Historical Overview Of Religious TheoriesPresentation Transcript
1) THE ORIGIN OF RELIGIONS (Late 1700s – Early 1900s)
Social E volutionism
2) THE FUNCTION OF RELIGIONS (Early 1900s – 1960s)
3) THE MEANINGS OF RELIGIONS AND THEIR
ARTICULATIONS WITH SOCIETY AND THE INDIVIDUAL
(1960s to the Present)
Symbolic and Interpretive Interactionism
Technological, intellectual, and aesthetic development was thriving in China, India, the Arab World, and the Italian City States.
Land and sea routes connected the great cities of these regions to foster cultural and economic exchange.
WHILE MOST OF EUROPE WAS IN THE DARK AGES
THE EUROPEAN FEUDAL ESTATE SYSTEM
A few major events were responsible for the rise and expansion of European societies after 1400:
The withdrawal of China from world trade networks.
The exploratory voyage of Vasco Da Gama around the southern tip of Africa.
Columbus’ exploratory voyage to the Western Hemisphere.
GUTENBERG IS CREDITED WITH INVENTING THE MOVEABLE TYPE PRINTING PRESS AROUND 1450. THIS HAD A MONUMENTAL IMPACT ON EUROPEAN CULTURE. BOOKS, NEWSPAPERS, PAMPHLETS, ETC., BECAME AVAILABLE AND AFFORDABLE. THIS FOSTERED THE ESCALATION OF LITERACY AND EDUCATION AMONG COMMON PEOPLES, WHICH—IN TURN—STIMULATED MORE INDEPENDENT THOUGHT, AND SOCIAL DIALOGUE, AND DEBATE.
By 1500, the “Atlantic World,” dominated by Europe, and based in the trade of sugar, slaves, gold, and silver was in place.
Through these lucrative endeavors, European societies began to acquire great wealth and power.
Spreading Christianity was an integral aspect of this European expansion.
THE “ATLANTIC WORLD”
1517 THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
A movement in Europe that began with Martin Luther’s opposition to the corruption of Catholicism.
Divided Christianity between Catholicism and a number of Protestant denominations.
Contributed to a sociocultural milieu in Europe that fostered science, technology, modern philosophy, and capitalism.
1648 WESTPHALIA PEACE ACCORD
Considered to be the culmination of the Protestant Reformation.
Established national boundaries in Europe.
Ended the political dominance of the Holy Roman Empire.
Instigated the transformation in the political organization of European powers from feudal states to nation states.
EMPIRICISM: Scientific knowledge can be acquired through observing phenomena.
CHEMICAL PHILOSOPHY: Matter functions according to active, vital principles.
MATHEMATIZATION: Quantitative methods were applied to the measurement of physical phenomena.
SECOND PHASE: The application of empirical analysis and mechanistic explanations to:
Cultures and societies and their development
1500s - 1700s EUROPEAN AGE OF SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY
The concept of “self-rule” replaces the “divine right of kings” to rule over society.
Humanistic ideas about freedom, equality, and the right to happiness in “this” life emerge.
Science develops in opposition to religion.
The assertion that “God hath created all men equal,” morphs into “nature hath created all men equal.’
1700s THE EUROPEAN ENLIGHTENMENT
THE EUROPEAN ENLIGHTENMENT AND “NATURAL RELIGION”
DEISM: A pure “natural religion.”
A Creator God made the world, but leaves it to operate according to natural laws, a parallel set of moral laws to guide human conduct, and the promise of an afterlife that rewards good and punishes evil.
This was the religion of the very first humans, and the best hope for humanity is that it be revived and practiced universally as a “BROTHERHOOD” by all peoples throughout the globe.
Modernity is the sense that the present is discontinuous with the past, that through social and cultural progress or decline, life in the present is fundamentally different from the past.
This world view contrasts with “tradition,” which is the sense that the present is continuous with the past.
However, the sense that the present is discontinuous with the past is an illusion that—paradoxically--creates modernity itself.
What has changed is social memory ; we have disconnected most of our practices and ideas from our collective memory of their meaning, and what we believe to be their “origins.”
The “Western” concept of the “centered subject” was elemental to earlier phases of modernity.
With late modernity, the subject is de-centered and fragmented.
LATE 1700s-1800s THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Scientific and technological advances are applied to agriculture, transportation, and industry.
An economic system in which the means of production--land and capital goods--are privately owned, and the labor of workers becomes the property of owners.
Capital, generated for the most part by the labor of workers, is monopolized by owners and invested for individual profit.
