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New religion

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  • 1. Religion February 2014 Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. Henry David Thoreau I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. Mahatma Gandhi I don't believe in God but I'm very interested in her. Arthur C. Clarke Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?" Priest: "No, not if you did not know." Eskimo: "Then why did you tell me?" Annie Dillard I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is. Albert Camus
  • 2. • Match the descriptions and pictures to the belief systems • Polytheism one god • Monotheism no god(s) • Atheism many god(s)
  • 3. Today • Some definitions and context • Religion, oppression and transformation – Conservatism and transformative positions in different societies at different times • Sex, gender and religion – images of Mary – The sacred and profane – The notion of alienation • Religiosity, secularization and social solidarity – High levels of reliogiosity and low levels of participation; what can this bring for the social?
  • 4. Religion: A Definition • Etymology (meaning of a word) of religion lies with the Latin word religare, which means ‘to tie, to bind’ • Definitions of religion tend to suffer from one of two problems: – They are either too narrow and exclude many belief systems which most agree are religious – They are too vague and ambiguous, suggesting that just about any and everything is a religion • E.g. ‘religion’ as ‘belief in (1) God’. • What’s wrong with this? • Excludes polytheistic (many gods) religions and atheism (no god) – Smith, J. 44
  • 5. What is religion? • Religion: – A cultural system of commonly shared beliefs and rituals that provide an ultimate sense of meaning and purpose by creating an idea of reality that is sacred, all-encompassing and supernatural. – (Durkheim 1976 [1912], Berger 1967, Wuthnow 1988) – Sociologists define religion as related to the sacred or profane, rather than to the belief in God or gods, as this allows for comparison
  • 6. Religion is a form of culture – Beliefs, values, norms and ideas that create a common identity among a group of people – Religions share all these characteristics – Religion involves beliefs and practices that take the form of ritualized practices: • Behavioural aspect • Social activities – This picture represents a ritualized practise
  • 7. Religion and Sociology • Faith – Belief based conviction • In other words, sociologists are not concerned with whether there is or isn’t a god(s) • Sociology asks why religions take a particular form in one society or another – Studies how religious activity affects society as a whole 7
  • 8. Three aspects of religion • Religion, oppression and transformation • Sex, gender and religion • Religiosity, secularization and social solidarity
  • 9. RELIGION, OPPRESSION AND TRANSFORMATION
  • 10. Basic Concepts • Sociological approaches to religion have been most influenced by the ideas of the ‘classical’ thinkers: Marx, Durkheim and Weber • All held that traditional religions would decline. • However, each viewed the role of religion in society every differently. 10
  • 11. Introduction • To Marx, religion provides justification for the inequalities of wealth and power found in society. For Durkheim, religion is important because of the cohesive functions it serves, especially in ensuring that people meet regularly to affirm common beliefs and values. • For Weber, religion is important because of the role it plays in social change, as seen in the development of Western capitalism. 11
  • 12. Critical assessment of classical theories • Marx: religion often has ideological implications, serving to justify the interests of ruling groups at the expense of others: – Influence of Christianity on the European colonialists’ efforts to subject other cultures to their rule. – Missionaries who sought to convert ‘heathen’ peoples to Christian beliefs might have been sincere, yet the effect was to reinforce the destruction of traditional culture and impose white dominance. The Australian Genocide – Various Christian denominations almost all tolerated, or endorsed, slavery in the US and other parts of the world up to 19th century. – Doctrines were developed claiming slavery was based on divine law. 12
  • 13. Critical assessment of classical theories • Weber emphasised the unsettling, and often revolutionary, impact of religious ideals on pre- established social orders. – Despite the churches’ early support for slavery in the US, many church leaders later fought to abolish it. – Religious beliefs have prompted many social movements seeking to overthrow unjust systems of authority: • Playing an important part in the civil rights movements of 1960s in US. – Religion has also influenced social change—often provoking much bloodshed—through wars fought for religious motives. 13
