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1 McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. O v e r v i e w Religion
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2 Introduction Religion is defined, following Wallace, as belief and ritual concerned with supernatural beings, powers, and forces. So defined, religion is a cultural universal. Neanderthal mortuary remains provide the earliest evidence of what probably was religious activity.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 3 Animism Tylor first studied religion anthropologically and developed a taxonomy of religions. Animism was seen as the most primitive and is defined as a belief in souls that derives from the first attempt to explain dreams and like phenomena.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 4 Mana and Taboo Mana is defined as belief in an immanent supernatural domain or life- force, potentially subject to human manipulation. The Polynesian and Melanesian concepts of mana are contrasted. –Melanesian mana is defined as a sacred impersonal force that is much like the Western concept of luck. –Polynesian mana and the related concept of taboo are related to the more hierarchical nature of Polynesian society.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 5 Magic and Religion Magic refers to supernatural techniques intended to accomplish specific aims. Magic may be imitative (as with voodoo dolls) or contagious (accomplished through contact).
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 6 Anxiety, Control, Solace Magic is an instrument of control, but religion serves to provide stability when no control or understanding is possible. Malinowski saw tribal religions as being focused on life crises.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 7 Rituals Rituals are formal, performed in sacred contexts. Rituals convey information about the culture of the participants and, hence, the participants themselves. Rituals are inherently social, and participation in them necessarily implies social commitment.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 8 Rites of Passage Rites of passage are religious rituals which mark and facilitate a person's movement from one (social) state of being to another (e.g., Plains Indians’ vision quests). Rites of passage have three phases: –Separation – the participant(s) withdraws from the group and begins moving from one place to another. –Liminality – the period between states, during which the participant(s) has left one place but has not yet entered the next. –Incorporation – the participant(s) reenters society with a new status having completed the rite. Liminality is part of every rite of passage and involves the temporary suspension and even reversal of everyday social distinctions. Communitas refers to collective liminality, characterized by enhanced feelings of social solidarity and minimized distinctions.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 9 Totemism Rituals play an important role in creating and maintaining group solidarity. In totemic societies, each descent group has an animal, plant, or geographical feature from which they claim descent. –Totems are the apical ancestor of clans. –The members of a clan did not kill or eat their totem, except once a year when the members of the clan gathered for ceremonies dedicated to the totem. Totemism is a religion in which elements of nature act as sacred templates for society by means of symbolic association. Totemism uses nature as a model for society. –Each descent group has a totem, which occupies a specific niche in nature. –Social differences mirror the natural order of the environment. –The unity of the human social order is enhanced by symbolic association with and imitation of the natural order.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 10 Religion and Cultural Ecology: Sacred Cattle in India Ahimsa is the Hindu doctrine of nonviolence that forbids the killing of animals. Western economic development experts often use this principle as an example of how religion can stand in the way of development. –Hindus seem to irrationally ignore a valuable food source (beef). –Hindus also raise scraggly and thin cows, unlike the bigger cattle of Europe and the U.S. These views are ethnocentric and wrong as cattle play an important adaptive role in an Indian ecosystem that has evolved over thousands of years –Hindus use cattle for transportation, traction, and manure. –Bigger cattle eat more, making them more expensive to keep.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 11 Social Control The power of religion affects action. Religion can be used to mobilize large segments of society through systems of real and perceived rewards and punishments. Witch hunts play an important role in limiting social deviancy in addition to functioning as leveling mechanisms to reduce differences in wealth and status between members of society. Many religions have a formal code of ethics that prohibit certain behavior while promoting other kinds of behavior. Religions also maintain social control by stressing the fleeting nature of life.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 12 Religion and Social Control in Afghanistan This article describes the social conditions in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The Taliban are invoking a very strict interpretation of the Koran as the basis for social behavior. Women are required to wear veils, remain indoors, and are not allowed to be with males who are not blood relatives. Men are required to grow bushy beards and are barred from playing cards, flying kites, and keeping pigeons.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 13 Kinds of Religion Religious forms vary from culture to culture, but there are correlations between political organization and religious type. Religious Practitioners and Types –Wallace defined religion as consisting of all a society’s cult institutions (rituals and associated beliefs) and developed four categories from this. –In Shamanic religions, shamans are part-time religious intermediaries who may act as curers--these religions are most characteristic of foragers. –Communal religions have shamans, community rituals, multiple nature gods, and are more characteristic of food producers than foragers. –Olympian religions first appeared with states, have full-time religious specialists whose organization may mimic the states, and have potent anthropomorphic gods who may exist as a pantheon. –Monotheistic religions have all the attributes of Olympian religions, except that the pantheon of gods is subsumed under a single eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent being.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 14 Christian Values Max Weber linked the spread of capitalism to the values central to the Protestant faith: independent, entrepreneurial, hard working, future- oriented, and free thinking. The emphasis Catholics placed on immediate happiness and security, and the notion that salvation was attainable only when a priest mediated on one’s behalf, did not fit well with capitalism.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 15 World Religions In the U.S. Protestants outnumber Catholics, but in Canada the reverse is true. Religious affiliation in North America varies with ethnic background, age, and geography.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 16 Revitalization Movements Religious movements that act as mediums for social change are called revitalization movements. The colonial-era Iroquois reformation led by Handsome Lake is an example of a revitalization movement.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 17 Syncretisms A syncretism is a cultural mix, including religious blends, that emerge when two or more cultural traditions come into contact. –Examples include voodoo, santeria, and candomlé. –The cargo cults of Melanesia and Papua New Guinea are syncretisms of Christian doctrine with aboriginal beliefs. Syncretisms often emerge when traditional, non-Western societies have regular contact with industrialized societies. Syncretisms attempt to explain European domination and wealth and to achieve similar success magically by mimicking European behavior and symbols.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 18 A New Age Since the 1960s, there has been a decline in formal organized religions. New Age religions have appropriated ideas, themes, symbols, and ways of life from the religious practices of Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, and east Asian religions.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 19 A Pilgrimage to Walt Disney World Walt Disney World functions much like a sacred shrine that is a major pilgrimage destination –It has an inner, sacred center surrounded by an outer more secular domain. –Parking lot designations are distinguished with totemlike images of the Disney cast of characters. The monorail provides travelers with a brief liminal period as they cross between the outer, secular world into the inner, sacred center of the Magic Kingdom. Within the Magic Kingdom –Spending time in the Magic Kingdom reaffirms, maintains, and solidifies the world of Disney as all of the pilgrims share a common status as visitors while experiencing the same adventures. –Most of the structures and attractions at the Magic Kingdom are designed to reaffirm and recall a traditional set of American values.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 20 Recognizing Religion It is difficult to distinguish between sacred and secular rituals as behavior can simultaneously have sacred and secular aspects. Americans try to maintain a strict division between the sacred and the profane, but many other societies like the Betsileo do not.
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