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CHAPTER 14 Religion
Chapter Outline Religion, Science, and Sociology Theoretical Perspectives Religion: Structure and Practice Religion in the United States World Religions
Religion and Science Can religion and science coexist? Because religion involves matters beyond human observation and because science is all about observation, these two institutions can potentially conflict.
Religion and Sociology Religion – a unified system of beliefs and practices about sacred things found in nearly all societies. Sacred – entities that are set apart and given a special meaning that transcends immediate human existence. Profane – nonsacred aspects of life (not referring to that which is unholy, but that which is commonplace. Transcendent reality – a set of meanings attached to a world beyond human observation.
Functionalism and Religion Based on Durkheim’s belief that the essential function of religion was to provide a mirror for members of society to see themselves, through sacred symbols, sociologists identified the following functions of religion: 1. Legitimates social arrangements 2. Encourage a sense of social unity 3. Provides a sense of meaning 4. Promote a sense of belonging
Functionalism and Religion 1. Legitimate social arrangements Legitimation justifies and explains the status quo. Through this process of explaining why society is or should be the way it is, there is a justification of social arrangements that exist.
Functionalism and Religion 2. Encourages social unity Religion is a glue that holds society together. Without religion society would be chaotic.
Functionalism and Religion 3. Provides a sense of meaning. Religion provides a meaning for people that transcends their day-to-day life. Religious ceremonies are used to give believers a cosmic significance and eternal significance to an uncertain earthly existence.
Functionalism and Religion 4. Promote a sense of belonging. Opportunities are provided for people to share commonalities: ideas, a way of life, an ethnic background. Membership may provide a sense of community.
Conflict Theory and Religion Marx believed that once people create a unified system of sacred beliefs and practices, they act as if it were something beyond their control. They become “alienated” from the religious system they set up.
Conflict Theory and Religion The ruling class uses religion to justify its economic, political, and social advantage over the oppressed. Marx thought of religion as a narcotic for the oppressed: It is the opium of the people.
Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic Weber believed that religion sometimes encourages social change. Capitalism involved a radical redefinition of work, it became a moral obligation rather than a necessity.
Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic Weber referred to the cluster of values and attitudes stressing hard work, thrift, and discipline as the Protestant ethic. Weber found the roots of the Protestant ethic in the 17 th century Puritan theology of Calvinism – a person’s fate was predetermined by God.
Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic Protestants endorsed the idea that salvation came from unselfish good works here on earth. Therefore they were encouraged to do more and more work for less.
Gender and Religion Less visible forms of conflict are generated by the efforts of religious elites to maintain control over an entire society or subgroups within a society. An important instance is male domination of women that exists in most of the world’s major religions.
Symbolic Interactionism and Religion Peter Berger (The Sacred Canopy, 1990): humans create from their religious traditions a canopy, or cover, of symbolic meanings to lay over the secular world a canopy of religious beliefs, rituals, and ideas provides stability and security in a changing and uncertain existence.
Focus on Theoretical Perspectives: Religion
Questions for Consideration How does religion serve as a force of social control in any society? How has the function of religion changed? Has the role of women changed in religion? What challenges do religions face?
Religion: Structure and Practice: Religious Organizations The rarest type of religious organization today is the ecclesia, a state religion either headed by religious leaders or heavily influenced by a religious elite.
Religion: Structure and Practice: Religious Organizations Under this type of religious organization there is no separation between church and state. Since there is no separation between church and state, there is no separation between citizenship and church membership. Everyone born into the country is automatically a member of the church.
Religion: Structure and Practice: Religious Organizations A denomination is one of several religious organizations that most members of a society accept as legitimate.
Religion: Structure and Practice: Religious Organizations Because denominations are not tied to the state, membership in them is voluntary, and competition among them for members is socially acceptable. Most American “churches”— Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Reformed Jewish—are actually denominations.
Religion: Structure and Practice: Religious Organizations A sect is a religious organization formed when members of an existing religious organization break away in an attempt to reform the “parent” group. Sect members believe that some valuable beliefs or traditions were lost by the parent organization, and they form their own group to save these features.
