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Ritual and Belief. Clifford Geertz on Religion.

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clifford geertz on religion
Clifford Geertz on Religion
  • a religion is: "(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in people by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." (Geertz:90)
functional psychological explanations
functional, psychological explanations
  • satisfy cognitive & affective/emotional demands for a stable, comprehensible, and coercible world for the individual
  • provides an orderly model of the universe
  • explains the unknown
  • reduces anxiety and fear
  • enabling the individual to maintain an inner security in the face of natural contingency
social structural explanations
social, structural explanations
  • sets precedents for appropriate behavior
  • sanctions conduct
  • a form of social control
  • justifies perpetuates a social order
  • maintains social solidarity
  • educates believers in social knowledge
  • provides a sense of control and a source of solace
    • alleviation of grief
i e witchcraft accusations
i.e. witchcraft accusations
  • accusations provide a socially proscribed way to deal with these problems
  • allows for public hearing
  • entire complex of social relationships investigated
  • effects for the community of witchcraft accusations
    • evil outsider  community solidarity
    • evil insider  necessary societal realignment
religion and worldview
religion and worldview
  • sacred symbols function to synthesize a people's ethos
    • the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, institution
    • a basic congruence between a particular style of life and a specific metaphysic/cosmology
  • encompassing pictures of reality based on a set of shared assumptions about how the world works
religion and society
Religion and society
  • belief & ritual reinforce social ties between people
  • religion (ritual & spirituality) represents one form of collective consciousness
  • Durkheim: shared representations that form the basis for religion
religion and social structure
Religion and social structure
  • Geertz: "the way in which the social structure of a group is strengthened & perpetuated through the ritualistic or mythic symbolization of the underlying social values upon which it rests."
ritual practice and belief geertz
Ritual (Practice) and Belief: Geertz
  • belief & practice - "a group's ethos is rendered intellectually reasonable by being shown to represent a way of life ... rendered emotionally convincing by being presented as an image of the actual state of affairs...”
  • ritual is a vital element in the processes that make and remake social facts and collective identities everywhere (Comaroff & Comaroff)
  • the symbolic behavior through which religion comes alive
ritual is repetitive sequential non ordinary and powerful
ritual is repetitive, sequential, non-ordinary, and “powerful”
  • repetitive: innovation not tolerated
  • sequential: amen is at the end
  • non-ordinary: marked in time or space
  • “powerful”: power to change the world
    • by intervention of supernatural entities
    • transformation of the participant
functions of ritual
Functions of ritual
  • Reinforce social bonds
  • Relieve social tension
  • Deal with life crises
  • Celebrate life cycle events
  • ritual is also a way a society remembers
    • through habit
    • through bodily practices
rites of passage
Rites of Passage
  • Van Gennep and Victor Turner
  • rites include three stages
    • Separation
    • marginality or liminality
      • Communitas and anti-structure
    • incorporation or re-aggregation
other types of ritual
Other Types of Ritual
  • Rites of intensification
    • cyclical rituals that reinforce the solidarity of the group
  • ritual inversion
  • Divination rituals
    • predict future & gain hidden info
  • Technological rituals
    • designed to control nature for the purpose of human exploitation
  • Protective rites
    • aimed at coping with uncertainty of nature, seas, floods, crop diseases
more types
More Types
  • therapy & anti-therapy rituals
    • designed to control human health; curative, witchcraft, sorcery
  • ideological rituals
    • intended to control the behavior, mood, sentiments & values of groups for the sake of community as a whole
  • salvation rituals
    • aimed at repairing self esteem & other forms of impaired identity
violence as ritual practice
Violence as ritual practice?
  • Violence, its forms and controls, is fundamental to human social existence and is central to theories regarding the nature of society.
  • Violence as cultural expression and/or performance
    • Scripted
  • From anthropology of identity (pol. org.) to experience, emotive forces, bodily practices
  • A discursive practice with rituals and symbols
  • Violence as cultural practice
    • Not just instrumental
  • A way of affirming and subverting “culture”
modernization and religion
Modernization and Religion
  • the Secularization Thesis
    • Increased social differentiation, pluralism, societalization, and rationalization
    • diminished social significance of religion
    • Religion relegated to an increasingly smaller part of people's private lives
  • significant “resurgence” of many religions
  • the emergence of strong religious challenges to the authority of nation-states (often in the guise of “fundamentalism”)
  • the appearance of a few new theocratic states
modernization and religion20
Modernization and Religion
  • not secularization, but pluralization
  • people, more and more, have some kind of experience with religions – in the plural.
  • Religion no longer just something one receives as a matter of course
    • Options
    • Becoming secular in some shape or form is one of these options -- not the only option.
religion and politics rule
Religion and Politics/Rule
  • political importance – i.e. "liberation theology," "fundamentalism," "solidarity," and "moral majority"
  • different relations between religion and politics, on the one hand, and religion and the state, on the other.
    • "cultural power"