Beliefs in Society (2017)

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  • Created on: 21-04-17 17:18

Theories of Religion

Functionalist Theories

  • DURKHEIM - sacred [set apart/forbidden] and profane [ordinary], totemism (solidarity [unity] / belonging), collective conscience (shared values etc. => cooperation)
  • MALINOWSKI - psychological functions -> imp., uncertain, uncontrollable outcome (Trobidand Islanders - fishing), times of crisis (e.g.death)

Marxist Theories

  • ideology - distorts perception of reality, serves ruling class, religion legitimate suffering of W/C (inevitable, comes from God), false class consciousness (distorts, prevents)
  • MARX - alienation, religion = opiate (dull pain of exploitation), distracts from true source

Feminist Theories

  • patriarchy - male dominated, e.g.priests, marginalisation, places (segregate), limited participation, sacred texts (male figures), laws and customs (fewer rights)
  • WOODHEAD - not all (religious forms of feminism), e.g. hijab (oppression vs freedom), increase power and influence
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Religion and Social Change

Religion as a Conservtive Force

  • upholds traditional beliefs (e.g. patriarchal family), maintains social stability (functionalists),  social control (marxists, feminists)

Religion as Force for Change

  • WEBER - calvinism (predetermined, divine transcendence, salvation panic, asceticism)

Religion and Social Protest

  • BRUCE - American Civil Rights Movement (moral high ground, channelling dissent, honest broker, mobilising public opinion), New Christian Right (take 'back to God', unsuccessful)

Marxism, Religion and Change

  • relative autonomy (partly independent  of economic base of society) => dual character
  • GRAMSCI - hegemony [ideological domination]
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Secularisation in Britain

  • decline in church attendance,  increase in average churchgoers, fewer baptisms/church weddings, greater religious diversity, decline influence of religious institutions

Explanations of Secularisation

  • WEBER - rationalisation (protestant reformation => rational scientific outlook, disenchantment)
  • PARSONS - structural differentiation (specialisation, 1 to many)
  • BRUCE - religious diversity (diff. interpretations, no monopoly, decline in plausibility)
  • BRUCE - cultural defence (group identity in struggle against an external force) and transition (support/sense of community for e.g. migrants)

Secularisation in America

  • decline in church attendance, secularisation from within (religion psychologised [therapy] ), religious diversity (acceptance)
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Religion, Renewal and Choice

Postmodernity and Religion

  • DAVIE - believing without belonging (privatised form, personal choice not obligation, vicarious religion [small no. practice on behalf of large no.] )
  • HERVIEU-LEGER - spiritual shopping (not handed down through generations, individual consumerism replaced collective tradition = choice)
  • relocation of religion (globalisation [growing interconnectedness of societies] => movement of ideas and beliefs, media => disembedded ideas, religion = de-institutionalised)

Religious Market Theory

  • STARK & BAINBRIDGE - compensators (e.g. immortality), cycle (decline, revival, renewal)

Existential Security Theory

  • NORRIS & INGLEHART - meets need for security (e.g. for poor)
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Religion in a Global Context

Religious Fundamentalism

  • GIDDENS - traditionalists who seek to return to the basics of their faith, believe in literal truth of scripture, intolerant, growth due to globalisation (undermines traditional social norms)
  • BRUCE - confined to monotheistic religions [one God, authoritative text]

Religion and Development

  • NANDA - Hindu ultra-nationalism (legitimates successful version of Indian nationalism, holy men preached desire is not bad but motivates to do things)

Cultural Defence

  • Poland - communist rule, Catholic Church = rallying point for opposition + active support to solidarity free trade union movements
  • Iran - modernisation and Westernisation (e.g. calendar change), revolution => Islamic Republic (clerics = same power as state)
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Organisations, Movements and Members

Types of Religious Organisations

  • Church (monopoly), Sect (charismatic leader), Denomination (tolerant), Cult (individualistic)
  • New Religious Movements - world-rejecting (critical of outside world, seek radical change), world-accommodating (breakaways, focus = religious matters), world-affirming (accept world)

Explaining the Growth of Religious Movements

  • WEBER - Marginality [disprivileged] (sect = solution -> theodicy of dispriviledge [religious explanation/justification for their suffering] )
  • Relative Deprivation [subjective sense of being deprived] - spiritually deprived M/C, sects = sense of community
  • WILSON - Social Change (rapid change disrupt/undermine norms & values => anomie [normlessness] => uncertainty, sects => sense of community)

Religiosity and Social Groups

  • gender - more women, socialisation (passive), work (part-time), associations (nature/healing)
  • ethnicity - minorities, cultural defence/transition
  • age - older more likely attend, ageing effect (approach death), generational effect (secular)
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Ideology and Science

Science as a Belief System

  • POPPER - science = open belief system [open to scrutiny] (falsification)
  • MERTON - CUDOS norms (Communism [share], Universalism [judged by universal criteria], Disinterestedness [own sake], Organised Scepticism [open to objective investigation])
  • science = closed belief system (paradigm => what to study,methods, what counts as evidence etc., scientific revolution challenges)
  • religion = closed belief system [claims absolute knowledge of truth, cannot be challenged, knowledge = fixed, doesn't grow]


  • [worldview/set of ideas or values - a belief system]
  • MANNHEIM - ideology and utopia - ideological thought (justifies keeping things as they are), utopian thought (justifies social change)
  • marxism  - prevent change by creating false consciousness among workers
  • feminism - patriarchal -> legitimate gender inequality (e.g. exclusion from education - 19th century)
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