Ways to Define Religion • Substantive: • A substantive definition restricts the label of religion to a system of beliefs and practices that has a particular kind of content, usually a god or supernatural force. • It stipulates what religion is.
Ways to Define Religion • Functional:A functional definition defines religion in terms of what is does.
Émile Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1915) • The sacredrefers to things set apart as exceptional and worthy of awe and reverence • The profane consists of the common things of everyday life, whose value rests in their practical usefulness
Émile Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1915) • “A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices…which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them” (Durkheim 1915: 62).
Émile Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1915) • Durkheim emphasized how religion brought people together who share a commitment to the same sacred symbol, and who are then united in a moral community • The bonding is what is significant, not the object of devotion
Civil Religion • Bellah (1970) uses the term civil religion to refer to secular practices that involve the use of sacred rituals and ceremonies • E.g. swearing allegiance to the flag in the United States
Max Weber’s The Protestant Work Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism (1904) • Protestant ethic: Calvinists in 16th & 17th centuries believed that a person’s business success resulting from conscientious work and savings was a sign they were predestined to salvation
Max Weber’s The Protestant Work Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism (1904) • The Protestant Ethic was ideally suited to the development of early capitalism • Emphasis on individual responsibility and striving • Compulsion to save and not spend
Max Weber’s The Protestant Work Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism (1904) • The religious basis eventually dropped out as modern capitalism absorbed the spirit of the protestant ethic
Max Weber’s The Protestant Work Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism (1904) • Modern society is marked by increasing rationalization, i.e. process wherein precise calculation of means, ends, and goals spreads into all areas of social life
Max Weber’s The Protestant Work Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism (1904) • Rationalization leads to a “loss of enchantment” (i.e. disenchantment)with the modern world • Disenchantment and rationalization would inevitably result in the decline of religion, or secularization
Durkheim • Religion serves an essential social function “There can be no society which does not feel the need of upholding and reaffirming at regular intervals the collective sentiments and the collective ideas which make its unity and its personality.” —Durkheim (1915: 474-475)
Talcott Parsons • While the individual need for religion remained vital, the institutional and cultural reach of religion has greatly diminished • Theology has relinquished its interest in cognitive explanations that compete with science, concentrating instead on purely spiritual and moral concerns
Rational Choice Theory (RTC) of Religion • Humans have a need for compensations for the uncertainties presented by the issues of life and death • The greater the number of religious sources providing compensations, the greater the vitality of religious activity
Religiosity • Religiosity:The amount of “religiousness” in society, usually measured by such variables as attendance of religious services, church membership, individual (financial) contributions to a church or religious institution, and belief in God.
Expressive Individualism • Expressive individualism:A term relating to the increased emphasis since the 1960s (in both the secular and the religious context) on the pursuit of a free, gratified, and fulfilled self.
Wade Clark Roof and William McKinney (1987) • Enormous increase in cultural pluralism, which includes religious individualism • American values have always included an emphasis on individual autonomy • Growth of expressive individualism since 1960s • Finding oneself has become a central quest
Deprivatization • Deprivatization:The process by which religion has reemerged from the private sphere. Following deprivatization, religious beliefs are no longer purely personal preferences but, rather, become the topic of public argument; in addition, public matters are remoralized.
Dedifferentiation • Dedifferentiation:Reversal of the trend toward increasing differentiation into specialized religious institutions that were thought to be aspects of modernization.
Study Questions • What are the two main types of definition? • In what respect did Emile Durkheim operate with a mixed definition of religion? • What is a civil religion? • Describe the main ideas contained in Weber’s Protestant Ethic thesis.
Study Questions (continued) • Why did Durkheim think that there can be no society that does not have some kind of religion? • How did Parsons elaborate Durkheim’s belief in religion’s continuing relevance for modern society?
Study Questions (continued) • What might account for the higher levels of religiosity in America compared with many European countries? • What do Wade Clark Roof and William McKinney mean when they talk about an increase in “expressive individualism” since the 1960s?
Study Questions (continued) • Discuss what is meant by the terms deprivatization and dedifferentiation in the context of describing the changing place of religion in late modern (or postmodern) society.