Religion
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Religion. What is religion?. Any set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power, e.g. forces, gods, spirits, ghosts, or demons The supernatural elements are outside the observable world Non-empirical Accepted on faith

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Religion

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Religion

Religion


What is religion

What is religion?

  • Any set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power, e.g. forces, gods, spirits, ghosts, or demons

    • The supernatural elements are outside the observable world

      • Non-empirical

      • Accepted on faith

    • The supernatural elements differ within and between societies


The etic approach

The etic approach

  • Anthropology’s concern is not which religion is superior

    • Its concern is WHY religions exists and HOW and WHY it varies from culture to culture


Origins and reasons for religion

Origins and Reasons for Religion

  • Neandertal & early Homo sapiens

    • Burial of the dead, art, decoration


Reason 1 the need to understand

Reason #1: The Need to Understand

  • Edward Tylor & R.R. Marett

  • Religion was born as people tried to understand conditions and events that normal experience could not explain

    • Dual existence: physical/visible and psychic/invisible

      • Animism: the belief in souls

      • Animatism: the belief in the impersonal supernatural forces

        • Preceded the creation of spirits


Reason 2 reversion to childhood feelings

Reason #2: Reversion to Childhood Feelings

  • Freud

  • Totems and taboos represent projected oedipal desires


Reason 3 coping with anxiety and uncertainty

Reason #3: Coping with Anxiety and Uncertainty

  • Bronislaw Malinowski

  • Religion helps us deal with death, stress, and anxiety

  • Can be a very therapeutic, positive aspect

    • Jung, James, Maslow


Reason 4 the need for community

Reason #4: The Need for Community

  • Emile Durkheim

  • Communitas

  • Religion is social

  • It helps us feel part of a community

    • Affirms our place in society

    • Enhances feelings of community

    • Gives people confidence

    • Fights alienation


Reason 5 social control

Reason #5: Social Control

  • Religion mobilizes people and their emotions

    • Crusades

    • Jihad

    • The Taliban

    • Witch crazes


Elements and variation in religion

Elements and Variation in Religion

  • Supernatural forces

    • Mana: a sacred, impersonal force (i.e., luck, karma)

    • Taboo: things not to be touched, places not to be entered, animals not to be killed, etc.

    • Gods: named personalities, often anthropomorphic

    • Spirits: beneath gods, closer to humans

    • Ghosts: beings that were once human (ancestors)


Monotheistic vs polytheistic

Monotheistic vs. Polytheistic

  • Monotheistic Religion: One supreme god

  • Polytheistic Religion: Many gods, none supreme over all others


Rituals and rites of passage

Rituals and Rites of Passage

  • Rituals

    • Convey information about the participants and their traditions

    • Generally very formal

  • Rites of Passage

    • Customs associated with transition from one stage of life to another


Interacting with the supernatural

Interacting with the Supernatural

  • Prayer

  • Physiological Experience

  • Simulation/Divination

    • Getting the supernatural to provide guidance

      • Ouija boards, fortune tellers

  • Feasts

  • Sacrifices

  • Magic

    • The belief that a person’s action can compel the supernatural to act in some particular way


  • Witchcraft

    Witchcraft

    • Witchcraft: using thought and emotion to evoke supernatural malevolence

    • Sorcery: using materials and objects to evoke supernatural malevolence

      • i.e., voodoo doll


    Religious practitioners

    Religious Practitioners

    • Priests: full-time, usually male

      • Highly educated and specialized

      • High standing in society

      • Can communicate with the supernatural

    • Shamans: part-time specialist, generally a healer

      • Often enters into trances to communicate with gods or spirits

    • Mediums: generally female, thought to heal while possessed or in a trance

    • Sorcerers and Witches: low economic or social status, generally feared in society


    Religion and adaptation

    Religion and Adaptation

    • Syncretisms: cultural mixes

      • Cargo Cults

    • Fundamentalism (or anti-modernism)

      • i.e., the Taliban

    • Revitalization

      • i.e., early Christianity, the Protestant Reformation


    Religions of the world

    Religions of the World


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