outline Marxist ideology?
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of Marxism?
Can you outline Neo-Marxist (Gramsci + Althusser) ideology?
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of Neo-Marxism?
What is hegemony?
What is pluralism and what is religious pluralism?
Can you outline Liberal feminist ideology? (Oakley)
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of Liberal feminists?
Can you outline Radical feminist ideology? (Brownmiller, Greer)
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of Radical feminists?
Can you outline Marxist feminist ideology? (Barrett, Ansley)
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of Marxist feminists?
Can you outline Black feminist ideology? (Brewer)
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of Black feminists?
Can you outline Difference feminist ideology? (Butler)
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of Difference feminists?
Theories of science: the social construction of knowledge; political, social and
economic contexts of science; theory and observation; falsification; paradigms.
How do we define ‘science’?
What do sociologists mean by the ‘social construction of knowledge’?
How does Berger and Luckmann’s work help explain social construction?
What has been the impact of science?
What is positivism?
What do sociologists mean by ‘verification’?
How does Durkheim’s study of suicide explain positivist methods?
What does Popper mean by ‘the fallacy of induction’?
What does Popper mean by ‘falsification’?
Why does Popper believe that open societies are essential for science?
What does Kuhn mean by ‘the paradigm’?
What does Kuhn mean by ‘normal science’?
Why does Kuhn believe scientific revolutions are essential for science?
Why do realists say that sociologists study open systems?
Why do realists reject the view that science is concerned with observable phenomena?
Why do realists say there is little difference between sociology and natural science?
What is interpretivism?
How does social constructionism bridge the gap between interpretivism and science?
Theories of religion: Functionalist, Marxist, neo-Marxist and feminist. Green Amber Red
Can you describe substantive definitions of religion?
Can you describe functional definitions of religion?
Can you describe social constructionist definitions of religion?
Can you describe Durkheim’s work on religion: the sacred and the profane, totemism,
collective conscience, cognitive functions?
What psychological functions did Malonowski say religion performed?
How did Parsons explain religion gives values and meanings to life?
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of functionalist theories on religion?
How do Marxists explain religion as a form of ideology?
Why do Marxists say religion leads to alienation?
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of Marxist theories on religion?
How does Gramsci link religion to hegemony?
Why do feminists say religion is patriarchal? (Armstrong, Holm, Saadawi)
What does Woodhead mean by ‘religious feminism’?
2 The relationship between religious beliefs and social change and stability.
Functionalism: conservative force, inhibition of change, collective conscience,
Durkheim and totemism, anomie; civil religions.
Green Amber Red
Can you give at least two examples of religion as a conservative force?
Can you describe the conservative functions of religion?
How does Durkheim show religion is a conservative force?
What is anomie?
What does Bellah mean by ‘civil religion?
Marxism: religion as ideology, legitimating social inequality, disguising exploitation.
Why do Marxists believe religion is a conservative force?
Weber: religion as a force for social change: theodicies, the Protestant ethic.
Can you explain why Weber believes Calvinism created capitalism?
Can you give at least one evaluation of Weber’s work?
What is a theodicy of disprivilege and why could it lead to social change?
Neo-Marxism: religion used by those opposing the ruling class, liberation theology.
Why did Bloch say religion had a dual character?
What is liberation ideology and why can it lead to change? (Maduro, Casanova).
How does Billings study show that religion can play a strong oppositional role?
Feminism: religious beliefs supporting patriarchy.
According to feminists, how and why does religion maintain the status quo?
Fundamentalist beliefs: rejecting change by reverting to supposed traditional values
Explain how Giddens shows fundamentalism is a reaction against cosmopolitanism?
What are the two fundamentalisms Bruce has illustrated?
3 Religious organisations, including cults, sects, denominations, churches and New Age
movements, and their relationship to religious and spiritual belief and practice.
Typologies of religious organisations: churches, denominations, sects and cults, with
examples of each.
Green Amber Red
What are the four main features of a church according to Troeltsch?
Can you give at least two examples of a church?
What are the four main features of a sect according to Troeltsch?
Can you give at least two examples of a sect?
Can you describe four features of a denomination according to Niebuhr?
Can you give at least two examples of a denomination?
How has Bruce defined cults?
Can you give at least two examples of cults?
What are the similarities and differences between religious organisations according to
Why does Bruce say Troeltsch’s definitions are no longer relevant?
New Religious Movements and typologies of NRMs eg world
rejecting/accommodating/affirming; millenarian beliefs, with examples of each.
Can you describe the characteristics of world rejecting NRMs?
Can you give at least two examples of world affirming NRMs?
Can you describe the characteristics of world affirming NRMs?
Can you give at least two examples of world rejecting NRMs?
Can you describe the characteristics of world accommodating NRMs?
Can you give at least two examples of world accommodating NRMs?
What are Millenarian movements?
Can you give an example of a Millenarian movement?
What two types of organisations do Stark and Bainbridge believe are in conflict with
New Age movements and spirituality, with examples.
According to Heelas, what are the two common themes of the New Age?
Can you give examples of New Age movements?
