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Week 11: Religion

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Week 11: Religion

  1. 1. Principles of Sociology 19 Religion
  2. 2. Basics • While religious beliefs and practices vary, religion is one of the basic social institutions [Chapter 4] found in every society – making religion a cultural universal [Chapter 3]. • Sociologists … – Ask why religions take a particular form in one society or another. – Consider how religious activity affects society as a whole. – Apply the major theoretical approaches to the study of religion just as they do to any other topic. • secularization = a social process whereby religion’s influence on other parts of society diminishes, and largely becomes privatized, categorized, and individualized.
  3. 3. Basics • Sociology seeks a social scientific perspective on religion and is of course limited. – Sociology evaluates religion from a historical and social viewpoint, and cannot make statements on – for instance – which religious beliefs are “right” or “wrong,” “true” or “untrue.” – These kinds of questions are addressed in disciplines like theology and philosophy. • syncretism = an important concept that describes the mixing together of elements from differing religions.
  4. 4. Durkheim on Religion • Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) was one of the first social scientists to recognize and emphasize the critical role of religion in society. • Durkheim’s definition: “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things which unites in a single moral community all those who adhere to that system of beliefs and practices” (Elementary Forms of Religious Life). • Religions function by distinguishing the sacred from the profane: – Profane things are those which are viewed as ordinary, common, and everyday. – Sacred things are those which are viewed as transcendent; awe-inspiring; set apart; extraordinary. – Rituals are those acts/events which transform the profane into the sacred.
  5. 5. Durkheim: Rituals Transform Profane Things into Sacred Things EXAMPLE: – Bread and wine are profane things. – In the ritual of the Mass, bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ.
  6. 6. Religion in General • Three Elements: – beliefs – rituals – experiences • Every religion features the following:  cosmology = every religion has an account of the origin of all things.  theodicy = how a religion explains evil and tragedies.  soteriology = a religion’s end goal for human existence (‘salvation’; ‘enlightenment’).
  7. 7. Religion in General • Beliefs = statements (theological or ethical) to which members adhere.  theism = belief in a deity/deities.  monotheism = belief in one God (Judaism/Christianity/Islam).  polytheism = belief in many deities (ancient Egypt).  ethicalism = emphasis of morality and way of life over deities (traditional Buddhism; Transcendentalism).  animism = spirits surround us, inhabiting nature, objects, and even people.  pantheism = everything is “God.”
  8. 8. Religion in General • Rituals = practices required/expected of the members.  Standardized action(s) with some specific goal.  Collective practices that support and/or renew religious belief.  Sometimes associated with a particular emotional response.  Examples: Dancing Feasting on holy days Fasting Communion Baptism Sacrifices Communal prayers or chants
  9. 9. Religion in General • Experiences = feelings or perceptions of coming into direct contact with a reality greater than yourself.  Often involves being overcome with emotion.  Religious Objects: Make visible the unseen world. Provide material equipment to carry out the rituals. Provide important symbols for the religion. Examples: altars, robes, water, statues, icons, symbolic items (cross; Star of David).
  10. 10. Religious Classification • KEY QUESTION: What qualifies as a “religion”? – If Confucianism, why not Marxism? – Secularism? Atheism? – Religion can often be defined either too broadly (every system of thought is a “religion”), or too narrowly (which leaves some religions out entirely). • Social scientists have come up with many different classification systems that try to identify types of religion (see the Church-Sect Continuum from your textbook on the NEXT SLIDE). • Unfortunately, sociologists with western assumptions, or with little religious experience, often make errors in these attempts. • While it can be difficult to define what qualifies as “religion,” Durkheim’s definition remains a brilliant outline still in use today: every religion marks out/categorizes things as “sacred.”
  11. 11. Religious Classification • cult (new religious movements, or NRMs) = a term capable of various meanings depending on who you talk to; often considered as an insult with negative connotations.  A very loaded term with distinct usages: • historical = a small group emerging out of a larger religion. • psychological = a religious group employing questionable techniques. • theological = the larger groups label smaller groups that are considered unorthodox “cults.”
