Theories of religion

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  • Created by: ncs1997
  • Created on: 03-06-15 11:30
What are the substantive definitions of religion?
Focus on content of religious belief. Weber - defines religion as belief in a superior power that is above nature. They are exclusive, however this means they leave no room for beliefs that don't involve God and are accused of Western bias.
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What are the functional definitions of religion?
Define it in terms of the social or psychological functions it performs for individuals/society. Durkheim - contribution it makes to social integration. They're inclusive, but not all of these social integration groups are not all religious.
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What are the social constructionist definitions of religion?
Take an interpretivist approach and focus on how individuals define religion. They argue it isn't possible to have 1 definition of religion. E.g. scientology isn't a religion but members consider it one. However this makes it impossible to generalise
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What does Durkheim mean by sacred and the profane?
The key feature of religion is the distinction between the sacred and the profane. Sacred are things forbidden that inspire awe. Profane are things that don't have special significance - things that are mundane. Religion also involves rituals.
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What is Durkheim's definition of totemism?
All religion can by found by studying its simplest form - clan society. The totem is the clan's emblem and the rituals reinforce the group's solidarity and sense of belonging. When clan members worship the totem, they are actually worshipping society
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What does Durkheim mean by a collective conscience?
Sacred symbols represent the collective conscience which is the shared norms, values and beliefs of society. Shared rituals reinforce these and binds individuals together, renewing the power of society and making the individual feel important.
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What does Durkheim argue are the cognitive functions of religion?
It is the source of our intellectual and cognitive capacities, e.g. we need categories such as time and in order to share our thoughts, we need the same categories as others. Religion is the origin of these categories e.g. creation of the world.
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What are 3 criticisms of Durkheim?
Worsley notes there is no sharp division between the sacred and profane. His theory is hard to apply to large societies with multiple religions. Postmodernists argue the theory can't be applied to contemporary society because of increasing diversity.
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How is Malinowski's theory similar to Durkheim's and how is it different?
He agrees that religion promotes solidarity, however he believes it does this by performing psychological functions for individuals, helping them to cope with emotional stress that would undermine social solidarity.
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In what 2 types of situation does Malinowski argue religion performs this function?
Where the outcome is important but is uncontrollable and thus uncertain, e.g. dangerous lagoon fishing. At times of life crises e.g. birth marriage and death all mark disruptive changes and religion helps to minimise this disruption.
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What 2 essential functions of religion does Parsons add to Malinowski's theory?
It creates and legitimises society's central values by making them sacred. It is the primary source of meaning by answering the 'ultimate' questions such as why the good suffer or die young by explaining it as a test of faith.
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What does Bellah argue unifies American society and how does it do it?
In a multi-faith society, an overarching civil religion unifies society. This is a belief system that attaches sacred qualities to society itself. It claims the loyalty of everyone, integrates society and it is expressed through various rituals.
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What does Bellah argue are functional alternatives to religion?
Non-religious beliefs and practices that perform functions similar to those of organised religion e.g. Nazi Germany. However, this ignores what make religion distinctive and different - its belief in the supernatural.
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What are 3 criticisms of the functionalist approach to religion?
Neglects negative aspects of religion e.g. oppression of women or poor. Ignores religion as a source of division and conflict. Is civil religion really a religion if it isn't based on the belief of the supernatural?
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How does Marx argue religion acts as an ideological weapon used by the ruling class to legitimate the suffering of the poor.
Ideology is a belief system that distorts people's perception of reality in ways that serve the interests of the ruling class. Religion misleads the poor into believing they will be favoured in the afterlife. This creates a false consciousness.
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What does Lenin describe religion as?
Spiritual gin - an intoxicant for the masses to confuse them and keep them in their place. It's a way to manipulate the masses by creating a mystical fog that obscures reality. It also makes the ruling class' power appear divinely ordained.
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Which other factor does Marx see religion as the product of?
Alienation - becoming separated from something that one has created. This is more extreme under capitalism because workers don't own what they produce and have no control over production. Thus the exploited turn to religion as a form of consolation.
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What are 3 criticisms of Marxism?
Ignores positive functions of religion e.g. psychological adjustment to misfortune. Althusser (a Marxist) rejects alienation as unscientific. Religion doesn't always function effectively as an ideology to control the population.
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What 4 ways do feminists demonstrate evidence of patriarchy within religion?
Religious organisations - male dominated & women forbidden from being priests. Places of worship - segregate sexes & taboos. Sacred texts - show gods & show anti-female things, Eve. Religious laws & customs give women fewer rights than men.
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However, in what ways do some Feminists argue religion doesn't oppress women?
Armstrong - early religions placed women at the centre, e.g. earth mother goddesses and fertility cults. Saadawi - religion isn't the direct cause of women's subordination but instead the result of patriarchal society.
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How and why does Woodhead criticise feminist explanations?
Emphasise not all religion is patriarchal and 'religious forms of feminism' exist. E.g. western women see the hijab as oppression but Muslim women choose to wear the hijab as resistance. Some religions hold the belief that men should respect women.
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Card 2

Front

Define it in terms of the social or psychological functions it performs for individuals/society. Durkheim - contribution it makes to social integration. They're inclusive, but not all of these social integration groups are not all religious.

Back

What are the functional definitions of religion?

Card 3

Front

Take an interpretivist approach and focus on how individuals define religion. They argue it isn't possible to have 1 definition of religion. E.g. scientology isn't a religion but members consider it one. However this makes it impossible to generalise

Back

Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4

Front

The key feature of religion is the distinction between the sacred and the profane. Sacred are things forbidden that inspire awe. Profane are things that don't have special significance - things that are mundane. Religion also involves rituals.

Back

Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5

Front

All religion can by found by studying its simplest form - clan society. The totem is the clan's emblem and the rituals reinforce the group's solidarity and sense of belonging. When clan members worship the totem, they are actually worshipping society

Back

Preview of the back of card 5
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