The relationship of these organisations to religious and spiritual belief and
What does this variety of religious organisations tell us about how people choose to
worship in the 21st
4 The relationship between different social groups and religious/spiritual organisations and
movements, beliefs and practices.
Reasons why people join NRMs, NAMs and other organisations. Green Amber Red
Why is marginality a reason why people join NRMs? (Weber, Troeltsch, Wallis)
Why is relative deprivation a reason why people join NRMs? (Wallis, Stark+Bainbridge)
Why is social change a reason why people join NRMs? (Wilson, Bruce)
According to Niebuhr, why are sects inevitably short lived organisations?
According to Stark+Bainbridge, what is the sectarian cycle?
According to Wallis, why do some sects survive for a long period?
How does Wallis explain the appeal of world rejecting NRMS?
How does Wallis explain the appeal of world affirming NRMS?
How does Wallis explain the appeal of world accommodating NRMS?
How does Drane explain the appeal of the New Age?
How does Bruce explain the appeal of the New Age?
How does Heelas modernity can explain the appeal of the New Age?
Gender and religion: women: women’s greater participation, women in religious
organisations including NRMs; men’s participation and organisational roles in
religions; sexuality and religion; images of gender in religions.
What evidence is there that women are more religious than men?
Why might socialisation lead to women being more religious? (Miller and Hoffman)
Why might compensation for deprivation lead to women being more religious? (Glock and
Why might age and gender identity lead to women being more religious? (Greeley, Davie)
Why might women be more involved with the New Age? (Heelas and Woodhead, Bruce)
Why does the New age allow women to cats off traditional gender roles? (Brown)
How does Woodhead link the idea of a spiritual revolution with decline in women’s
participation traditional religion? (Brown)
Why did Beauvoir believe images of women in religion duped them into believing they
were equal to men?
Why did Holm say men took on the dominant organisational roles in religion?
Ethnicity and religion: religion and ethnic identity; religion in migrant communities;
religions and minority ethnic groups in the UK today.
Can you describe some of variety of religious beliefs and practices amongst Britain’s
diverse ethnic communities today? (Modood, 2001 census)
What is cultural defence?
What is cultural transition?
Why do Johal and Davie claim religion has an important meaning for ethnic minorities?
Age and religion: religious participation & belief by age group;religious socialisation.
Which age groups are most likely to be involved in religious activities?
What are these two groups most likely to be involved in religious activities?
Why are sects and cults more likely to be populated by young people?
How do Voas and Crockett explain the reasons for age differences?
Social class and religion: religious participation and belief by social class.
Why is religious participation greater in the middle classes?
How did Marx explain religion developed in response to class exploitation?
How does class interact with gender, age and ethnicity in shaping participation?
5 The significance of religion and religiosity in the contemporary world, including the
nature and extent of secularisation in a global context.
Globalisation and belief systems, including fundamentalism. Green Amber Red
What is globalisation?
Explain how Nando has shown the impact of globalisation on Hinduism and consumerism?
Explain how Nando has shown the impact of globalisation on Hinduism and nationalism?
Why does Redding say globalisation and religion have developed capitalism in Asia
Why does Berger say Pentecostalism is developing capitalism in Latin America?
What reasons does Lehmann give for the success of Pentecostalism across the globe?
Why does Giddens say fundamentalism is spreading?
How do postmodernists explain the growth of fundamentalism?
How does Bruce explain the growth of fundamentalism?
Outline the arguments that say there is a ‘clash of civilisations’ being caused by religion
in recent years?
Postmodernity: end of meta-narratives, ‘spiritual shopping’.
What is postmodernity?
What does Davie mean by ‘believing without belonging’?
What is ‘vicarious religion’?
What does Hervieu-Leger mean by ‘spiritual shopping’?
How does Lyon illustrate that religion is being relocated?
How does Lyon explain the growth of religious consumerism?
Why does Lyon say the world is becoming ‘re-enchanted’?
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of functionalist theories on religion?
Secularisation: problems of definition and measurement; aspects of secularisation
such as disengagement, rationalisation, rise of pluralism/diversity, desacralisation,
How do sociologists try to measure the extent of religiosity in society?
What problems are there with these methods?
Can you give at least two statistics about levels of religiosity in Britain today?
Why might rationalisation lead to secularisation? (Weber, Bruce)
Why might structural differentiation lead to secularisation? (Parsons)
Why might social and cultural diversity lead to secularisation? (Bruce)
Why might religious pluralism lead to secularisation?
Why might the growth of NRMs lead to secularisation?
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of the above theories?
Arguments and evidence for and against secularisation eg attendance and
membership; believing without belonging; the secularisation cycle theory and
compensators (Stark and Bainbridge); UK compared with other countries (eg USA)
and global significance of religion today.
Can you provide evidence for and against the argument that secularisation is occurring?
Is secularisation happening in the USA? (Wilson, Hadaway, Bruce)
What is religious market theory? (Stark+Bainbridge, Hadden+Sharpe, Finke)
What is existential security theory? (Norris+Inglehart, Gill+Lundegaarde, Vasquez)
How does the UK and USA compare with global trends in secularisation?
Can you give at least two evaluations/criticisms of the arguments for and against
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