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Religion - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Religion. What is religion?. Any set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power, e.g. forces, gods, spirits, ghosts, or demons The supernatural elements are outside the observable world Non-empirical Accepted on faith

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what is religion
What is religion?
  • Any set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power, e.g. forces, gods, spirits, ghosts, or demons
    • The supernatural elements are outside the observable world
      • Non-empirical
      • Accepted on faith
    • The supernatural elements differ within and between societies
the etic approach
The etic approach
  • Anthropology’s concern is not which religion is superior
    • Its concern is WHY religions exists and HOW and WHY it varies from culture to culture
origins and reasons for religion
Origins and Reasons for Religion
  • Neandertal & early Homo sapiens
    • Burial of the dead, art, decoration
reason 1 the need to understand
Reason #1: The Need to Understand
  • Edward Tylor & R.R. Marett
  • Religion was born as people tried to understand conditions and events that normal experience could not explain
    • Dual existence: physical/visible and psychic/invisible
      • Animism: the belief in souls
      • Animatism: the belief in the impersonal supernatural forces
        • Preceded the creation of spirits
reason 2 reversion to childhood feelings
Reason #2: Reversion to Childhood Feelings
  • Freud
  • Totems and taboos represent projected oedipal desires
reason 3 coping with anxiety and uncertainty
Reason #3: Coping with Anxiety and Uncertainty
  • Bronislaw Malinowski
  • Religion helps us deal with death, stress, and anxiety
  • Can be a very therapeutic, positive aspect
    • Jung, James, Maslow
reason 4 the need for community
Reason #4: The Need for Community
  • Emile Durkheim
  • Communitas
  • Religion is social
  • It helps us feel part of a community
    • Affirms our place in society
    • Enhances feelings of community
    • Gives people confidence
    • Fights alienation
reason 5 social control
Reason #5: Social Control
  • Religion mobilizes people and their emotions
    • Crusades
    • Jihad
    • The Taliban
    • Witch crazes
elements and variation in religion
Elements and Variation in Religion
  • Supernatural forces
    • Mana: a sacred, impersonal force (i.e., luck, karma)
    • Taboo: things not to be touched, places not to be entered, animals not to be killed, etc.
    • Gods: named personalities, often anthropomorphic
    • Spirits: beneath gods, closer to humans
    • Ghosts: beings that were once human (ancestors)
monotheistic vs polytheistic
Monotheistic vs. Polytheistic
  • Monotheistic Religion: One supreme god
  • Polytheistic Religion: Many gods, none supreme over all others
rituals and rites of passage
Rituals and Rites of Passage
  • Rituals
    • Convey information about the participants and their traditions
    • Generally very formal
  • Rites of Passage
    • Customs associated with transition from one stage of life to another
interacting with the supernatural
Interacting with the Supernatural
  • Prayer
  • Physiological Experience
  • Simulation/Divination
    • Getting the supernatural to provide guidance
        • Ouija boards, fortune tellers
  • Feasts
  • Sacrifices
  • Magic
    • The belief that a person’s action can compel the supernatural to act in some particular way
  • Witchcraft: using thought and emotion to evoke supernatural malevolence
  • Sorcery: using materials and objects to evoke supernatural malevolence
    • i.e., voodoo doll
religious practitioners
Religious Practitioners
  • Priests: full-time, usually male
    • Highly educated and specialized
    • High standing in society
    • Can communicate with the supernatural
  • Shamans: part-time specialist, generally a healer
    • Often enters into trances to communicate with gods or spirits
  • Mediums: generally female, thought to heal while possessed or in a trance
  • Sorcerers and Witches: low economic or social status, generally feared in society
religion and adaptation
Religion and Adaptation
  • Syncretisms: cultural mixes
    • Cargo Cults
  • Fundamentalism (or anti-modernism)
    • i.e., the Taliban
  • Revitalization
    • i.e., early Christianity, the Protestant Reformation