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SociologyExchange.co.uk Shared Resource

  1. 1. RELIGION AND CHOICE
  2. 2. POstmODERNIty AND RELIGIONThis section looks at the idea of whether religion is in decline orwhether it is in fact simply changing. Can we judge religiousbelief on church attendance figures alone? Is religion in declinein parts of Europe or on a more global scale?Postmodernism: -------- religion is changing, not declining!Theorists:1.) Grace Davie (2007)  Religion becoming more ‘privatised’.  Attendance at Church is now a personal choice and not because we feel ‘we have to go’.  Believing without belonging – you can hold religious beliefs but not attend Church.
  3. 3.  Vicarious religion –small number of clergy practise religion on behalf of the larger population.  Typical of Britain and Northern Europe.Give examples of when those experiencing religion vicariously willattend Church:___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________  Example of Davie’s theory in practice: Reginald Bibby’s Canadian Survey (1993) – found 25% of Canadians went to Church regularly yet 80% said they have religious beliefs.  Davie believes these people will often be drawn back to the Church when they experience tragedy.  Davie claims there are multiple modernities –in other words Britain and USA will experience religion and its changes differently.CRITICISMS:i.) Voas and Crockett (2005) state evidence from British SocialAttitudes (BSA) survey 1983-2000 shows Church attendanceAND belief in God is in decline.ii.) Bruce argues the fact that people won’t invest time inattending Church is evidence of the decline in their beliefs. TASK: Pick 10 people and ask them the following 2 questions: 1. Do you attend mass regularly? 2. Do you believe in God? Tally and record your results. What do they tell you?
  4. 4. 2.) Danielle Hervieu-Leger (2000, 2006)  Builds on the idea of religion and personal choice.  Cultural amnesia –children are no longer taught about religion by their parents, as children were in the past.  Parents keen to allow children to decide for themselves.  The Church has lost its power to ‘impose’ religion onto people. Can you think of any examples where it is evident that children are not very ‘aware’ of religious practices and beliefs? _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________  Traditional religion has been replaced by individual consumerism – people have a choice about religion.  We have become spiritual shoppers – DIY approach to religion.  2 new religious types emerging: Pilgrims follow an individual path, by joining New Age groups or through individual ‘therapy’. Focus on personal development. Convertsjoin a religious group with strong sense of belonging, recreates a sense of community. Examples such as evangelical movements.
  5. 5.  Religion still has an impact on society’s beliefs.Can you think of any collective societal beliefs or values that havetheir roots in religion?_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________  These views related to the idea of late modernity – decline in tradition (and traditional structures such as the Church) within modern society and increasing individualism.3. David Lyon (2000)  Traditional religion is giving way to many new religious forms.  Religion has become de-institutionalised – with its signs and images detached from their place in religious institutions and instead floating on television and cyber space.  We now have instant access to beliefs of previously remote places and religions-->GLOBALISATION  The ideas have been ‘disembedded’ by the media- lifted from original local context and placed elsewhere. (‘Jesus in Disneyland’)  They then become a cultural resource that individuals can change and adapt for their own purpose. TASK: Research online and provide an example of religion in cyber space!
  6. 6.  We no longer have to sign up to any one religious tradition – instead we can pick and mix elements of different faiths and make them part of our identity. KARMA (Buddhism)ANTI-ABORTION(Catholicism) CRUCIFICATIONWORKING FOR OF CHRISTTHE GOOD OF (Christianity)SOCIETY(Hinduism)  This has led to a lossBELIEF IN UFOs of faith in meta- narratives –(New Age) theories or world wide views that claim to have an absolute authority.  The access to a range of different beliefs has weakened the claims of traditional religions that they hold ‘the truth’.  Lyon believes the past 40 years has seen a period of re- enchantment (not disenchantment) - a growth of unconventional beliefs and practices. CRITICISMS: i.) PM’s claim use of the electronic Church shows secularisation is not taking place. But critics argue these are chosen by people to confirm their religious beliefs it doesn’t attract new members. ii.) Lyon’s research of the electronic Church did not produce extensive evidence.