  12. 12. Evaluating Religions • Every world religion contains both essential and secondary elements, and can be evaluated accordingly. • The “Mere” = the essential core elements of a religion – without these the religion becomes something else (these do not change in mainstream versions of the religion). • The “More” = secondary elements of the religion that divide various denominations and groups within the religion (these change throughout history often).
  13. 13. Religion in the World • The vast majority of the world’s population can be described as “religious” or “spiritual” in some way: atheism and agnosticism represent a very small percentage of the world population. • Eastern religions include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. • So-called “Western” religions (actually, all world religions began in the East) include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. • Much of the rest of the world can be classified as Animistic or Shamanistic, a religious worldview sharing much in common with the Eastern religions, western “New Age” practices, and Wicca.
  14. 14. Religion in the World: Hinduism • Originally, religion in India was manifested in many regional religions – each with its own temples and deities, though with many common beliefs (for example, karma). • “Hinduism” was the colonial way of describing all of these regional manifestations with a single label – and, thus, “Hinduism” became a “world religion.” • While all religions claim to go back to the very beginning, Hinduism is the oldest of all religions when considered in its historical (observable) organization.
  15. 15. Religion in the World: Hinduism • Hindus believe in an Ultimate Reality (“God”) manifested in millions of divine beings (“gods” and “goddesses,” each with their own devotees). – Some Hindus believe that the Ultimate Reality is a personal being – they believe in “God with attributes.” – Many Hindus, however, see God as more of an impersonal force – they believe in “God without attributes.” • Unlike western religions, Hinduism features several writings given the status of “scriptures,” though the ancient Vedas are seen as the highest (“from the hands of God”).
  16. 16. Hinduism: Hindu temple in El Paso, meditation, ancient copies of the Vedas, Hinduism in pop culture, Hindu goddess.
  17. 17. Religion in the World: Buddhism • Buddhism began with Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) and his teachings (dhamma). • Traditional Buddhism is agnostic on the question of “God,” but several forms venerate the Buddha himself (along with other figures) as worthy of worship and devotion. • Fosters belief that much of life in this world involves suffering; worldly things hold back spiritual development. • The ultimate goal is to transcend this world and stop the cycle of rebirth (reincarnation) – this is pursued through meditation seeking the hisghest enlightenment (nirvana).
  18. 18. Buddhism: first Zen Buddhists in the U.S., sumsara, statues of Buddha, syncretism, Dalai Lama
  19. 19. The Teachings of the Buddha Southern (Theravada) Buddhism Eastern (Mahayana) Buddhism Northern (Tibetan) Buddhism Zen Buddhism Pure Land Buddhism Nichiren Buddhism
  20. 20. Religion in the World: Confucianism • Concerned with facilitating harmony with the Tao/Dao (the “law” of the universe). • Confucianism teaches that the key to such harmonization comes through community. • Revives principles of the I Ching: education is crucial and should lead to “human-heartedness” (ren/jen). • Basic Scriptures: The Confucian Classics and The Analects (Lun- yü) • Four Ethical Elements: love/compassion, justice, restraint, and wisdom.
  21. 21. Confucianism: Confucius with followers, Yin-Yang symbol of the Tao, Confucian Temple, Confucian shrine.
  22. 22. Religion in the World: Judaism • Originally, Judaism was a Temple religion with a priesthood and an elaborate sacrificial system (described in Leviticus). • The destruction of the Temple in 70 CE by the Roman armies caused Judaism to shift to the synagogue system (a precursor to Christian churches), which were led by Rabbis. • Judaism follows a sacred calendar of feasts and festivals, focuses on Torah (the Law = first five books of the Bible), practices ritual male circumcision, and maintains an attachment to Israel.
  23. 23. Religion in the World: Judaism • Basic Worldview: – There is one God, Yahweh, who created all that exists perfectly. – However, the first humans wrecked the creation through sin. – Sacrifice is required to bring humans back to God. • Since the Temple was destroyed, no literal sacrifices can be made – but Jews believe that God understands and accepts their “sacrifices of the heart.” • Basic Ethic: love God and love your neighbor.
