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The Sociology of Religion Chapter 14. Two Basic Questions Throughout every time period and in every place humankind has lived, humans have searched for.

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Presentation on theme: "The Sociology of Religion Chapter 14. Two Basic Questions Throughout every time period and in every place humankind has lived, humans have searched for."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Sociology of Religion Chapter 14

2 Two Basic Questions Throughout every time period and in every place humankind has lived, humans have searched for the answers to two questions; Why do we live and why do we die?

3 Durkheim Societies have struggled with the need to give meaning to human existence and to provide people with the motivation for survival. According to Emile Durkheim, all societies have attempted to satisfy these needs by making sharp distinction between the sacred and the profane.

4 Sacred and Profane The sacred is anything that is considered to be part of the supernatural world that inspires awe, respect, and reverence. The profane is anything considered to be part of the ordinary world and, thus, commonplace and familiar.

5 Sacred and Profane The distinction between the sacred and the profane is at the heart of all religions. Religion is defined as a system of roles and norms that is organized around the sacred realm and that binds people together in social groups.

6 Religion Religion is a universal phenomenon… However, the form that is takes may vary from society to society and may change within a single society over time. Religion exists in many forms because different groups give sacred meaning to a wide variety of objects, events, and experiences.

7 Religion- A Sociological Definition According to sociologists, religion is a social creation. Things take on sacred meaning only when they are socially defined as such by a group of believers.

8 Religion- A Sociological Definition Things that are sacred in one culture may be profane in another. Ex. cows in India or church wafers Sociologists are not concerned with the truth or falseness of any religion. Rather, they focus on the social characteristics of religion and the consequences that religion has for society.

9 The Functions of Religion Social Cohesion ◦Religion strengthens the bonds among people. ◦Participating in religious ceremonies and sharing beliefs create a sense of belonging, which can make people feel less alone.

10 The Functions of Religion ◦Durkheim’s suicide study found that rates of suicide were lower among people with strong attachments to religious groups. ◦Conflict Theorists suggest that cohesion based in religion is not good in areas where more than one religion is practiced. ◦Ex. Arabs v. Israelis or Muslims v. Hindus

11 The Functions of Religion Social Control  Religion serves as an agent of social control by encouraging conformity to norms.  Religious followers believe in the sacredness of the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur’an as a means of giving people social conformity.

12 The Functions of Religion Emotional Support Religion provides emotional support for people during difficult times. Religion helps people endure disappointment and suffering by providing a comfort in believing that harsh circumstances have a special purpose.

13 The Functions of Religion Religion also attempts to provide answers to the ultimate questions concerning life and death. These answers lend strength and calm to people as they approach the unknown and the unexpected.

14 The Functions of Religion Conflict sociologists argue that emotional support lent by religion may block social and political change. Religion encourages people to accept their social conditions because rewards await them in the spiritual life. “to forget the hardships of their daily lives, people turn to religion and its promise of rewards in the afterlife” – Karl Marx

15 The Nature of Religion Although religion exists in varied forms around the world, all religions contain certain basic elements. Among these elements are rituals and symbols, belief systems, and organizational structures.

16 Rituals and Symbols In religious terms, a ritual is defined as an established pattern of behavior through which a group of believers experiences the sacred. Ritualistic behavior is part of every religion. Baptisms, weddings, funerals are usually conducted in sacred places by persons acknowledged as religious leaders.

17 Types of Rituals Some rituals involve asking for divine intervention in human affairs. Some rituals focus on giving thanks to divine beings for benefits that believers have received. Particular clothing, herbs, chalices, crosses, books are often used only in special places on special days.

18 Belief Systems Belief systems vary around the world, but can be placed into three basic types; Animism Theism Ethicalism

19 Belief Systems Animism- The belief that spirits actively influence human life. Animals, plants, rivers, mountains, and wind are believed to contain spirits. These things are not worshipped, but they are seen as supernatural forces that can be used to human advantage.

20 Belief Systems One form of animism is known as shamanism, in which the spirits only communicate with one member of a group called a shaman. Another type of animism, called totemism involves a belief in kinship between humans and animals or natural objects.

21 Belief Systems Theism- The belief in god or gods. The god is considered a divine power worthy of worship. Monotheism- Belief in one god ◦Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Polytheism- Belief in a number of gods ◦Hinduism

22 Belief Systems Ethicalism- Based on the idea that moral principles have a sacred quality. Based on truth, honor, and tolerance that serve as a guide to a righteous life. Mostly in Asia…Confucianism, Buddhism, Shintoism

23 Belief Systems Organizational Structures Categorized into four types; Ecclesia Denominations Sects Cults

24 Organizational Structures Ecclesia- Religious organization in which most people in the society are members by virtue of their birth. A state church, closely allied with the government. Does not tolerate religious differences and membership is often law. ◦Fundamentalist Islam in Iran

25 Organizational Structures Denomination- A well-established religious organization where a substantial number of the population are members. Presbyterian and Baptist churches. Trained officials and bureaucratic structure. Tolerant to differing beliefs and welcome converts.

26 Organizational Structures Sect- A relatively small religious organization that typically has split from a denomination due to differences in belief. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hassidic Jews. Often intolerant of other faiths. Opposed to the existing power structure of their faith.

27 Organizational Structure Sects often encourage clapping, dancing, singing, and shouting during services. Actively recruit new members. Many sects are short-lived, but one sect, the Methodist Church, has become a denomination.

28 Organizational Structures Cult- A new religion whose beliefs and practices differ markedly from those of the society’s major religions. dHqU3s&safety_mode=true&persist_safet y_mode=1&safe=active dHqU3s&safety_mode=true&persist_safet y_mode=1&safe=active

29 Religion in American Society U.S. has been a haven for religious freedom. Because of that, the U.S. is home to 100’s of different denominations, sects, and cults. Changing immigration patterns have added to the variety. Separation of church and state in the U.S., the government lacks the power to support or deny any religious beliefs.

30 Religion in American Society Americans hold religion in high regard. According to a public opinion survey, between 86% and 94% of Americans believe in God. A 2001 survey found that 60% of Americans feel religion is very important to their lives. 61% of people believe that religion can answer all or most of today’s problems.

31 Religious Affiliation Even though 90% say they believe in God, only 66% say they are affiliated with a religious organization. Most people with affiliations are members of the Christian, Judaic, or Islamic faiths. The largest religious organization in the U.S. is the Roman Catholic Church.

32 Religious Affiliation Jewish people and Episcopalians tend to have higher educations and higher incomes. Baptists and Methodists reside mainly in the South and Midwest. The largest number of Jewish people and Catholics are found in large cities. Republicans have traditionally been backed by Protestants whereas Democrats have been backed by Jewish people and Catholics.


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