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Chapter 17, Religion. Key Terms. religion A system of beliefs, symbols, and rituals, based on some sacred or supernatural realm, that guides human behavior, gives meaning to life, and unites believers into a community.

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religion A system of beliefs, symbols, and rituals, based on some sacred or supernatural realm, that guides human behavior, gives meaning to life, and unites believers into a community.
  • faithUnquestioning belief that does not require proof or scientific evidence.
sacred Aspects of life that are extraordinary or supernatural; those things that are set apart as "holy.“
  • profaneThe everyday, secular or "worldly," aspects of life.
ritualsRegularly repeated and carefully prescribed forms of behavior that symbolize a cherished value or belief.
  • simple supernaturalismThe belief that supernatural forces affect people’s lives either positively or negatively.
animismThe belief that plants, animals, or other elements of the natural world are endowed with spirits or life forces having an impact on events in society.
  • theismA belief in a god or gods.
monotheismBelief in a single, supreme being or god who is responsible for significant events such as the creation of the world.
  • polytheismA belief in more than one god.
nontheistic religionReligion based on a belief in divine spiritual forces such as sacred principles of thought and conduct, rather than a god or gods.
  • secularizationProcess by which religious beliefs, practices, and institutions lose their significance in sectors of society and culture.
civil religion The set of beliefs, rituals, and symbols that make sacred the values of the society and place the nation in the context of the ultimate system of meaning.
  • ecclesia A religious organization that is so integrated into the dominant culture that it claims as its membership all members of a society.
churchA large, bureaucratically organized religious organization that tends to seek accommodation with the larger society in order to maintain some degree of control over it.
  • denominationA large organized religion characterized by accommodation to society but frequently lacking in ability or intention to dominate society.
sect A relatively small religious group that has broken away from another religious organization to renew what it views as the original version of the faith.
  • cultA religious group with practices and teachings outside the dominant cultural and religious traditions of a society.
fundamentalismTraditional religious doctrine that is conservative, is typically opposed to modernity, and rejects “worldly pleasures” in favor of otherworldly spirituality.
  • liberation theologyChristian movement that advocates freedom from political subjugation within a traditional perspective and the need for social transformation to benefit the poor.