  24. 24. Religion in the World: Judaism • Jews have often been persecuted, and have been dispersed all over the world (this is called the diaspora). • In the U.S., Judaism has four main denominations: – Orthodox (very traditional and conservative) – Conservative (moderate, but expect Rabbi to be strict) – Reform (moderate) – Reconstructionist (more liberal)
  25. 25. Judaism around the world: Israel, Japan, Ethiopia, Europe, and Mexico.
  26. 26. Religion in the World: Christianity • Originally, Christianity was a sect within Judaism – early Christians went to the Temple, but did not practice the animal sacrifices. • Three factors led to the separation of Christianity from Judaism: increasing persecution from other Jews, the evangelization of the Gentiles by the Apostle Paul (Gentiles began to outnumber Jews in the dearly churches), and the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE by the Roman armies. • Christianity follows a sacred calendar, and focuses on the Bible (the Jewish scriptures – renamed “the Old Testament” + the writings of the Apostles, called “the New Testament”).
  27. 27. Religion in the World: Christianity • Basic Worldview: – There is one God, Yahweh, who created all that exists perfectly. – However, the first humans wrecked the creation through sin. – Sacrifice is required to bring humans back to God. – Jesus of Nazareth became the final sacrifice for humanity, and is now exalted as Lord of everything. – Individuals become God’s people by faith in the Gospel (“good news”) about Jesus the Christ. • Basic Ethic: love God and love your neighbor.
  28. 28. Christianity throughout history and around the world: the Ecumenical Councils; the Black Church; Martin Luther; the Coptic Church; Wesley; the Pope.
  29. 29. Religion in the World: Islam • Islam began with Muhammad (570-632 CE), an Arabic businessman turned prophet who received his first vision/revelation in 610 CE while fasting on Mount Hira to seek the “True One” (al-Haqq). • After his death, Muhammed’s revelations were recorded in the Qur’ān, the written scriptures of Islam. • Although developing from a monotheistic (one God) movement in seventh century Arabic culture, Islam has become a worldwide religion incorporating a wide diversity of cultures.
  30. 30. Religion in the World: Islam • Basic Worldview: – There is one God, Allah, who created all that exists. – The goal of life is harmony with and service to Allah. – This is accomplished by sincere devotion to the profession of faith. – Islam = peace and submission to God. – Islam builds on the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity, acknowledging these other religions as “people of the Book.” • Basic Ethic: love God and love your neighbor.
  31. 31. Islam: The Mere (5 Pillars) 1. Profession of Faith (Shahada): “There is no God but God and Muhammed is God’s messenger/Prophet.” 2. Prayer/Worship (Salat): made 5 times daily at designated times. 3. Almsgiving (Zakat): Muslims who are financially capable are obligated to share with those who are poor. 4. Fasting (Siyam): All adult Muslims who are physically able are to fast from sun-up to sundown during the month of Ramadan. 5. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)  During a designated time of the year, millions of Muslims from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Mecca.  The pilgrimage is obligatory at least once in a Muslim’s life for all who are physically and financially able.
  32. 32. Types of Islam: The More • Sunni (85%) – Followers of Abu Bakr. – Accept the sunnas – The leader (caliph) should be elected. • Shiite (15%) – Followers of Muhammed’s son-in-law, Alī. – Mainly in Iran and Iraq. – Shiites believe in a series of 12 infallible guides, Imams, with the last one currently in hiding waiting to be revealed as a kind of messiah-figure at the final day.
  33. 33. Types of Islam: The More • Sufism = the interior life of Islam, with Sharī‘a functioning as the exterior. – Sufis are Islamic mystics, devoted to experiencing union with God. – Some Muslims remain suspicious of the orthodoxy of Sufis. – Often, Sufis have been very tolerant of other religions and are sometimes prone to be pluralistic. – Practices include: meditation, spiritual disciplines, and sometimes a monastic lifestyle.
