Sociology: Beliefs: Theories of Religion

3 definitions of religion:
substantive, functional, constructionist
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based on content/substance, needs belief in God/supernatural/superior power.
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the belief in a supernatural power/ superior to nature and cannot be scientifically explained.
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widespread but exclusive, doesn't include similar practices or beliefs who don't incorporate God, Western Bias (exclude Buddhism)
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based on social/psychological functions eg unity, community, tolerance
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depends on contribution it makes to society/individual (not God/SPN) eg social intergration
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depends on functions for individuals in answering the big questions
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No western bias, inclusive to wide range of beliefs, but not all institutions that integrate are religious eg chanting at football match
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interpretivist approach, no single universal definition, own definitions (interested in how made, challenged, discussed)
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Scientology can be seen as a religion to its followers but still denied legal status by government (even sought to ban). Definitions defined by those in. power
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open to understanding meanings (verstehen) but impossible to generalise (so difficult to understanding, critique)
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main functionalist
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functionalist view of religion
functional prerequisites met by social institutions, social order and solidarity creates value consensus, without society disintegrates/anomie (individual pursuits of selfish desires)
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Durkheim's theory
key feature is fundamental distinction between Sacred and Profane, in all religions. S: set apart or forbidden (taboos), inspire emotions (fear, awe) eg reading bible. P: ordinary, no special significance, mundane, routine eg driving to church.
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what is the collective?
definite rituals/ practices related to the sacred, performed by social groups eg communion
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what are their purposes?
sacred evokes powerful feelings, symbols represent great power which can only be society (nothing more powerful to command feelings), worshipping symbols is worshipping society, religions vary but function same.
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what is this called?
SOCIAL COHESION: uniting believers into single moral community.
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what it Totemism?
found in the simplest form of society (clan), Study of ARUNTA, aboriginal Australian tribe, bands of kin, periodic meetings of totem worship (represents group origin/identity) perform rituals + shared veneration reinforces group solidarity/belonging
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how does this worship society?
totem inspires feelings of awe and power of the group on which they are utterly dependent. Reinforces COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE
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what is collective conscience?
shared norms, values and beliefs makes social cooperation possible (anomie wo). Shared religious rituals reinforce cc and maintain social intergration (remind of single community and loyalty)
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what are the individual functions?
self efficacy, feel greater than ourselves, motivates to overcome obstacles (couldnt do wo)
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Mauss and Durkheim
cognitive functions: origin of human thought, source of intellectual capacities (eg reason+think in concepts) religion gave us categories to have shared understanding eg time, causation, space from G as creator+ classification through tribe division
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crit: no clear profane and sacred division (overlap), some clans share totems, totemism doesnt prove origin of all religions (western bias)
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theory only applies small scale, difficult for multiple as more communities come into conflict, social integration explains own but not conflict/tolerance
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Mestrovic (postmodernists)
cannot apply to contemporary society as more diverse and fragmented cc, no single shared values to reinforce
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durkheim's own personal bias: western, denounced religion, mainly experienced judaism and christianity
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Malinowski (anthropologist)
psychological functions: solidarity+cope w emotional stress that would threaten social solidarity: when the outcome is important but uncertain (Trobriand use of canoe magic ocean fishing, sense of control/god of the gaps) or times of crisis
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Malinowski continued
eg death and birth which causes disruption, religion minimises eg funeral rights reinforce solidarity and immortality comforts/denies death (M believes death is why religion exists)
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cope with unforeseen events/uncontrollable outcomes, 2 essential functions: create legitimate central social values (basic norms. sacralising values eg protestanism in US sacralised individalism, meritocracy+self discipline. Primary source of meaning
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Parsons continued
answers ultimate questions, things that go against our sense of justice (young death), potential to undermine commitment, rationalises circumstances eg co redemptive suffering/faith tested
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civil religion acts as overarching religion to unify multifaith society under 'american god', attaches sacred qualities of american way of life/americanism, intergrates all under state and God, express in rituals eg pledge of allegiance, binds all
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what are functional alternatives?
non religious but similar functions(reinforce value/maintain SC), Bellah: doesnt have to involve belief in G. Can have secular/political beliefs eg nazi germany/USSR united society
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what is the problem of FA?
ignores what makes religion distinctive (belief in God/SPN)
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emphasises social nature+positive functions. Neglects negative (source of women and poor oppression), ignores source of division in more complexs society, more than one eg N Ireland, religious pluralism creates animosity (not uniting/integrate)
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civil religion can create over arching belief system that can unite, but is it really a religion without supernatural belief
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marxist theory + key sociologist
conflict, capitalist exploitation, religion is a feature of class divided society. LENIN+MARX
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How is religion used as an ideology?
distorts peoples perception of reality to serve interests of bourgeoisie who control means/distribution of ideas through institutions(church, media,educ), operates as IDEOLOGICAL WEAPOON used by cap to justify poor suffering as god given/inevitable,
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misleads that suffering is virtuous(favoured in heaven) eg easier for camel, creates FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS, distorted view prevents rebellion to change situation.