  • 14. Weber: World religions and social change • Concentrated on the connection between religion and social change. • Believed that particular religious ideas set into motion a wave of change that brought about industrialization • Protestantism—esp. Puritanism— the source of the capitalistic outlook found in the modern West. – Calvinist drive to succeed (Western economic development) originally prompted by desire to serve God. – Material success was a sign of divine favour. 14
  • 15. The Sociology of Religion (Weber, 1922) • Two major religious orientations to the world: – Mysticism – Asceticism (world mastery) • The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) exemplifies asceticism (world mastery). – Accumulating capital itself is an irrational concept – There is no rational explanation as to why we would work hard against leisure or consumption – Religion entails a choice of values on irrational grounds – To get to heaven and achieve the irrational grounds, the Protestants must work hard (employ rational means) – The rational pursuit of Protestant ascetic ultimate values in the 16th/17th Century led to disciplined and rational organisation of work – The key: God’s calling to work to avoid loneliness/worry about who is saved or who is damned. – Work and capital will show/ assure salvation
  • 16. Critical assessment of classical theories • However, these divisive influences are not really mentioned in Durkheim’s work. • Durkheim emphasised role of religion in promoting social cohesion. 16
  • 17. Basic Concepts: Durkheim • What is the earliest form of religion? • Emile Durkheim – Religion involves things that surpass the limits of our knowledge. • Profane – Ordinary elements of everyday life • Sacred – Set apart as extraordinary, inspiring awe and reverence • Religion – The social institution involving beliefs and practices based on recognizing the sacred – Creates a moral community resulting from a group’s beliefs and practices • Ritual – Formal, ceremonial behaviour 17
  • 18. Durkheim, Religion and Cohesion • Religion is an expression of social cohesion • ‘Totemism’: A system of religious belief which attributes divine properties to a particular type of animal or plant. – Aborigines’ totems were expressions of their conceptions of society – Homework: read the Durkheim extract and find examples of totems and items connected to totems. Find what the clans people do to show their totem. • This is true not only for the aborigines but for all societies 18
  • 19. Durkheim, Religion and Cohesion • Religion is very real; it is an expression of society • As individuals – We perceive a force greater than us – We give that perception a supernatural face – We express ourselves religiously in groups which makes the symbolic power greater – Religion is an expression of our collective consciousness 19
  • 20. Sacred objects • Sacred objects and symbols are separate to the normal realm • It is sacred because it stands for the values central to the group or the community • The object of worship is actually society itself • Group solidarity is affirmed in collective ceremonies, where people feel in contact with higher forces • These higher forces are actually the expression of the influence of the collectivity over the individual • The real experiences of social forces
  • 21. How do religious movements invoke and embed culture and symbolism in society? • Culture is defined as ‘social practices which produce meaning’ (Weir) • Symbolism is the use of text, images, procedures or actual physical objects to represent an idea or belief – Cross to represent Christianity – Star of David to represent Judaism • Learned – All we do, say or believe is learned • Symbolic – Culture is based on symbols – Objects with meaning – Events with significance 21
  • 22. Embedding Culture and Symbolism • Durkheim’s stress on ritual and ceremony: • Ritual activities mark the major transitions of life: – Birth – Entry to adulthood – Marriage – Death • Which ritual activities do people do in your country to mark these major transitions? 22
  • 23. Ritual activities increase Social Cohesion • Effectively determined by the choices which a particular group is led to make between options it views as good or bad. • Such evaluations involve not only . . . interests and aspirations within the group but also the norms which make sense within the group • Taylor, C. (1992) 23
  • 24. Applying Theory 24
  • 25. The Functionalist’s View • Questions about ultimate meaning • Emotional comfort • Social solidarity • Guidelines for everyday life • Social control • Adaptation • Support for the government • Social change 25
