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Chapter 12: Religion The Meaning of Sacred Meaning Soc 100 Dr. Santos What does religion do for us? Meets basic spiritual needs Explains the meaning of life and suffering The sacred realm - the dimension of life separate from the mundane; elicits awe

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chapter 12 religion

Chapter 12: Religion

The Meaning of Sacred Meaning

Soc 100

Dr. Santos

what does religion do for us
What does religion do for us?
  • Meets basic spiritual needs
    • Explains the meaning of life and suffering
  • The sacred realm- the dimension of life separate from the mundane; elicits awe
  • Provides guidelines, beliefs, and values that separate right from wrong
  • Sacrilizes our culture - makes some things in our culture sacred and unquestionable
components of religion
Components of religion
  • Meaning system- a faith or world-view that provides a sense of meaning and purpose in life
  • Belonging system- a set of interpersonal relationships and friendship networks
  • Structural system- a stable pattern of roles, statuses, and organizational practices
meaning system
Meaning system
  • Micro-level
  • Includes the ideas and symbols of religion
  • Provides a “big picture” explanation for chaotic or otherwise incomprehensible events
  • The meaning system of religions vary with the needs of each culture
belonging system
Belonging system
  • Micro- and meso-level
  • Many people join religions because they feel a sense of belonging there, not just because they believe in the tenants
  • Religions in the U.S. that encourage endogamy and foster belongingness have been the most successful in recent years
structural system
Structural system
  • Macro- and global-level
  • Religious authorities must interpret certain tenants of faith - otherwise there would be little common meaning, just individual interpretations
  • Religions must find a way of raising funds, ensuring group coordination, etc.
  • Religions must become institutionalized in order to survive
    • Routinization of charisma
how do individuals become religious micro level analysis
How do individuals become religious? Micro-level analysis
  • Religion is mostly learned through family socialization
    • Formal means- within a temple, church, or mosque
    • Informal means- by observing others practice their religions, “do what they preach”
  • Individuals usually change religions first on the belonging level - meaning and structural levels follow
symbolic interactionist perspective
Symbolic interactionist perspective
  • Concerned with how people make sense of things and construct their worlds
    • Myths - stories embodying ideas about the world
    • Rituals - group activities in which myths are reinforced
      • Orthopraxy- conformity of behavior
      • Orthodoxy- conformity of beliefs
    • Symbols - anything that can stand for something else
  • Symbols are used extensively in rituals to represent myths
rational choice perspective
Rational choice perspective
  • Individuals who have freedom of religion decide whether to belong to a religious group by weighing the costs and benefits of membership
  • Churchgoers viewed as consumers
  • Churches seen as entrepreneurial establishments
  • Religious groups produce commodities to meet consumer demand
religion and modern life meso level analysis
Religion and modern life: Meso-level analysis
  • In more complex societies, religion is distinct from other institutions, but influences and is influenced by them
  • The dominant religion generally supports the political system and ideology of the dominant group and can be pressured by other institutions
religion and family
Religion and family
  • Parents provide our first contact with religion
  • Religiosity- a persons degree of religious involvement
    • Associated with positive moral beliefs and behaviors
  • Religion can sometimes increase family tensions
religion and politics
Religion and politics
  • Theocracy - rule by God (or religious leaders who act in accordance with God’s presumed wishes)
  • State religion - a religion that has some autonomy but receives state tax money
    • Some states prohibit religion
  • Civil religion - a movement that develops in complex societies which is based on a set of beliefs, symbols, and rituals that pervade many aspects of secular life and institutions; they endorse what the nation stands for.
    • E.g., the American Creed
religion and the economy
Religion and the economy
  • Max Weber- Protestantism and capitalism
    • Predestination
    • “The calling”
    • Self denial and delayed gratification
    • Individualism
  • Religion is a big business in the United States
  • When the economy is bad, religions arise that predict a swift end to the world
types of religious associations
Types of religious associations
  • The ecclesia - claim everybody within the boundaries of a certain society as members
  • Denominations - generally supports the basic values of the larger society, has a clear hierarchy, trained leadership, and accommodates the state
  • Sects - form in protest against its parent religion; separated from other religions and social groups, claim a monopoly over religious truth, and often demand total allegiance of their members
  • New religious movements - unlike sects, if these groups survive for several generations, become established, and gain some legitimacy, they become new religions in the society rather than new denominations of the existing faith
religion in society macro level analysis
Religion in society: Macro-level analysis
  • Functionalist perspective - religion has positive consequences in society through:
    • Promoting social cohesion
    • “Blessing” (legitimizing) social values and norms
    • Promoting social change (e.g., nation-building, social justice, conquest, etc.)
religion in society macro level analysis22
Religion in society: Macro-level analysis
  • Conflict perspective - religion can serve different purposes for people based on their position in society and can reinforce socially-defined differences in a way that legitimizes inequality
    • Marx - religion perpetuates the current social structure and acts as “the opiate of the masses”
    • Religion is class-based in most societies
      • Elective affinity
racial bias gender prejudice and religion
Racial bias, gender prejudice, and religion
  • Part of conflict theory
  • Ministers used to interpret sacred texts to justify, explain and sustain racial hierarchies
  • Women have traditionally been more active in religion than men, but are often denied the highest positions within the church
religion in north america
Religion in North America
  • Religion as a whole has been more stable than unstable over time
  • Mainline Protestant & Catholic religions are losing members while fundamentalist (Evangelical) and Pentecostal groups are gaining members
  • Secularization - a movement away from the supernatural and sacred in favor of logic and empirical evidence
    • Acts differently on different levels of analysis
    • There is a general trend toward secularization, but religion is still very important at the micro-level and has numerous macro-level consequences, including fundamentalist backlashes
    • The global level is almost totally secular
social policy the homosexual debates
Social policy: The homosexual debates
  • Opposition to homosexuality is very high among fundamentalists
  • Liberals see the rejection of homosexuals within churches as discriminatory
  • Policy issues for the future include:
    • Whether homosexuals can become clergy
    • Whether gay marriage should be permitted
    • Whether churches should become involved in governmental policies: e.g., constitutional amendment banning gay marriage
religion in the modern world
Religion in the modern world
  • Fundamentalist groups - those that believe in a literal interpretation of their holy books and a personal experience with their deity; generally believe they are the one true religion; often reject modernity
  • Liberal theologians - believe there can be more than one path to truth (though they may feel that their personal beliefs are the fullest and most complete path); some emphasize social justice, peace
Most religious groups advocate peace and harmony, but some try to spread what they see as the “true word” through force
  • Conflict between religious groups is more intense if ethnic, larger religious, and economic differences exist
  • Religion can also reduce hatred between groups if there are some commonalities between groups
  • New technology has allowed for greater spread of religions