What is religion?
Substantive definition -
Max Weber - religion is a belief in a superior or supernatural power that is above nature and cannot be explained scientifically.
- to be a religion> must have belief in God or supernatural .
Accused of Western bias.
Functional definition -
Define religion as the social or psychological function it performs for indivuduals + society!
Durkheim > religion = contribution to social intergration rather than a specific god.
Functional definitions are inclusive.- they include different beliefs as NO BIAS to western or non western.
What is religion 2?
Social constructionist definitions.
Interpretivist approach. - say it isnt possible to produce one single definition of religion to cover all. ( religion means different things to different people.)
- imposible to generalise nature of religion as its up to personal meanings + opinions.
Functionalist theories of religion.
social order, intergration and solidarity.
Religion aids the organism analogy!!
Durkheim on religion.
Durkheim - religion creates + maintains value consensus.
The sacred + profane
sacred things evolve meaning and power in believers. (symbols)
Durkheim says this can only be society as it has power to change.
- so people worship symbols which are actually society itself.
-> These sacred symbols/ practices encourage collective groups.
-> uniting believers whatever religion
Studied tribes -> come together to worship totems.
-> Gives identity to a group ( reinforces solidarity)
Shared norms + values -> without these society would disintergrate.
Sacred symbols represent collective conscience.
Religion maintains social integration.
Therefore religion provides function for the invididual.
Durkheim on religion 2.
Cognitive functions of religion.
Ability to fixate catergories- eg god being the beginning of earth.
Evidence of toteism is unsound -> WORSLEY says this doesnt even prove discovery of all religions.
May just apply ti small-scale societies with single relisions.
- May explain social intergration but not conflict of religion.
+ increased diversity fragments collective conscience as there is no single shared norm/value system to religion.
Malinowski -> religion promotes social solidarity.
Religion is an emotional coping function!
>At times of life crisis. (birth/marriage/ puberty/death)
- religion aids disruption of these crisises- Funerals give social solidarity.
> At times of uncontrolable outcomes- trobriand islanders fishing in lagoons then sea.
- rituals done when ocean fishing. - gives a sense of control
Malinowski says death is main reasons for religious beliefs.
Parsons Values and meanings
Parsons -> religion creates + legitiates central values.
Religion is primary source of meaning. - eg meritocracy, individualism.
-Religion answers unanswered questions.
Some events (death) makes us question societies values.
Religion gives answers and reward for faith.
Bellah -> (Americanism) joins people together.
Civil religion intergrates society that individual religions cant.
Eg, national anthem!
Some belief systems perform same functions.
Nazi/ soviets - uniting society.
Evaluation of Functionalism views on religion.
Neglects negatives of society from religion.
(oppression to poor/ women.)
Ignores religion as a division + conflict
Civil religion may not be a religion if not based on beliefs of supernatural.
Marxist + Feminist.
Marxist theories of religion.
Religion as ideology.
Marx -> ideology is a belief system that distorts perception of reality in order to serve ruling class.
Institutions-> church, media, education have ruling class ideas spread so people socialised to now know better. - legitimates exploitation.
Relision gives False conscionsness. Eg "harder for a rich man to enter kingdom of heaven than a camel to pass through a needle."
Lenin -> religion is a 'spiritual Gin'
Ruling class create mystical fog for poor so they arent overthrown.
Marxist theories of religion 2
Religion + alienation
Marx-> religion is a product of alienation.
- Workers are exploited + treated like machines.
Marx - relision is the opium of the people.-> dulls the pain of exploitation.
- spirit of the spiritless situation.
Religion masks pain rather than treats the cause.
-> religion promises afterlife to create illusionary happiness.
-> religion helps maintain power and compensates the poor.
Ignores positive functions of religion-> psychological adjustment to misfortune!
Althusser - rejects alienation as it is unscientific.
Inadequate for religion.
Feminist theory of religion.
Feminist - society is partiarchal.
Religion is patriarchal instituation that reproduces inequality.
- religious beliefs function ideology that legitimates female subordination.
Religious organisations - male dominated / forbid women in high religious positions.
Places of worship-> segregation of sexes. (women behind screens)
Men occupy sacred places.
Islam -> women on PERIOD cannot touch the Qur'an.
Sacred texts -> male gods / written + interprutted by men.
Religious laws + customers -> womens rights to divorce. + decision making
Cultural norms (gender domains)
Religious regulate womens reproduction-> Catholics done use contraception.
Woodhead -> religious feminism.
Religious forms of feminism -> women use religion to gain freedom.
eg women wearing the hijab worn by muslims.
Westerns see it as oppression - some women wear it to avoid being looked at as an object by men.
Position of women is changing. eg emplyment laws/ sex discrimination acts.