  • 26. Symbolic Interactionist’s Perspective • Religion is socially constructed: • Religious Symbols • Rituals: religion strengthens marriage by giving it meaning • Berger: religion gives us the appearance of ‘ultimate security and permanence’ • Critical evaluation – Does this approach downplays religion’s link to social inequality? 26
  • 27. Social-Conflict Approach Serves the elites: • legitimizing the status quo • diverts attention from social inequities – used by oppressors to make people feel better about the distress they experience due to being poor and exploited – Origin of ‘the opium of the masses’ • Critical Evaluation – Does this approach downplay religion’s efforts to promote social equality? 27
  • 28. Critical assessment of classical theories • Durkheim’s ideas can also be used to explain religious division and conflict. – Much of the strength of feeling which may be generated against other religious groups comes from the commitment to religious values generated within each community of believers (solidarity). – ‘Othering’ – remember psychological processes 28
  • 29. Religion as a Dysfunctional Entity • Religion has historically been used many times as justification for persecution • Crusades – 11th, 12th, 13th Century • Convinced ‘their’ God has chosen them • Believe they are under attack • Convinced ‘their’ God wants action • Believe violence will resolve issue • Perspective nurtured by community 29
  • 30. SEX, GENDER AND RELIGION
  • 31. Fear of sex and gender • Central concern of religions is sex and gender • Weber argues all religions: – Hostile towards sexuality – Sexuality is strongest irrational forces in humans – Religions want to control it; especially connect sexual activity to reproduction • Religious control of sexuality takes many forms e.g.: – Ascetic renunciation (e.g. priests) – Confining sexual reproduction to monogamous marriage – Women’s sexuality seen as a threat to men • Aldridge (2000) ‘Religion in the contemporary world’ (Alan Aldridge, Religion in the Contemporary World: A Sociological Introduction, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000, pp. 198–9)
  • 32. The Sacred and the Profane ‘women’s presumed characteristics of sexual allure, curiosity, gullibility, and insatiable desires are often blamed for both the problems of humankind and for women’s inferior role’ Mcguire (1992:115) • E.G.Jewish and Christian traditions: – Eve’s seductive influence leads Adam to disobey God’s command not to eat the apple – Other women: women of supreme virtue (Virgin Mary) • Religions function to separate sexuality into the sacred and profane
  • 33. The Catholic churches treatment of female sexuality • Mary (Mariam/ Maria/etc) represents a changing of her position through theological debate: – virgin birth – impossible – Mary’s motherhood is sacred – Other women’s motherhood is profane – Mary is not allowed any sexual pleasure; painless birth; no other children (violation; shame) – Catholic church treats women either as second class citizens or as dangerous • Ranke‐Heinemann (1990), ‘Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church’ – She lost her chair in 1987 at the University of Essen
  • 34. Witches and Women • British religion – paganism – Christianity brought by Romans – Church of England • Pagan celebrations (ceremonies; land; animals; moon; stars – action, experience, celebrations, customs); targeted as witchcraft 1645 – civil war • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqRir6a3VHk – ‘Burning Times’ A documentary • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbjr9btgAac – The Witchfinder General • Religion and bureacratic power used to vilify (to make someone a ‘bad person’) women
  • 35. Christianity and Gender • Religious organizations have defined hierarchical systems of authority. • women mostly excluded from power. • Over 100 yrs ago Elizabeth Cady Stanton, campaigner for women’s rights, published a series of commentaries on the Scriptures, entitled The Woman’s Bible (1895). 35
  • 36. Christianity and Gender • Stanton (1895): • the deity had created women and men as beings of equal value • the Bible should fully reflect this. • ‘masculinist’ character of Bible: • was not the authentic word of God • the fact that the Bible was written by men. • 1870, the Church of England: • established a committee to revise and update biblical texts • did not contain a single woman. 36
  • 37. Christianity and Gender • no reason to suppose that God is a man • clear in the Scriptures that all human beings were fashioned in the image of God. • Angered church authorities when a colleague opened a conference with a prayer to ‘God, our Mother’. 37