  34. 34. Branches of Islam
  35. 35. Religion in the World: Animism/Shamanism • This is a constructed category meant to capture much of the religious world that does not practice any of the major world religions just covered. • Animism, Shamanism, and some other religions (Wicca, Paganism, Druidism) are very similar in their worldview: – Belief in a spirit world. – Belief that the world is permeated by an impersonal spiritual “force” that can be manipulated through magic. – Pantheistic in their conception of deity. • This kind of worldview is very ancient and embraces most of the indigenous religions around the world: pre-Christian Europe, Africa, Native American religions, Latin America, Asia.
  36. 36. Animistic/Shamanistic Spirituality: Native American religion, Wicca, indigenous South American religion, Aboriginal religion.
  37. 37. Religion in the World • After accounting for the major world religions and Animism/Shamanism, there are still many religious people in the world. • Some of these people can be categorized in groups that fit one of the following: – Spin Off Groups (smaller groups that leave a larger religion): off Christianity (Jehovah’s Witnesses, LDS); off Islam (Baha’i, Nation of Islam); off Hinduism (Hare Krishnas). – Groups that Combine Elements (syncretism creates a new religious group): Sikhism (Islam and Hinduism), Mind-Science groups (Hinduism and Christianity).
  38. 38. Religion in the World • There are Two Extremes Today (avoid them both): – #1: “all religions are basically the same”- NO, they are NOT. To claim that they are is to ignore the distinctive “mere” essentials of the world’s religions. – #2: “religions are so different there can never be any cooperation” – also NOT TRUE. The world’s religions feature much common ground (EX: all of them emphasize love of our neighbors). • The truth is that there are significant differences between religions, as well as much common ground. • Each religion contains multiple sub-groups, with most differences within religions having to do with secondary issues (the “more”).
  39. 39. Theories: Structural-Functionalist • Three Functions of Religion (Durkheim): 1. Meaning and purpose 2. Social cohesion and a sense of belonging 3. Social control • civil religion = nationalism – with the society/nation itself as the ultimate source of meaning – which utilizes terms and concepts drawn from popular religion(s) [EX: “God and Country” in the U.S.]. • prophetic function = religion can critique society and contribute to social change.
  40. 40. Theories: Social-Conflict • Marx: “opiate of the people” Religion is simply a tool used by the elite to embody ideologies and facilitate false consciousness. Religion serves the interests of elite power in society. • Weber: the teaching of predestination created the Protestant work ethic among the Puritans, and this work ethic – stripped of religious significance – created modern capitalism.
  41. 41. Theories: Symbolic Interactionist • Focuses on the micro-level aspects of religion, and how it impacts the everyday lives of people: – Religion can serve as a reference group that helps people define themselves (EX: religious symbols can be very powerful for both groups and individuals). – Men and women interpret religion differently, a fact which some theorize has led to the monopolization of religion by men and the subordination of women as a consequence. • Religion is viewed as a socially constructed reality that provides believers with a “cosmic frame of reference” (Berger).
  42. 42. Theories: Rational Choice • This perspective sees religion as a rational response to human needs. • spiritual marketplace = pluralistic societies like the U.S. feature multiple expressions of religion that continually compete for members. – This process has been produced by the democratization of religion in the U.S. (i.e., the principle of religious freedom which allows the endless creation of new religious groups and expressions). – Driven by individualism, many Americans become religious consumers.
  43. 43. Global Trends in Religion • Early social scientists were convinced that secularization represented progress and would continue to displace religion as the “enlightened” West brought rationalism to the “primitive” parts of the world. – Instead, Europe has proven to be the exception – i.e., religion is actually growing throughout the world. In the U.S., religion co-exists with secularism. • Much worldwide growth in Christianity has been the result of the Charismatic movement [see charts in NEXT SLIDES]. • Increasingly, the global center of Christianity is shifting to the global South (Africa, Asia, and Latin America) [see charts in NEXT SLIDES].