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Religion. Religion as a Social Institution. Religion: Set of institutionalized beliefs and practices that deal with the meaning of life Beliefs and actions related to the supernatural Relieves anxiety when the world doesn’t make sense. Elements of Religion. Religious Beliefs:

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Religion as a Social Institution

  • Religion:

    • Set of institutionalized beliefs and practices that deal with the meaning of life

    • Beliefs and actions related to the supernatural

    • Relieves anxiety when the world doesn’t make sense


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Elements of Religion

  • Religious Beliefs:

    • Define the supernatural/divine order, clarify humans’ role

    • Organize perceptions of the world

    • Create a guide for behavior


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Elements of Religion

  • Religious Beliefs:

    • Myth: Narrative stories about supernatural forces or beings

      • Serve to express core beliefs and teach morality

      • Transmit information about survival and conservation

    • Doctrine: Direct statements about religious beliefs

      • Written, formal


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Elements of Religion

  • Religious Rituals:

    • Formal enactments of religious beliefs

    • Activities have symbolic meanings


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Elements of Religion

  • Religious Rituals:

    • Periodic rituals


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Elements of Religion

  • Religious Rituals:

    • Periodic rituals

    • Life-cycle rituals

      • Separation

      • Transition

      • Reintegration


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Elements of Religion

  • Religious Rituals:

    • Periodic rituals

    • Life-cycle rituals

      • Separation

      • Transition

      • Reintegration

    • Pilgrimage


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Elements of Religion

  • Religious Rituals:

    • Periodic rituals

    • Life-cycle rituals

      • Separation

      • Transition

      • Reintegration

    • Pilgrimage

    • Rituals of inversion


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Elements of Religion

  • Religious Rituals:

    • Periodic rituals

    • Life-cycle rituals

      • Separation

      • Transition

      • Reintegration

    • Pilgrimage

    • Rituals of inversion

    • Sacrifice


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Elements of Religion

  • Subjective Experiences:

    • Arise out of rituals and beliefs

    • Religion provides framework to interpret inner states


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Elements of Religion

  • Community:

    • Shared beliefs, rituals, experiences create a community of believers


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An Evolutionary Model of Religion

  • Magic  Religion  Science

    • Magic: People’s attempt to compel supernatural forces/beings to act in certain ways

    • Imitative magic:

    • Contagious magic:

  • Arose out of need for explanation; esp. difference between living and dead

    • Animism:


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A Functionalist Theory of Religion

  • Durkheim: Societies distinguish between

    • Sacred: That which is holy, inspires awe, must be treated with respect

    • Profane: Ordinary, everyday things that may be treated casually


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A Functionalist Theory of Religion

  • Totem: Sacred emblem that members of a group treat with reverence

    • To Durkheim, totems were symbols of deity and symbols of society

  • Experiences we categorize as religious are responses to social forces

  • Role of science vs. role of religion


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A Conflict Theory of Religion

  • Marx:

    • Religion serves the interests of the ruling elite

    • Masks the exploitation of the workers and the class inequality of capitalism

    • Alienation


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Religion as an Agent of Social Change

  • Weber:

    • Calvinism:

    • Doctrine of Predestination

    • Worldly Asceticism


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Types of Religious Organizations

  • Established church

    • Organization that claims unique legitimacy

    • Has positive relationship with society


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Types of Religious Organizations

  • Sect

    • Organization that claims unique legitimacy

    • Stands apart from society


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Types of Religious Organizations

  • Denomination

    • Organization that accepts legitimacy of other religions

    • Has positive relationship with society


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Types of Religious Organizations

  • Cult

    • Organization that accepts legitimacy of other religions

    • Has negative relationship with society


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Dilemmas of Institutionalization

  • Mixed motivations

  • Symbol systems

  • Organization

  • Letter vs. spirit of religious law

  • Conversion vs. coercion


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