Commodities and services are produced for the sole purpose of profit in the marketplace.
Capitalism collapses if it does not continually expand.
Capitalism only functions through inequality.
MID 1800s: The history of the world is a history of class struggle between the “haves” and “have nots.”
Every aspect of society is part of a superstructure determined by its economic base.
Religion is part of the superstructure, and a false ideology that provides excuses for the oppressors to maintain the inequitable status quo.
Belief in god or gods is an oppressive by-product of class struggle and should be dismissed.
The interstitial relationship of technology and capitalism resulted in an exponential escalation in the production of goods.
Raw materials, new markets, and cheap or slave labor were required for this escalation of production.
European powers embarked upon a second era of imperial expansion in order to control the material and human resources of other societies throughout the globe.
LATE 1700s-EARLY 1900s THE AGE OF IMPERIALISM
CONSTRUCTING AND CONTROLLING THE “OTHER”
Europeans constructed the OTHER they sought to dominate; while, in turn, Europeans shaped their identities in contrast to the Other.
Methods of control included:
Collecting knowledge about the colonized to facilitate domination
THE ENLIGHTENMENT TABLE | | | | | | / / / / OTHERS NOT FULLY HUMAN HUMAN
The Origin of Species , 1859.
"Much light will be shed on the origin of man (sic) and his history” (p. 459).
Darwin’s biological studies of evolution paralleled an interest in social evolution that produced a body of knowledge that supported social, economic, and political policies.
A theory developed by Herbert Spencer when he applied new scientific discoveries to the study of society.
This theory placed the world’s societies on an evolutionary scale of primitive to civilized.
Based on faulty science and fabricated data.
Divided humans into different races based on “biological” differences.
These racial categories were then situated on an evolutionary hierarchy.
In actuality, “race” is a social construction with no biological foundation.
However, the concept of race continues to have profound social ramifications for people throughout the global community.
SIR EDWARD B. TYLOR 1832-1917
A social evolutionist.
He asserted that the development of religions from one stage to the next is universal throughout the world’s cultures:
ANIMISM: Belief in souls, and that all things in the world are endowed with a soul.
TOTEMISM: Religious practices centered around animals, plants, or other aspects of the natural world held to be ancestral or closely identified with a group and its individuals.
POLYTHEISM: Belief in more than one, or many gods.
MONOTHEISM: Belief in one god.
DEFINITION OF RELIGION
“ BELIEF IN SPIRITUAL BEINGS” – ANIMISM
Primitive people were rationalists and scientific
The notion of spirits was not the outcome of irrational
Preliterate religious beliefs and practices were not
“ ridiculous” or a “rubbish heap of miscellaneous folly.”
They were essentially consistent and logical, based on
rational thinking and empirical knowledge.
According to Tylor, “ ancient savage philosophers ” were impressed by two groups of biological problems : 1) What is it that makes the difference between a living body and a dead one and what causes sleep, trance, disease, and death? 2) What are these human shapes which appear in dreams and visions? THEIR EXPLANATION: A spirit or soul, derived from the experience of human souls or spirits in “dreams and waking hallucinations” animates lifeless objects such as sticks or stones, trees, mountains, rivers, etc.
SIR JAMES FRAZER 1854-1941
A Scottish ethnologist.
The Golden Bough (1890-1915): compares the myths, magical practices, and religions of the world’s cultures throughout history.
Frazer developed the social evolutionary model of:
MAGIC > RELIGION > SCIENCE
He asserted Australian Aborigines were the most primitive of all because they practiced only, what he defined their spirituality as, magic.
EARLY 20th CENTURY ANTHROPOLOGY
Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) and Franz Boas (1858-1942) developed the method of “participant observation,” and lived among other cultures for extended periods.
They were both emphatically opposed to social evolution.
Anthropology becomes more grounded in cultural relativism.
Anthropologists stop focusing on the origins of religions to:
How religions spread through DIFFUSION, the mixing of cultural elements from one society to another through contact over time.
What FUNCTIONS religions serve in society.
Social institutions function to support the structure of society and social needs.
Society functions to become something greater than the sum total of its institutional parts.
Stratification and inequity function to maintain social cohesion.
CRITIQUE: Functionalism is a macro approach that focuses on the status quo, and can not adequately theorize social conflict or change.
THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL USE OF THEORIES OF FUNCTIONALISM
RELIGIONS GENERATE SOCIAL COHESION.
