SCLY3: Beliefs in Society Revision Notes

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  • Created on: 09-06-14 12:55
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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society
The specification:
The relationship between religious beliefs and social change and stability
Functionalism: conservative force, inhibition of change, collective conscience, Durkheim and
totemism, anomie; civil religions
Marxism: religion as ideology, legitimating social inequality, disguising exploitation etc
Weber: religion as a force for social change: theodicy's, the Protestant ethic
Neo-Marxism: religion used by those opposing the ruling class, liberation theology
Feminism: religious beliefs supporting patriarchy
Fundamentalist beliefs: rejecting change by reverting to supposed traditional values and practices.
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 New Religious Movements and typologies of NRMs e.g. world
rejecting/accommodating/affirming; millenarian beliefs, with examples of each
New Age movements and spirituality, with examples
The relationship of these organisations to religious and spiritual belief and practice.
The relationship between different social groups and religious/spiritual organisations and movements,
beliefs and practices
Reasons why people join NRMs, NAMs and other organisations
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
Ethnicity and religion: religion and ethnic identity; religion in migrant communities; religions and
minority ethnic groups in the UK today
Age and religion: religious participation and belief by age group; religious socialisation
Social class and religion: religious participation and belief by social class.
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
Postmodernity: end of meta-narratives, `spiritual shopping'
Secularisation: problems of definition and measurement; aspects of secularisation such as
disengagement, rationalisation, rise of pluralism/diversity, desacrilisation, disenchantment,
Arguments and evidence for and against secularisation e.g. attendance and membership; believing
without belonging; the secularisation cycle theory and compensators (Stark and Bainbridge); UK
compared with other countries (e.g. USA) and global significance of religion today.
Different theories of ideology, science and religion, including both Christian and non-Christian religious
Theories of ideology: Marxist, neo-Marxist, pluralist and feminist accounts; hegemony
Theories of science: the social construction of knowledge; political, social and economic contexts
of science; theory and observation; falsification; paradigms
Theories of religion: Functionalist, Marxist, neo-Marxist and feminist.
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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society
Substantive definitions
These focus on the content or substance of religious belief, such as belief in God or the supernatural. For
example, Max Weber (1905) defines religion as belief in a superior supernatural power that is above nature
and cannot be explained scientifically. Substantive definitions are exclusive - they draw a clear line between
religious and non-religious beliefs.…read more

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society
The relationship between religious beliefs and social change
and stability
The Big Picture
Sociological theories of religion are mainly concerned with religion's role for individuals and society. These
theories can be broadly divided into two main debates:
1. Religion acting as a conservative force.…read more

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society
However, while it is possible to see a common religion bringing people together, establishing a value consensus
and integrating small-scale communities, it is hard to see how it can perform this role in contemporary societies,
where there is a wide diversity of different beliefs and faiths. Indeed, religion can often and perhaps more often
than not, do the opposite. Different religions and religious beliefs and values can tear people and communities
apart, and pose threats to social order and stability.…read more

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society
so deeply ingrained through socialization that it may have an effect on the everyday behaviour of believers
and non-believers alike.
For example, if the social rules about killing, stealing and adultery are broken, most individuals will
experience a guilty conscience about doing something wrong, and this is a powerful socializing and
controlling influence over the individual.…read more

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society
unchangeable and inevitable.
Marx thought religion did two main, interrelated things:
It acted as the `opium of the people', cushioning the pain of oppression and exploitation in unequal
It legitimized and maintained the power of the ruling class.
Religion as the `opium of the people'
The Marxist approach suggests that religion eases the pain of oppression and exploitation in three main
1.…read more

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society
2. Islam, particularly Islamic fundamentalism, is often a vehicle for resisting the
global influence of Western cultural imperialism, fighting the Americanization of the world's culture, and
resisting the dominance of Western corporations in the world economy.
3. In Iran, Islam produced revolutionary change, with a revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini leading to the
overthrow of a dictatorial monarchy (the shahdom) and the establishment of an Islamic republic in
1978--9.…read more

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society
Overall evaluation of the feminist approach
Linda Woodhead (2002) criticises feminist explanations that simply equate religion with patriarchy and the
oppression of women. While accepting that much traditional religion is patriarchal, she emphasises that this
is not true of all religion. She argues that there are `religious forms of feminism' - ways in which women use
religion to gain greater freedom and respect.
Woodhead uses the example of the hijab or veil worn by many Muslim women.…read more

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society
Calvinists believed in predestination, i.e. that they were chosen by God for salvation. They were taught to
believe that righteous living was all-important and that their reward for sticking to such religious principles
would be economic success.
Calvinism encouraged values such as self-discipline, hard work, thrift, modesty and the rejection of
self-indulgence, pleasure, idleness and lavish spending: the 'Protestant Work Ethic'.…read more




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