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SPIRITUAL GIN, intoxicant given to masses to confuse/numb, keep in in oppressed state, ruling use to manipulate, creates MYSTICAL FOG obscures reality, legitimates power+privilege, makes position DIVINELY ORDAINED/DRoK rebelling illegal+sinful
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Karl Marx
religion product of alienation (separated/losing control over creation/production), alienation more extreme under cap, workers don't own what they make, no freedom to express creativity, DoL in factory makes a more present, repetition of
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same minute task, devoid of all meaning, reaches peak in dehumanising conditions, exploited turn to rel as compensator 'opium of the people' eg morphine dulls the impact, doesnt treat root cause/underlying problem, distorts view, no solution to
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earthly misery, creates ILLUSORY HAPPINESS (promise of afterlife) distracts from source of suffering, numbs/consoles
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doesn't comment on positives eg psychological adjustment to misfortune/actual faith.
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Engles (neo)
NM: certain features can assist class consciousness. E: identifies early christian sects as radical challenge to authority under romans.
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Religion not always controlling ideology, pre capitalist society, Christianity major part of ruling class ideology but very limited impact on peasantry
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over romanticised view of humans, rejects alienation concept as unscientific and based on romantic idea of all humans having' 'true self', inadequate basis
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turner (neo)
no single dominant ideology, varies depending on class. believes in liberation thesis: rel doesn't necessarily work in bourgeoisie interests eg act for change and rel now an optional extra in society, no longer eco aspects like chantries
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feminist theory
patriarchal institution, reflects and perpetuates inequality, legitimates female subordination
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evidence: armstrong
organisations male dominated even though w often participate more eg orthodox judaism and catholicism forbids w priests, exclusion from priesthood evidence of women's marginalisation
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evidence: holm
segregation in places of worship, marginalise/degrade w (men sit in central sacred), w participation restricted (preach/read texts), taboos on menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth regard as polluting eg not allowed to touch qur'an. H: w devaluation
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evidence: sacred texts
centred around men, male Gods/prophets, written and interpreted by men, stories reflect anti women stereotypes eg eve in fall of man (judaeo-christian)
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evidence: religious laws and customs
give w few rights, access to divorce/no of spouses/decision making/dress codes, influences cultural norms/unequal treatment eg genital manipulation for sex transgressions, legit+reg w trad role, eg cc ban abortion+contraception w stuck in reprod role
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exclusion of w from priesthood is evidence of church unease of w emancipation
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armstrong theory
earlier religions placed w at centre of rel eg earth mother goddesses/ fertility cults/ female priesthood+Gods (isis) throughout middle east till 6000yrs ago, rise of monotheistic, est single male omnipotent god, eg male prophet Abraham of is/ch/ju
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Nawal El Saadawi
w oppression not direct cause of rel, result of patriarchal forms of society emerging in last few thousand yr, pa begins to influence+reshape rel eg men interpret to favour them, rise of monotheism legit m power over w.
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religious forms of feminism: woodhead
criticise: not all aspects patriarchal, w can use to gain greater freedom and respect eg wearing hijab can mean liberation
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gilliat ray
muslim w in uk wear for paternal approval to work/study, allow to enter into public sphere wo being condemned as immodest, can gain status in private sphere
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gain status/respect in private sphere. study/colombia/pentecostal group. empowers w despite strong gender role socialisation, strong belief in m respecting w, gives w power to influence m behaviour eg practise what you preach, refrain from hegemonic
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masculinity/macho behaviour, some activities eg bible study gives support and share experiences
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typical of piety movements, conservative support trad teachings on w role (modest dress/prayer/bible study) includes Pentecostal+evangelical. ways to further own interests but most likely mc urban, already have resources (educ/income) achieve goals
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liberal protestant organisations
eg Quakers/Unitarians committed to gender equality, 3rd of U ministers w, CofE had w priests since 1992/ bishops since 2015 +5th priests w
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based on content/substance, needs belief in God/supernatural/superior power.

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