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Sociology of Religion February 27 th University of Toronto, Introduction to Sociology Christian Caron and Adam Isaiah Green 1.

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Presentation on theme: "Sociology of Religion February 27 th University of Toronto, Introduction to Sociology Christian Caron and Adam Isaiah Green 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sociology of Religion February 27 th University of Toronto, Introduction to Sociology Christian Caron and Adam Isaiah Green 1

2 What is Religion How do we know what we know? Historically: Religion o Offered answers to most of life’s questions (truth/false, right/wrong) o Imbued every aspect of human social life with meaning (birth, death, rites of passage) o Religious beliefs so common that most societies had no word for religion 2

3 What is Religion Religion is ______? You can also tweet your thoughts with #uoftsocrel on Twitter 3

4 What is Religion Means different things – No consensus on definitions Substantive definitions – Focus on what religion is 1)to be religious is to ‘believe’ in something 2)to be religious entails actions 3)to be religious involves emotions 4)religion is a social phenomenon 4

5 What is Religion Functional definitions – Focus on what religion does 1)provides meaning and purpose to life 2)promotes social cohesion and a sense of belonging 3)provides social control Many definitions attempt to combine both, such as sociologist Emile Durkheim: Religion as a system of beliefs, symbols, rituals, based on some sacred or supernatural realm, that guides human behavior, gives meaning to life, and unites believers into a community 5

6 World’s 16 Largest Religions 1.Christianity: 2.1 billion 2.Islam: 1.5 billion 3.Hinduism: 900 million 4.Chinese folk: 394 million 5.Buddhism: 376 million 6.Sikhism: 23 million 7.Juche: 19 million 8.Spiritism: 15 million 9.Judaism: 14 million 10.Falun Gong: 10 million 11.Baha'i: 7 million 12.Cao Dai: 5 million 13.Confucianism 5 million 14.New Age 5 million 15.Jainism: 4 million 16.Shinto: 4 million Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion Source: Bibby, Reginald W. (2011a). Beyond the Gods & Back: Religion’s Rise and Demise and Why it Matters. Lethbridge, AB: Project Canada Books, p.201. Drawn from and 2010

7 Religion in the news Policemen and soldiers in Cameroon gather around the vehicle in which seven members of a French family were riding before being kidnapped near the Nigerian border on Feb. 19,

8 Religion in the news PM establishes Office of Religious Freedom to promote freedom of religion around the world Stephen Harper looks on as Dr. Andrew Bennett, right, shakes hands with Muslim cleric Lai Khan Malik in Vaughan (Feb 20 th ) 8

9 Religion in the news Catholic schools: Ontario parents fighting to have children exempt from religious studies (Feb 3 rd ) Oliver Erazo, with sons Amilcar, left, and Jonathan (in grades 12 and 10, respectively), chose a Notre Dame Catholic school for his children because it’s close to home and garners favourable ratings on a school-ranking website 9

10 Religion in Canada National anthem includes the line “God keep our land glorious and free!” Religious authority has declined in Canada - governs fewer aspects of life than it used to Other institutions have grown in importance: Medicine, Psychiatry, Criminal Justice, Education 10



13 Religion Religious beliefs vary in content and intensity Religious practices vary in form and frequency Due to structure of society and our place in it Effect: religious impulse takes thousands of forms The task of the sociology of religion is to account for these variations 13

14 Sociology of Religion Sociology: Systematic study of human behavior in social context Bibby: Science and religion are compatible Religion – about faith Science – limits itself to perceivable, ‘observable parts’ of religion For example 1. Written texts 2. Patterns of behaviors 3. Individuals’ opinions about religious matters 14

15 Sociology of Religion How many and what kinds of people are involved in religious groups? Why does one religion predominate here, another there? Who believes in life after death and what do individuals think will happen when they die? The extent to which people have spiritual needs, and what they mean by spirituality? What is the impact the religious involvement has on individuals and societies? Under what circumstances does religion act as a source of social stability and act as a force for social change? Are we becoming more or less religious? Implications of this? 15

16 Sociology of Religion Wide array of research such as:  Religion and organizations (churches, sects, cults, etc)  Religion and education (role in schools)  Religion and gender (religious leadership)  Religion and politics (religious terrorism)  Religion and law (Charter of Rights and Freedom)  Religion and mass media (internet) In the Sociology Department Prof. Bryant (religion and history) and Prof. Schieman (religion and mental health) 16

17 Analyzes how individuals, social institutions, and cultures construe God or the sacred How these ideas penetrate public culture and individual lives Implications of those interpretations for individual, institutional, and societal processes The sociological study of religion is as old as the discipline of sociology itself 17

