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Religion, magic and worldview

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1 Religion, magic and worldview
Lecture 17 Religion, magic and worldview

2 Religion All societies have beliefs
Any set of attitudes, beliefs, practices as pertaining to supernatural power

3 Natural and the supernatural
Not all languages or cultures make such distinction. Depends on how is natural and supernatural determined by a society. (E.g. illnesses)

4 In some societies: Religious is embedded in aspects of everyday life.
Difficult to separate religious from economic or political aspects Such societies have no-full time priests, no purely religious activities.

5 Universality of religion
Religious beliefs are found in all contemporary societies. Signs of religious beliefs date back at least 60,000 years ago. Herodotus (V BC) made fairly objective comparisons among the religions during his travels.

6 Speculations about which religion is superior is not an anthropological concern
Interest to anthropologists is why it varies from society to society. Why do people need religion?

7 Reasons of origin of religion:
Religions are created by humans in response to certain universal needs or conditions: - need for intellectual understanding - reversion to childhood feelings - anxiety and uncertainty - need for community

8 The need to understand Edward Tylor in Primitive Culture (1871): religion originated in people’s speculation about dreams, trances, and death. Beliefs in souls was the earliest form of religion: animism. Humans developed religions in order to explain things.

9 Reversion to childhood feelings
Sigmund Freud’s theory of a dominating tyrannical man. Sons who killed and ate him later experienced remorse and guilt. Expressed this guilt by prohibiting the killing of a totem animal. When adults feel out of control or in need, they may unconsciously revert to their infantile and childhood feelings. They may then look to gods or magic to do what they cannot do for themselves, just as they looked to their parents to take care of their needs. Freud: humans would eventually outgrow the need for religion

10 Anxiety and uncertainty
Bronislaw Malinowski: people in all societies are faced with anxiety and uncertainty. Religion is born from the universal need to find comfort in inevitable times of stress. Carl Jung, Erich Fromm and others viewed religion more positively than Freud: relieves anxiety and is therapeutic. Jung suggested that it helps to resolve their inner conflict and attain maturity.

11 The need for community:
Some social scientists believe that religion springs from society and serves social rather than psychological needs. Social forces: public opinion, custom, law – seen as mysterious forces made people to believe in gods and spirits. Emile Durkheim: religion arises out of the experience of living in social groups. Religious belief and practice affirm a person’s place in society, enhance feeling of community and provide confidence.

12 Durkheim: society is the object of worship
Durkheim explained totemism:nothing inherent in a lizard, rat, or any other animal that would make them sacred for aboriginal groups. Totem therefore must be a symbol. People are organised into clans. Totem is the focus of the clan’s religious rituals and symbolises both the clan and the clan’s spirits.

13 Ways to interact with supernatural
Prayer (spontaneous, memorised, private, public, silent, spoken) Physiological experience Simulation Feasts and sacrifices Can involve hallucinogenics or alcohol, social isolation or sensory deprivation, etc.

14 Religious change as revitalisation
Cargo cults, nativistic movements, messianic movements, millenarian cults. What may explain such cults? Important factor: existence of oppression. Relative deprivation. Times of stress. People resort to magic in situation of chance, when they have limited control over the success of their activities.

15 Shamanism Shamanism is fragmented. There is no doctrine, no church.
Shamanism refers to the worldview, philosophy of the people. People who practice shamanism believe in supernatural spirits and beings that affect their lives. It is not a single form of religion. But a cross-cultural form of religious sensibility and practice.

16 What is a shaman? The word originates from the Evenk language to designate a religious specialist. Shamans were considered to be doctors, priests, workers and mystics.

17 Shaman is a “chosen by spirits” person
Shaman is a “chosen by spirits” person. Shaman is endowed with abilities to see, heal, and communicate in a specific way are given to a shaman. He has ability to communicate with the spirits and negotiate the recovery or see the cause of the problem.

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