RELIGION Presenter: Ms. Nicola Lewis
What is Religion? • Religion refers to the existence of a supernatural being which has a governing effect on life. ( Robertson, 1970) • “A set of symbols evoking feelings of reverence; and is linked to rituals or ceremonies in which a community of believers practice” (Durkheim, 1970)
The social Institution of Religion • The most common idea and belief across most religions is that there are sacred elements for example, Gods, symbols, scriptures, artefacts which govern the lives of individuals. • Religion is viewed as things that are profane which speaks to the ordinary. • Religious beliefs generally prescribe ideal behaviours and there is usually some form of collective worship involving rituals and ceremonies, all of which are believed to impact in some way on the afterlife. • Religion as an institution has to compete with secular beliefs and values. For example, in the theocracy(religious doctrine) like Iran education is based on the principles of the koran whilst in a secular state education could be based on values that promote democracy, cooperation and empathy. These may be similar to what religious school teach, but in secular state schools they are not attributed to the beliefs and practices of any particular religion
Historical Context of Religion • The ideas and beliefs of the dominant class is prominent in the institution of religion but there are less dominant ideas in alternative and religious minority groups. This has its genesis in European colonization and still continues in our society today. • This social institution was recreated by the Amerindians and Africans through the processes of hybridization and syncreticism which still continues in present day society. • Caribbean people did accept European religion and those which came later such as the Protestant and Nonconformist to create different varieties within Christianity. • Each Caribbean territory has different ideas and beliefs about religion. For example, in countries where the Spanish and French dominated Roman Catholicism is most dominant. These countries include the Hispanic Caribbean, Trinidad, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica and Belize.
Religion is influenced by the stratified nature of the society. The upper class ( Europeans, coloureds and some blacks) attended mainstream European churches. • Some had dual membership that means they would attended some of the European churches but simultaneously practice their Afro- Christian religions such as pocomania, kumina. • The aftermath of emancipation saw the full flowering of syncretic religions in the Caribbean such as Myal, Revivalism, Pocomania, Santeria and distinctive African forms- Shango and Vodun
The grassroot religions faced colonial oppression because they were thought to be loud, bellringing and a force to resist white supremacy. Thus, the colonial authorities passed laws forbidding the Spiritual Baptist to practice their rituals.This was done in Trinidad and St. Vincent where persons were imprisoned. • Despite the oppression faced Africans never stopped chanting, singing, drumming to escape the evils of colonialism. This was later punctuated in the Rastafarian and Marcus Garvey movements which opposed white supremacy in the caribbean.
There were other minority groups such as the Hindus and Muslims who came in the later part of the 19th century who developed their own religious groups and schools. For example, in Trinidad the Hindus belonged to different organizational sects such as Sanatan Dharma, the Arya Samaj the Kabir Panth associations all of whom own schools today. • The Muslims who were small in comparison to the Hindus also had their own religious sects such as the Trinidad Muslim League (TML);the Tackveeact ul Islamic Association (TIA); Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat (ASJA) and Jamaat- al- Muslimeen ( A radical black muslin group)
Impact of Religion on Caribbean Society and Culture • Gives sacred authority to society’s rules and values which helps to maintain social stability- codes of conduct which brings about cooperation and cohesion among members. • Religion helps to preserve cultural heritage in the face of globalization. For example, the Garifuna of Belize continue some of their West African traditions such as Dugu ceremony or feasting of the dead where they commune with ancestral spirits. • Legitimates the power and material advantage employed by the dominant groups/rulers of society. • What we conceptualize as right or wrong is shaped to a large extent by religious beliefs. For example, in an Islamic society capital punishment may be relevant for more than just unlawful killing. Jehovah’s witnesses refuse blood transfusion even when it may save life.
Impact of Religion Cont’d • Commands major influence in society as it affects non religious institutions such as the family and is instrumental in bringing about social changes. • Influences morality- values (pre-marital sex) • Influences work ethic- honesty, punctuality, productivity; promotes humanitarian and welfare services to society. • Governs perceptions on health. • Religion can also be seen as a source of oppression for women. For example, women of Roman Catholic faith playing a conservative role where religious laws affect her reproductive health in not being able to do an abortion or use birth control. Koranic laws influence dress and behaviour of women.
Religion governs the way of life of individuals in society. For example, fashion recreation and diet. • Religion is an opium to escape pain and suffering and find peace with a supernatural being. • It provides direction and focus for life’s journey. • Religion does not always promote social solidarity but can cause conflict between different religious groups.
Sociological Perspectives on Religion Functionalist • Religion functions to preserve social order and social cohesion. • Talcott Parsons argues that provides guidelines for behaviour. In this way religion helps to provide society with the consensus which is pivotal for social stability. • Religious beliefs gives meaning to life; they answer man’s questions and the world in which he lives.
Marxist Perspectives on Religion • Marx sees religion as an illusion that eases the pain produced by exploitation and oppression. Religion facilitates ruling class ideology by justifying and legitimizing the subordination of the subject class, and the domination and privilege of the ruling class. • The ideology of religion serves to distract people from a true perception of their social environment. Exploitation is seen as tests by God which if passed on earth will result in great rewards in heaven. Poverty is seen as a virtue or God’s will, thus lower classes never truly understands that they are being oppressed by the upper class and that they should do something about it.
Interpretivist Perspectives on Religion • Emphasis is on how an individual or a group constructs their idea of God and their relationship with God and/ or church, how they choose what they believe and what not to believe, how they relate the other religions and how belief and non-belief affects their daily lives and actions.