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·      Berger points out that every culture has developed ways of dealing with big questions (e.g. the taking of life) in order to prevent anxiety and social disruption. He refers to these beliefs as a 'sacred canopy'.

What is religion?

·      Sociological approaches to defining religion can be divided into three broad categories:

1.    Substantive definitions- These attempt to explain what religion is.

2.    Functional definitions- These define religion in terms of its uses and purposes for individuals and societies.

3.    Polythetic definitions- These define religion by creating a list of possible characteristics (e.g. sacred texts) that make up a religion but accept that no one example will share them all.

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Types of religion..

 There are two types of theistic religions (religion that centre belief in a higher power):

1.    Monotheistic religions- These religions believe in one divine power e.g. Islam.

2.    Polytheistic religions- These religions focus on a number of separate gods e.g. Ancient Rome.

·      Totems are animals or plants that are believed to possess supernatural powers of some kind.

·      Animism refers to the belief in ghosts or spirits. Spirits may be forces for good or evil and can have a huge influence on human behaviour.

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Ideology, science and religion..

·      Sociologists argue that ideologies often justify the position of power groups in society. Thus, the idea that kings in medieval Europe were answerable only to God- known as the 'divine right of kings'- helped them justify their absolute power.

Science and religion as ideologies

·      Critics of science argue that its progress and priorities reflect the interests of powerful groups e.g. drug companies.

·      Marxists claim that religion justifies inequalities in society and encourages passivity and acceptance of the status quo. 

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