Religion: Structure and Practice: Religious Organizations A cult, by contrast, is a religious organization whose characteristics are not drawn from existing religious traditions within a society.
Religion: Structure and Practice: Religious Organizations Although the term cult covers a wide range of groups and organizations The religious cults in the United States today share several characteristics: an authoritarian structure, rejection of the secular world’s laws and ways, strict discipline of adherents, rigidity in thinking, conviction of sole possession of truth and wisdom, belief in the group’s moral superiority, and discouragement of individualism.
Religiosity 1. 2. Religiosity – ways in which people express their religious interests and convictions. Belief – refers to what a person considers to be true. Ritual – a religious practice that members of a religion are expected to perform; public or private.
Religiosity 3. 4. 5. Intellectual – involves knowledge of the Bible or other written teaching; human existence as evil, suffering and death. Informed about their faith. Experience – encompasses certain feelings attached to religious expression. Consequences – the decisions and commitments people make as a result of religious beliefs, rituals, knowledge, or experiences. Consequences may be social or personal.
Importance of Religion in One’s Life
Religion in the U. S. Although the search for religious freedom was only one of the reasons the Puritans came to America, there was a genuine religious element in the American colonization and revolution.
Secularization – a profane process through which the sacred loses influence over society. Through this process, other social institutions are emptied of religious content and freed from religious control. Religion itself becomes a specialized, isolated institution.
Wealth and Religiosity
Percentage of American Saying Religion is Very Important in Their Lives: 1952 -2010
Secularization Evidence is mixed concerning the relative importance of religion in the United States today. The percentage of Americans claiming that religion is very important in their lives declined from 75 percent in 1952 to 56 percent in 2010.
Secularization The religiously unaffiliated are now the country’s third largest “religious group. ” Young adults between eighteen and twenty-nine are much more likely than those seventy or over to indicate a lack of affiliation with any particular religion (29 percent versus 7 percent.
Global Comparison of Church Attendance
Membership in Selected Religious Organizations in the United States
Questions for Consideration Do you think the percentage will continue to rise, or will it decline again? Why? What do you think may explain the decrease in reported religious importance?
Civil Religion & Invisible Religion Civil religion – a public religion that expresses a strong tie between a deity and a culture; it is broad enough to encompass almost the entire nation. Invisible religion – a private religion that is substituted formal religious organizations, practices, and beliefs.
The Resurgence of Fundamentalism – is based on the rejection of secularization and the corresponding close adherence to traditional beliefs, rituals, and doctrines. Two issues disturbed the early fundamentalists. 1. 2. First, fundamentalists were concerned about the spread of secularism. Second, fundamentalists rejected the movement away from the traditional message of Christianity toward an accent on social service.
The Resurgence of Fundamentalism Why has fundamentalism reappeared? 1. 2. 3. Many Americans feel their world is out of control. By placing emphasis on warmth, love, and caring, fundamentalist churches provide solace to people who are witnessing and experiencing the weakening of family and community ties. Fundamentalist churches offer what they consider a more purely sacred environment
Religious Movements in the U. S. 1. 2. 3. 4. The Raelians – proclaimed their successful attempt to clone the first human being. The Unification Church – adherents are generally referred to as Moonies; combination of Protestantism and anticommunism Scientology – a spiritual therapy inspired by the late science fiction writer Hubbard who discovered therapy and technique of Dianetics. Neo-Pagans are characterized as natureworshippers.
Four seductive features of religious cults 1. 2. 3. 4. Most of the cult converts are looking for friendship, companionship, acceptance, warmth, and recognition. Most of the Eastern religious cults emphasize immediate experience and emotional gratification rather than deliberation and rational argument. Eastern religious cults emphasize authority. These cults purport to offer authenticity and naturalness in an otherwise artificial world.