18 Durkheim and Collectivity Religion’s origin is social People living in a community come to share common sentiments that form a collective conscience - ‘God’ is the group experiencing itself Leads people to designate some objects as sacred – or totems - (deserving of profound respect) and others as profane – (objects of the everyday world) 18

19 CHRISTIANITY - SACRED Cross held by Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the Catholic Church 19

20 ISLAM - SACRED Masjid al- Haram “The Sacred Mosque” built around the Kaaba in Mecca 20

21 JUDAISM - SACRED Menorah: a symbol of Judaism since ancient times and the emblem of the modern state of Israel 21

22 Durkheim and Collectivity Religious beliefs articulate the nature of the sacred and its symbols Religious rituals provide guidelines as to how people should act in the presence of the sacred Religion creates and reinforces social solidarity (contributes to social stability - through establishment of moral standards, and sense of belonging) 22

23 Criticisms of Functionalist Account Overemphasizes religion’s role in maintaining social cohesion Downplays religion’s dysfunctions - strongly held beliefs can generate social conflict (i.e. Fundamentalism) When religion does increase social cohesion, it often reinforces social inequality 23

24 Marx and Conflict Religion is a human creation Religion is “the opium of the people”: it soothes the disadvantaged by minimizing the importance of “this world” Religion encourages people to accept existing social inequalities instead of changing their oppressive conditions Religion unites people under ‘false consciousness’ according to which they believe that have common interests with members of the dominant class 24

25 Marx and Conflict Historically some religions teach that the existing social arrangements of a society represent what God desires Many rulers have historically declared their rule was legitimated by God Conflict between religious groups (religious wars) Conflict within religious groups (splinter group leaving an existing one) Conflict between a religious group and the larger society (conflict over religion in the classroom) 25

26 Critique of Marx Religion can promote change towards equality (abolish slavery, civil rights movements) Sense of community that some people find in religion is a positive force Some contemporary religious movements challenge the rich and powerful by advocating for income redistribution in society (i.e. liberation theology originated in Latin America) 26

27 Weber and Ideas Religion is oriented toward this world – religious ideas and behaviour evident in everyday conduct Weber examined the possibility that Protestant Reformation strongly influenced moral tone of capitalism in Western world through adoption of Protestant ethic Weber argued that ideas – whether true or false - represent a person’s definition of reality and therefore have potential to influence behaviour 27

28 Weber and Ideas Need to interpret action by understanding actor’s motives (Verstehen) Researchers should place themselves in roles of those being studied Comparative and historical studies of religion and found that god-conceptions are strongly related to economic, social, and political conditions in which people live 28

29 Criticism of Weber Correlation between Protestant ethic and the strength of capitalist development is weaker than Weber thought Weber’s followers have not always applied the Protestant ethic thesis as carefully as Weber did 29

30 Conclusion Durkheim – Religion and Social Solidarity Marx – Religion and Social Conflict Weber – Religion and Social Change 30

31 William James (1902)  Religion is a common human response to the fact that we all stand at the edge of an abyss. It helps us cope with the terrifying fact that we must die. It offers us immortality, the promise of better times to come, and the security of benevolent spirits who look over us. It provides meaning and purpose in a world that might otherwise seem cruel and senseless.

32 Karl Marx (1843) Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions. - Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

33 GOD?

34 GOD?

35 DIVINE CONTROL “…divine control involves the extent that one believes that God exercises a commanding authority over the course and direction of his or her own life” - Schieman, Pudrovska, and Milkie 2005 “The belief that there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it” - Richard Dawkins 2007

36 SES SES = Socioeconomic Status, usually includes one’s yearly income and the years of formal education one attained.

37 DEPRIVATION- COMPENSATION THESIS Individuals in disadvantaged socioeconomic conditions are more likely to be religious in order to compensate for their plight and acquire otherwise unattainable rewards - Glock and Stark (1965)


39 DEMYTHOLGIZATION THESIS Higher socioeconomic (SES) status diminishes the belief in the supernatural-mythological orthodoxy of religion

40 3 TEST GROUPS Group 1 received prayers and didn’t know it. Group 2 received no prayers and didn’t know it. Group 3 received prayers and did know it.

41 STUDY ON THE EFFECTS OF PRAYER FOR HEALTH RESULTS: Prayer has no effect on recovery. “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. Clinical Investigation “ -- American Heart Journal. 151(4): , April 2006.

42 RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM a term used to describe the actions or ideologies of religious individuals or groups outside the perceived center of a given religion; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards of a given religion.


44 LINKS The Phelps I 9IiY&feature=related The Phelps: Canada Shirley Phelps and Fox News elated

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