Beliefs in Society Sociology AQA

Here's some brief notes on the general discussion points for sociological debate. They're all from the book and follow pretty much everything that was in there just in abbreviated form.

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  • Created on: 18-06-14 07:45
Preview of Beliefs in Society Sociology AQA

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Definitions of religion:
Substantive ­ exclusive, belief in supernatural e.g. God or holy texts.
Functional ­ what religion does for individual/society, inclusive.
Social constructionist ­ How people define religion/definitions change, inclusive, Interpretivist.
Functionalist theories of religion:
Society as a system of interrelated parts with needs met by institutions e.g. religion, media.
Durkheim on religion:
Sacred and profane ­ Sacred (things surrounded by prohibitions/taboos and create feelings of awe
­ powerful feelings from sacred represent greater power e.g. society) and profane (ordinary things).
Totenism ­ Study of Arunta rituals around totems e.g. reinforcing solidarity of group = totem
represents power of society that individuals rely on.
The collective conscience ­ Sacred symbols/rituals = society's collective conscience, reinforcing
integration, binding people together reminding them they're part of a group.
Cognitive functions ­ Religion the source of our ability to reason/think conceptually = religion allows
us to think of/share ideas of time, space.
Criticisms of functionalist theories of religion:
Worsley = No clear division between sacred and profane.
Explains integration within communities but not conflict between them.
Postmodernists = Increased diversity = fractured collective conscience.
Malinowski: Psychological functions of religion:
Helps those cope with stress, promotes social solidarity.
Study of Trobriand Islanders:
1. When outcome is uncertain (fishing in lagoon =no rituals as situation safe, when fishing in ocean =
rituals as dangerous situation).
2. Life crisis death/birth/marriage = brings people together, gives peace of mind.
Parsons: Values and meanings:
Helps people cope with uncertainty, answers unanswerable questions e.g. what happens after
death, creates society's values/morals to follow.
Functional alternatives:
Non-religious practices perform same functions as religion e.g. school, collectivism.
Bellah Civil religion = attaches sacred qualities to society, integrates society in a way that religion
can't e.g. loyalty to nation state/belief in God e.g. being a `true American'.
Ignores religion as a source of conflict/oppression.
Emphasises social nature of religion.

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Marxist theories of religion:
Society = two classes e.g. Bourgeoisie and Proletariat (working class) religion dividing society.
Religion as ideology:
Religion as a justification of inequality and suffering.
Religion distorts perceptions of reality to benefit ruling class.
Creates false consciousness therefore preventing revolution.
Makes ruling class's position in society look predetermined.
Religion and alienation:
Religion = product of alienation.
Workers = alienated e.g. no freedom to express true nature.
Shows how religion could be used as tool for oppression.
Ignores positive aspects of religion.…read more

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Topic two: Religion and social change:
Religion = traditional, conserves things as they are, upholds traditional beliefs about society.
Religion's conservative beliefs:
Religions = opposing changes allowing freedom e.g. Catholic church opposing abortion, divorce, gat
marriage and upholding traditional nuclear family values.
Religion's conservative functions:
Religion and Consensus: Functionalists maintains social stability.
Religion and capitalism: Marxism prevents social change/justifies exploitation.
Religion and Patriarchy: Feminists Religion = ideology legitimising patriarchy.
Weber: Religion as force for change:
Calvinism as beginning of modern capitalism.
Protestant ethic/spirit of capitalism.…read more

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Religion and Social Protest:
Bruce: The American Civil Rights Movement:
Churches provide support/sanctuary/unite members through rituals.
Ideological resource: provided beliefs/practices that protestors use as support.
Acting as honest broker: church used for negotiation in conflict as respected by both sides.
Taking the moral high ground: double standards of white clergy pointed out e.g. `love thy neighbour'
­ racial segregation.
Mobilising public opinion: Black churches campaigning for support across America.
The New Christian right:
Protestant fundamentalist movement.
Seeking to take America back to God e.g.…read more

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Topic three: Secularisation:
Secularisation in Britain:
1851 census = 40% church attendance 19th century as golden age for religion.
Church attendance declined, average age of attendees increase greater religious diversity.
Wilson Western societies = long term secularisation secularisation as religious beliefs and
institutions losing social influence.
Church attendance today:
6.3% = today's church attendance small proportion of children attending Sunday school now.
Religious beliefs today:
More people claim to be religious even if they don't go to church.
Religious belief falling in line with attendance.…read more

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Spiritual revolution:
Traditional Christianity taken over by new age spirituality e.g. emphasis on personal
development/exploring inner self.
Traditional churches sought duty and obedience Evangelical churches combine this with healing
and rebirth.
Bruce: Cultural defence and transition:
Cultural defence religion as focal point for defence of identity against external force e.g. hostile
foreign power.
Cultural transition religion provides support for ethnic groups e.g. migrants.
Diversity could stimulate participation.
Beckford diversity may lead to questioning of belief but isn't inevitable.…read more

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Topic four: Religion, renewal and choice:
Postmodernity and religion:
Davie: Believing without belonging:
Religion becoming privatised people believing in homes not going to church.
Davie: Vicarious religion (Clergy practising religion on behalf of larger community):
25% going to church but 80% using it for rituals/rites.
Science and religion coexist together as religion will always be used despite non-believing.
Crockett: British Attitudes Survey attendance and belief both declining.
Bruce if people don't invest time into belief it means their belief is weak.…read more

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Competition leads to improvements, churches want to appear attractive to gain members.
Statistics = diversity causes decline in belief.
Bruce: Secularisation theory misunderstood e.g. only claims that religion is in decline.
Inglehart: High level of religiosity in Catholic countries.
Norris and Inglehart: Existential security theory (feeling that survival secure enough to take it for granted):
Poor Societies: Face life threatening risks so have high levels of religiosity.
Rich societies: Have high standards of living thus low levels of religiosity.…read more

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Giddens: Fundamentalism and Cosmopolitanism:
Fundamentalisms traditionalist = seek to return basics of their faith e.g. literal truths of sacred
texts/believe theirs is the only true view of the world.
Detest modernity but use it to spread ideas e.g. use of internet = growth through globalisation.
Cosmopolitanism Being tolerant of the views of others and open to new ideas = requires people
to justify their ideas rationally.
Castells: Responses to Postmodernity:
Resistant identity defensive reaction to those who feel threatened and retreat into
fundamentalist communities.…read more

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Troeltsch: Churches and Sects:
Church large organisations, hierarchy of leaders, universal, believe in a monopoly of religious
Sects small organisations, led by one leader, exclusive and hostile of wider society, high
commitment, believe they have monopoly of religious truth.
Neibuhr: Denominations and Cults:
Denominations In between churches/sects, less exclusive than sect but don't appeal to
everyone, accept societies values, tolerant of other organisations, don't claim monopoly of truth.…read more


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