Social Correlates of Religion Social class and politics are two important social correlates of religious preference. 85% of Americans profess some religious affiliation. Although there are over 300 denominations and sects in the U. S. , about half of Americans are Protestant.
Self-Identification by Religious Tradition
Social Class and Religion Generally speaking, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Jews are on the top of the stratification structure. Below them are Lutherans, Catholics, and Methodists. When measured by education and income, Baptists, on the average, come out the lowest. The social class differences are due partly to self-selection: People tend to prefer churches with members who have socioeconomic characteristics similar to their own.
Politics and Religion Followers of the Jewish faith are particularly aligned with the Democratic Party; they are followed in strength of support by the religiously unaffiliated, Catholics and Protestants generally are more politically conservative than the unaffiliated, Catholics, or Jews, and the Democratic Party is not associated with political conservatism.
World Religions There are three major Western religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The two major Eastern religions are Hinduism and Buddhism. The contrast between Eastern and Western religions primarily revolves around the practice of polytheism or monotheism rather than by physical location.
Eastern Religions: Hinduism, the oldest of the religions covered here, originated over 2, 000 years ago in India. Hinduism is unique among the five religions in not having a specific founder associated with it. Rather, Hinduism comes from an ancient oral tradition not committed to writing until the Middle Ages.
Eastern Religions: Hinduism Rather than believing in a single god, polytheistic Hindus are free to choose which of the myriad of divine beings they prefer to worship; and they may choose different deities at different times in their lives. Karma is the term by which we know this belief. There about 780 million Hindus today. Nearly all Hindus live in South Asia, particularly India, whose population is 80 percent Hindu.
Eastern Religions: Buddhism originated in sixth-century B. C. E. India as an alternative interpretation of Hinduism. Its founder, Siddhartha Gautama, lived between 560 and 480 B. C. E. Buddha followers were to avoid lying, stealing, and killing, as well as the worldly pleasures of improper sex and intoxicating substances. These prohibitions formed the five basic rules of ethical living.
Eastern Religions: Buddhism Enlightenment is a state individually attained rather than one received as a gift from the deities. Enlightenment, achieved through intense meditation and good deeds, brings release from this cycle (nirvana). Buddhists, numbering approximately 360 million, are concentrated in the Far East and Southeast Asia.
Western Religions: Judaism Upon giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, the clan God became the single God (monotheism) of the Israelites, and Judaism became an established religion. Judaism is a religion of God’s law as expressed in the Scripture (Torah).
Western Religions: Judaism Certain practices, such as dietary restrictions, observance of Sabbath, and religious holidays are, however, binding in traditional Judaism. There about 17 million followers of Judaism, 5 million of whom reside in Israel. The remainder is found mainly in Eastern Europe and the United States. In fact, 80 percent of the world’s Jews are in the United States and Israel.
Western Religions: Christianity Similarities between Christianity and Judaism: both religions are monotheistic, worship the same God, and trace their ancestry to Abraham, a Jewish patriarch, share the Old Testament scripture. The fundamental division between early Christians and Jews is traced to the founder of Christianity.
Western Religions: Christianity While the Jews expected the appearance of a messiah (savior), they did not believe him to be Jesus, the messiah recognized by Christians. Christianity is the world’s largest and most diverse religion: with more than 2 billion followers.
Western Religions: Islam shares its Abrahamic origin with Jews and Christians. Islam is monotheistic, and founded by the Prophet Muhammad who received his first revelation from God in 610 C. E. The final word of God is contained in the Koran, scripture revealed to Muhammad over his lifetime.
Western Religions: Islam All Muslims subscribe to the Five Pillars of Islam: a declaration of faith, accepting the authenticity of Muhammad as God’s Prophet implicitly, the validity of the Koran, a commitment to pray five times each day, charity, to keep the fast of Ramadan, and a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in a lifetime.
Western Religions: Islam Today, there about 1. 6 billion Muslims, representing 24 percent of the world’s population. Islam is the state religion of twenty-five nations. Muslims are concentrated in the Middle East, the rest of Asia and Africa.