  • 38. Christianity and Gender • Now Anglican Church still dominated by men. – Synod vote November 2012 to not allow women bishops • 1992 the priesthood was open to women – the first women priests ordained in 1994. – many converted to Catholicism. • Why are people are so opposed to women becoming ordained? • Why are many people not opposed to women in the church? 38
  • 39. Christianity and Gender • Catholic church formally supports inequalities of gender. – 1977: Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith formally declared women were not admissible to the Catholic priesthood because Jesus did not call a woman to be one of his disciples. – 2004: seven women who had been ordained as priests by a rebel Argentinean Bishop were excommunicated from the Church and their ordinations overturned by the Vatican. 39
  • 40. Christianity and Gender • Pope John Paul II (1920- 2005): – encouraged women to remember their roles as wives and mothers – attacked feminist ideologies which assert that men and women are fundamentally the same – supported policies prohibiting abortion and the use of contraception. • All place further limitations on women’s freedom. 40
  • 41. Many denominations’ books repeat ideas that: • Eve’s fault that Adam ‘fell’. • Religion says men are in charge of women. • Adam is made ‘for the glory of God’; women are made ‘for the glory of men’. • Stop women from becoming priests (Catholicism), entering higher bureaucratic levels • Male god; got of rid ‘goddesses’ • 325 AD Nicean council: removal of texts; burning • Don’t emphasise a Christ that has feminine characteristics. • Witchhunt 41
  • 42. RELIGIOSITY, SECULARIZATION AND SOCIAL SOLIDARITY
  • 43. Secularization: • ‘the process whereby religion loses its influence over the various spheres of social life’ (Giddens 2009:695) • Weekly church attendance in ten west European countries has dropped significantly over the 20th Century, but has stabilized at 5% (Kaufman 2007) • The drop in belief has not been as dramatic as the drop in attendance (Davie 1994) • Debate: religion is declining in importance, or remains a significant force – in new forms
  • 44. Three dimensions of the debate • Level of membership: – Statistics regarding how many people belong to a church – Religious decline in most of western Europe • How far churches maintain their social influence, wealth and prestige: – Previously, religious organisations could influence governments or command high respect – Religious organizations have progressively lost power • Religiosity – concerning beliefs and values – Many who are religious do not attend services regularly – Many who attend regularly do not have strong beliefs but do so out of habit or because the community expects them to
  • 45. Religion in the USA • ‘the USA has been the most God-believing and religion- adhering, fundamentalist, and religiously traditional country in Christendom [where] more new religions have been born... Than in any other country’ (Lipset 1991) • 3 out of 4 Americans say religion is ‘very important’ in their lives; 40% will have been to church in the previous week (Gallup 2004) • The Protestant Church in the US has seen a massive rise in evangelicalism (the belief in spiritual rebirth; being ‘born again’) This can be seen in part as a response to growing secularism and religious diversity (Wuthnow 1988)
  • 46. Evaluating the secularization claim • The position of religion in Britain and other western countries is very complex: – Believing without belonging (Davie 1994) – Secularization cannot be measure according to mainstream churches: • Active membership in churches is declining • Active participation among Muslims, Hindhus, Sikhs, Jews, evangelical believers, Orthodox Christians remains dynamic – Little evidence of secularization in non-Western societies: • Fundamentalism • Papal tours • Rise of Eastern Orthodoxy after fall of communism
  • 47. The old gods are dead • Durkheim was writing about a small‐scale society where everyone shared the same religious belief system. • How do his arguments about the role of religion apply in multi-faith societies such as those of contemporary Europe? • What effects could religious diversity have upon social solidarity?
  • 48. CONCLUSION
  • 49. – A cultural system of commonly shared beliefs and rituals that provide an ultimate sense of meaning and purpose by creating an idea of reality that is sacred, all-encompassing and supernatural. – (Durkheim 1976 [1912], Berger 1967, Wuthnow 1988) • Sociologists study religion’s affect on societies • Religions can be seen to serve inequalities and injustices • Religions can be seen to serve to create social solidarity • Religious movements use culture and symbolism to maintain their role in society • Secularization theories are dealing with a complex subject