  7. 7. iii.) Bruce argues this form of religion described by Lyon is‘weak’- with little effect on peoples’ lives (.i.e.) proof ofsecularisation. RELIGIOUs mARKEt tHEORyTheorists:Stark and Bainbridge (1985)  Critical of secularisation theory- viewed as too ‘Eurocentric’ (focus on Europe and ignores how religion continues to thrive in America and elsewhere).  People are naturally religious and religion meets human needs- therefore demand will always be there. Although the demand on types of religion will vary.  Human nature is to seek rewards and avoid costs. Religion can provide us supernatural rewards when real ones are scarce.  E.g. immortality is impossible –yet we are promised life after death.
  8. 8.  S & B outline a cycle of religious decline, revival and then renewal.  Throughout history some Churches have declined and others have grown. When traditional Churches decline they are often replaced with sects and cults.  Secularisation theory therefore recognises the decline in traditional religion BUT IGNORES THE GROWTH OF NEW.  Churches must operate like companies selling goods – those that make their product attractive will succeed in getting more ‘customers’. TASK: Name ways that the Catholic Church has responded to the needs of their ‘customer’ in recent times.Evidence of Stark and Bainbridge Theory: America vs. Europe  If there is a religious monopoly in a country (Church with no competition) then religion will decline as the Church has no incentive to change and give the people what they want.Think about it this way – if a small village had only onesupermarket the owners of the business may not be overlyconcerned with good customer service or value for money as theyknow their customers have nowhere else to go. If anothersupermarket opened in the same village it would cause the firstbusiness to address these issues at the risk of losing theircustomers to the newbie.  They believe due to America having no such monopoly religion is thriving.
  9. 9.  The U.S Constitution separates the Church and the State and guarantees freedom of religion.  Europe is a different story – typically dominated by a single state Church.  They believe that religious participation is not in decline because people don’t want it (demand) – but that the supply of religion that suits them often isn’t there.  Japan is another example where a free market in religion has generated more participation. Until 1945 Shintoism was state religion and other forms oppressed. After WW2 religion was de-regulated and opened up to new forms such as Buddhism.Finke (1997)  Lifting of restrictions on Asian immigration to USA in 1960s has allowed religions such as Hare Krishna and Transcendental Meditation to grow.CRITICISMS:i.) Bruce argues that religious decline is also evident in Americaas well as Europe. They believe S & B have misunderstoodsecularisation as a claim that everyone will eventually becomeatheist. Bruce claims it is actually a belief that religion is in long-term decline.ii.) Norris & Inglehart (2004) claim that many countries with theChurch having a monopoly actually have high levels of religiousparticipation. E.g. Ireland, Poland, Venezuela. While countriessuch as Australia with more religious pluralism have lower levelsof participation.
  10. 10. ExIstENtIAL sECURIty tHEORyTheorists:Norris and Inglehart (2004)  Reject the previous religious market theory – they believe it only applies to America and doesn’t explain different societies.  Religion meets a need that we all have for security- in societies where people feel secure then religion is less in demand.  Poor societies famine, disease, natural disastersless security high religiosity. (There are also poor people in rich societies who follow the same pattern).  Rich societies high standard of livinggreater securitylow religiosity
  11. 11.  Therefore the demand for religion is not constant as suggested by S & B – it varies between societies.  This explains why Third World countries remain religious, while many Western countries are more secular.  Population growth is greater in religious Third World countries therefore the MAJORITY OF THE WORLD IS BECOMING MORE RELIGIOUS.Evidence of Norris & Inglehart’s theory: Europe vs. America  Western Europe = most equal and secure in the world with welfare states offering health care etc growing secularisation  U.S.A =most unequal of the rich countries with poor welfare safety net and ‘dog eat dog’ values --> greater need for religion.CRITICISMS:  Vasquez (2007) states this theory based on quantitative data only – he believes more qualitative info on peoples’ definitions of ‘existential security’ needed.  N& I ignore the positive reasons that people have for religious participation.  N& I ignore the appeal that religion can have for the wealthy.

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