Defining belief systems and ideology

A belief system is a framework of ideas that shapes how an individual makes sense of the world.

An ideology is a set of beliefs or principles.

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  • Created by: Lex(:
  • Created on: 22-11-12 13:12

Distinctions between belief systems and ideologies

  • 1)
    • Belief systems extended beyond ideologies.
    • Beliefs systems are an umbrella term for an organised set of ideas and principles.
    • An ideology is just one type of belief system.
  • 2)
    • Ideology is regarded as a secular term (Popper 1945) whereas a belief system has religious connotations.
  • 3)
    • The term belief system carries fewer judgements, whereas ideology is rarely used in a neutral way
  • 4)
    • Ideology is often used as a negative description of someone else's world view. For example, Marx would say that an ideology helps the elite maintain their power in society. Ideology in this sense involves one social group dominating another.
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Belief and Knowledge

  • A belief is something we may think is true, but we do not know for certain.
  • Knowledge is something that is true, no doubts can be made.
  • Beliefs systems are based on what we think but not actually what we know.
    • So, therefore, philosophies, religious and ideologies have no firm factual basis.
    • They are all attempts to explain the world in the absence of knowledge.
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Religion, Science and the Enlightment


  • the emergence of scientific thinking in the 18th Century
  • Frazer (1890) believes that the growth of scientific explanations of the world would cause religion to disappear.
  • Religion has not disappeared, but some sociologists argue that secularisation is occurring.
  • Science cannot tell people how to live their lives, and tells people nothing about norms, values, hopes, fears etc
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Science and Knowledge

Gould (1999) believes that...

  •  science and religion are two separate realms
    • Science provides certain knowledge about the world
    • Whereas religion gives moral guidance
    • relativist view - sees religion as just one of the many beliefs in the world - all of them are equally valid

Gellner (1974) disagrees with Gould and insists that the objective nature of science makes it superior to all other forms of knowledge.

Dawkins (2006) believes that relativists such as Gould are just trying to appease powerful religious groups. In America, society, atheism is very much frowned upon and atheists can become marginalised and vilified.

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Science and Religion

  • Science and Religion continue to exists side-by-side, but they do not need to do so without tensions.
  • America is one of the most religious and industrially advanced democracies in the world.
  • Most America scientists say that life has evolved over millions of years. But many Americans reject the ideas as evolution conflicts with the biblical accounts of creation.
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Is science a belief system?

  • Relativist view (closely associated with postmodernists) states that there are a multiplicity of beliefs in society and that science is just one of them, Science has no more claim on the truth than any other belief system.
  • Kuhn (1972): points out that scientists work within a set of rules called a paradigm (a mode of viewing the world which underlines the theories and methodology of science in a particular period of history).
    • This means that science is a fairly closed system of ideas, which leads to the rejection of evidence that challenges its claims.
    • The way that science overcomes these problems is by creating a new set of paradigms.
    • However, the existence of paradigms in science highlights subjectivity.
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Atheism and Science

There are different atheist views...

  • Agnostic remain doubtful about the existence of God in the absence of empirical evidence
  • Staunch atheists usually take a rationalist stance
  • Some atheists disagree with arguemtnts that the existence of God is illogical.
    • Dawkins believes that it is impossible for the God of the world religions to exist - there is no factual basis for the claims made by world faiths and there is scientific evidence to repute them.
  • Atheists reject the view of God. They believe that 'human rights' can teach people about morals and that these views are universal.
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Is religion an ideology?

Marx (1884):

  • Described religion as ideological
  • For Marx, ideology is a negative term, describing a means of one social group controlling one
    • Religion is the principle mechanism for doing this.
  • Ideology and religion both claim to have a monopoly of the truth.
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Science and Religious as ideologies

  • Sociologists argue that both science and religion are ideological in the way that they work in the interests of the powerful groups.
  • Critics of science argue that its progress and priorities reflect the interests of the powerful groups, such as drug companies.
  • Harding (1986): argues that science reflects male assumptions and understandings about the world.
  • Marxists claim that religion justifies inequalities in society and encourages a docile, passive society and the acceptance of the status quo.
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