BELIEFS: All religious beliefs presuppose a classification of all things, real and ideal, into two opposed groups: the sacred and the profane. This distinction is the foundation of religions, not sacred spirits.
The SACRED encompasses the social community.
The PROFANE encompasses the personal and private.
RITUALS: Rules of conduct that prescribe how people should behave in the presence of sacred things, and that reinforce social behaviors:
POSITIVE: The individual renews her/his commitment to the community.
NEGATIVE: Reinforces taboos to maintain communal order.
PIACULAR: Performed during a crisis to repair and solidify the community.
The TOTEMIC PRINCIPLE: He focused on Australian aborigines in which each clan has a sacred, totemic animal or plant. Totemism provides systems of order and classification. The totem or “god” of the clan IS the CLAN itself.
THUS: For Durkheim, GOD and SOCIETY are the same:
Both are superior to individuals
Individuals depend on both
All must submit to the rules
EMILE DURKHEIM’S (1858-1917) FUNCTIONALIST THEORY OF RELIGION
He set out to prove that “savages” were rational and not the “living fossils” of a social evolutionary paradigm.
The Trobrianders hunted and gardened with empirically-honed skills.
They turned to magic when practical knowledge had reached its limits.
Religion functions in conjunction with practicality.
His model focuses on how social institutions serve the biological and psychological needs of individuals.
HOWEVER, IN THE FOLLOWING QUOTE WE SEE THAT MALINOWSKI FELT A SENSE OF SUPERIORITY:
“ YET it must be remembered that what appears to us an
extensive, complicated, and yet well ordered institution is
the outcome of so many doings and pursuits, carried on by
savages, who have no laws or aims or charters definitively
laid down. They have no knowledge of the total outline of any of their social structure. They know their own motives, know the purpose of individual actions and the rules which apply to them, but how, out of these, the whole collective institution shapes, this is beyond their mental range. Not even the most intelligent native has any clear idea of…organised social construction, still less of its sociological function and implications...The integration of all the details observed, the achievement of a sociological synthesis of all the various, relevant symptoms, is the task of the Ethnographer...
-- Bronislaw Malinowski, from his classic ethnography,
Argonauts of the Western Pacific
Through comparative methods, he focused on how society functions at the macro, structural level.
A society’s “fixed” religious beliefs and practices (those that remain over time) maintain social order.
This was a time when anthropology was attempting to validate itself as a science.
Structural processes can be observed and documented with greater scientific validity then the psychologically oriented processes of Malinowski’s model of functionalism.
MARY DOUGLAS (1921-2007) : SOCIETIES MAINTAIN ORDER THROUGH FUNCTIONAL CLASSIFICATIONS, FOR EXAMPLE WITH RELIGIOUS MANDATES THAT SPECIFY WHAT IS “PURE” AND PERMITTED, AND WHAT “POLLUTES” AND IS TABOO. VICTOR TURNER (1920-1983) : THE FUNCTION OF RITUALS IS THE VITAL ROLE THEY PLAY IN MAINTAINING SOCIAL SOLIDARITY AND COHESION.
SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM The Mead-Blumer Model
A MICRO PERSPECTIVE: “Truth” and “reality” are determined by the social context in which they are practiced.
MEANING, LANGUAGE, and THOUGHT. These three core principles lead to the construction of personhood and society, and are elemental to the individual’s socialization into, and interactions with a community
MEANING : The central element in human behavior. Humans make meaning and think about and act towards people, creatures, and things based upon the meanings that humans have given them.
LANGUAGE: Gives humans the ability to negotiate meaning through a shared communicative symbolic system. Naming and categorizing assigns meaning – a basis for human society. By engaging in speech acts with others humans come to identify meaning, and develop discourse--bodies of knowledge that guide and dictate social life.
THOUGHT: Modifies each individual's experience with and interpretation of symbols and their meanings. Thought, based on language, is an internal dialogue that requires role taking, performance, imagining different points of view, etc. The individual then externalizes these processes through behavior.
DENZIN’S MODEL: INTERPRETIVE INTERACTIONISM
Expands upon Mead-Blumer with a late modern “politics of interpretive interaction”:
Describe without “fixing” subjects.
Do not romanticize, obscure, decontextualize, or over theorize subjects.
Position self, emotion, sexuality, ideology, violence, and relations of power at the center of social inquiry.
Use late modern theories from:
CULTURAL STUDIES: A focus on social interaction and meaning making through communication and the media.
FEMINIST STUDIES : A focus on social interaction as steeped in gender, class, and experience.
