Religion 15 • Durkheim and the Sociological Approach to Religion • World Religions • Sociological Perspectives on Religion • Components of Religion • Religious Organization • Case Study: Religion in India • Social Policy and Religion: Religion in the Schools
A Look Ahead • What social purposes does religion serve? • Does religion help to hold society together or foster social change? • What happens when religion mixes with politics? • Does religion belong in the public schools?
Durkheim and the Sociological Approach to Religion • Religion: Unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things (Durkheim) • Collective act • Profane: the ordinary and commonplace • Sacred: elements beyond everyday life that inspire awe, respect, and even fear
World Religions 89% of world’s population adheres to some religion Christianity largest faith, Islam 2nd largest Judaism forms historical foundation for Christianity and Islam Hinduism embraces a number of gods and reincarnation Buddhism developed as reaction against Hinduism; uses meditation to overcome selfish cravings
Table 15-1: Major World Religions Source: Author, based on Britannica Online 2011; Swatos 1998.
Figure 15-1: Test Your Religious Knowledge Sources: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 2010a, 2010b.
Sociological Perspectives on Religion • Manifest functions: Open and stated functions; religion defines the spiritual world and gives meaning to the divine • Latent functions: (unintended, covert, or hidden functions) might include providing a meeting ground for unmarried members
The Integrative Function of Religion • Durkheim viewed religion as an integrative force in human society • Gives meaning and purpose to lives • Offers ultimate values and ends to hold in common • Strengthens social integration within specific faiths and denominations • In some instances, religious loyalties dysfunctional
Religion and Social Support • Religion’s emphasis on divine and supernatural allows us to “do something” about calamities we face • Encourages people to view personal misfortunes as relatively unimportant • Faith-based community organization taken more responsibilities in social assistance
Religion and Social Change • The Weberian Thesis • Protestant ethic: Followers of Protestant Reformation emphasized disciplined work ethic, this-worldly concerns, and rational orientation for life • “Spirit of capitalism” emerged as a generalized cultural trait
Religion and Social Support • Liberation theology: Church should be used in political efforts to eliminate poverty, discrimination, and other forms of injustice May be dysfunctional
Religion and Social Control: A Conflict View • Marx: religion impeded social change • Religion drugged masses into submission by offering consolation for harsh lives on earth • To whatever extent religion influences social behavior, it reinforces existing patterns of dominance and inequality
Feminist Perspective • Theorists stressed fundamental role women play in religious socialization • Women generally take subordinate role in religious governance • Women play vital role as volunteers, staff, and educators • In U.S., women more likely than men to be affiliated with religion
Belief • Religiousbeliefs: Statements to which members of a particular religion adhere • Fundamentalism: Rigid adherence to fundamental religious doctrines • Found worldwide among most major religious groups Spirituality not as strong in industrialized nations as in developing nations
Rituals • Religiousrituals: Practices required or expected of members of a faith • In recent decades, participation in religious rituals tended to hold steady or decline • Religiousexperience: Feeling or perception of being in direct contact with ultimate reality or of being overcome with religious emotion
Figure 15-2: Religious Participationin Selected Countries, 2006 Note: Data are for 2006, except for Canada and Mexico, which are for 2004. Source: Tom W. Smith 2009: 28, 60, 72.
Religious Organization • Ecclesiae: Religious organization claiming to include most or all members of a society • Denominations: Large, organized religion not officially linked with the state or government
Religious Organization • Sects: Relatively small religious group that has broken away from some other religious organization to renew original vision of the faith • Fundamentally at odds with society and does not seek to become established national religions • Established sect: Out-growth of a sect that remains isolated
New Religious Movements or Cults • New Religious Movement (NRM): Small, secretive religious groups that represent either a new religion or a major innovation of an existing faith • Similar to sects • Tend to be small • Viewed as less respectable
Comparing Forms ofReligious Organization • Ecclesiae, denominations, and sects best viewed as types along a continuum • From individual perspective, religion and spirituality remarkably fluid One sign of fluidity is rapid rise of electronic church
Research Today • 15-1: Wicca: Religion or Quasi-Religion? • Do you know anyone who practices Wicca? If so, describe the person’s practices. • Do you think that Wicca should be considered a religion?
Table 15-4: Characteristics of Ecclesiae, Denominations, Sects, and New Religious Movements Source: Adapted from Vernon 1962; see also Chalfant et al. 1994.
Case Study: Religion in India • India is large and complex; it might be considered a world of its own • 400 languages, of which 18 are officially recognized by the government • Hinduism and Buddhism are major religions, but several other faiths exist
The Religious Tapestry of India • Other faiths also animate India • Hinduism represents 83% • Islam (arrived in 1000 CE) represents 12% • Sikhism founded in 15th century • Pursue enlightenment through meditations • Men do not cut beards or hair, wear turbans • Christianity and Jainism also present
Religion and the State in India • Religion influential in India’s drive to overturn British colonialism • India secular state dominated by Hindus • Tensions between Hindus and Muslims remain high in some states • Many observers see religion as moving force in Indian society
Religion in the Schools • Looking at the Issue • Some believe role exists for prayer and religion in schools • Others want to maintain strict separation of church and state • Controversy over teaching theories of the origin of humans and the universe • Creationism: Accepting biblical account of the creation of humans and the universe
Religion in the Schools • Looking at the Issue • First Amendment protects religious freedom • 1962: Supreme Court ruled that prayer in schools “wholly inconsistent” with amendment • 1987: Supreme Court ruled states could not compel schools to teach creationism • Intelligent Design (ID): Life is so complex that it could only have been created by intelligent design
Religion in the Schools • Applying Sociology • Supporters: there is too much separation in schools between sacred and profane • Opponents: religious majority in a community might impose viewpoints specific to its faith at expense of religious minorities
Religion in the Schools • Initiating Policy • Public school education is afundamentally local issue • Federal courts have taken a hard line on religion in schools • Religion-school debates show no sign of ending