Develop an “oppositional cultural aesthetic” critical of representations, and aware of inequitable ideologies embedded in their texts.
Focuses on the realm of thought, meaning, and ideas.
Defines culture in terms of systems of signs and symbols, and their meanings.
Humans are suspended in webs of signification that they create for themselves.
Religion is a cultural system of meanings that explains:
“ Reality” for its adherents
The meanings of that “reality”
How people should think, behave, and interact within that “reality.”
Descriptive and does not lend itself to theoretical formulations.
Applies to the local and not “bigger pictures” of culture.
CLIFFORD GEERTZ (1926-2006)
Geertz focused on interpreting the symbols that give meaning to peoples’ lives.
He asserted that anthropologists must deeply analyze and thickly describe cultures and their symbols through the interpretive model in order to make difference understandable.
He argued that religions are too particularistic with regard to events, individuals, and groups to be understood through functionalist theories.
GEERTZ ON RELIGION AS A CULTURAL SYSTEM
Geertz’s definition of culture: "a historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men (sic) communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.”
Geertz’s theory of religion as a cultural system:
A symbolic system, religion is a social construct that--through social interaction--creates reality, and provides people with a blueprint for how to live.
Generates powerful and lasting moods and motivations in people. The moods are in and of themselves, and the motivations are directed towards goals.
Infuses these moods and motivations with the sense that they are uniquely real.
Provides an overall ordering for existence that gives life meaning, and provides explanations for why problems and tragedies occur.
Infuses the overall explanations and ordering for existence with the sense that it is factual.
Together, these dynamics seem so powerful to believers that religion becomes the only sensible explanation for reality. Belief is fortified through ritual, and then taken into the world to transform it to conform with religion.
ANDROCENTRISM: The focus on the men of a community, and the reliance on men’s opinions and explanations of the roles, functions, and statuses of women in their community.
In the late 1960s, feminist anthropologists began focusing on women’s experiences, and women’s roles, statuses, and contributions to culture and their communities.
Feminist scholarship developed the concept and study of gender as a culturally constructed analytical category.
Currently feminist anthropologists focus on comparative studies amongst women.
Feminist approaches to religion and society:
Critiques of gendered relations of power
Investigations of pre-Abrahamic Goddess cultures and witchcraft
How women articulate their agencies with religious structural practices and processes
Claude Levi-Strauss (he’s currently 100 years old) drew upon structural linguistics to establish structural anthropology and asserted that people are hard wired to think about the world in terms of binary opposites—raw and cooked, high and low, inside and outside, person and animal, life and death, etc.
Binary structures are universal, every culture can be understood in terms of these opposites, but their contents and meaning differ from culture to culture.
Individual objects and symbols are not important, it is the RELATIONSHIPS between them that generate meaning.
Religion serves to mediate these oppositions, thereby resolving basic tensions or contradictions found in cultures.
Culture and society shape people – a macro approach that gives primacy to structural processes over the individual.
Structural anthropology is synchronic, concentrating on specific cultural junctures not contextualized with their histories.
It assumes binary thinking is hard wired, or essential to humans, but does not provide a scientific framework to prove it.
Marxists: Structural anthropology fails to address economies and class struggles.
Feminists: Levi-Strauss focuses on the exchange of women in an uncritical way to support his theory.
Post-structuralism emerged as a critique of structuralism, and the array of post-structural theories are numerous and eclectic.
The post-structural moment occurred when it was recognized that people participate in the creation of knowledge and power, and are not mere pawns of cultural and social structural practices and processes.
Post-structuralism asserts that the study of underlying structures is itself a product of culture, and therefore subject to biases and misinterpretations.
To understand culture, it is necessary to study the systems of knowledge which produce culture.
THREE BASIC PRINCIPLES:
Meaning is always shifting.
Individuals’ perceptions of meaning is always shifting.
Power attempts to fix meaning, but this is impossible.
READING THE VILLAGE FROM DIFFERENT THEORETICAL ORIENTATIONS OF RELIGION
STUDY GUIDE FOR THE VILLAGE
From the perspective of Durkheim’s functionalism: What is sacred and what is profane in the village? Can you identify their positive, negative, and/or piacular rituals? According to the “totemic principle” how does the village worships itself? Can you identify the village’s totem?
From Geertz’s perspective, how is religion in the village a cultural system?
From the feminist perspective, what are the gender roles and relations in the religious life of the village?
Do you think the village’s society will be reinforced or transformed by Ivy’s journey to “the towns,” and the introduction of medicine to save Lucias’ life?