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Sociology of Religion

Meaning System, Belonging System, Structural System, Micro, Meso: Denominations, Sects, NRMs, Macro...etc

Emily Hallgren

on 16 April 2013

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Transcript of Sociology of Religion

Sociology of Religion Religion: A Sociological View Sacred: set apart and forbidden (Durkheim)
Sacred realm elicits awe, reverence, even fear
Sacredness reinforced through ritual Religion: Micro Level Durkheim studied totemism among primitive clans (Australian aborigines)

Totem- object representing an animal or plant that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, group, lineage, or tribe

The totem represents the members of the group

The totem, the animal/plant, and the members of the clan are all sacred

Worship of the totem, then, is ultimately worship of the members of the group.
They are worshiping themselves. This reinforces social solidarity. Meaning System
Symbol, Myth, Ritual
Reflects the needs of society in which the religion is practiced

Rational Choice Perspective-
Religions compete for members
Religious groups produce religious "commodities" to meet demands of consumers (adherents of religion) Religion: Meso Level Religion is an institution.
Composed of many meso-level organizations: -Denomination


-NRM (Cult)

Christianity began as a _______. Religion: Macro Level Sacred
"A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden -- beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them."
-Emile Durkheim Profane Structural Functional Perspective: religion has positive consequences- helping people answer questions about the meaning of life and providing part of the glue that helps hold society together

Social cohesion- through religion individuals feel a sense of belonging and unity with others
Suicide study (Durkheim)
Civil Religion

Legitimates social values and norms Conflict Perspective: religion helps perpetuate the power structure
At times, religions reinforce socially defined differences between people and give sacred legitimacy to racial, gender, and sexual bias and inequality
Marx: Religion is the "Opiate of the people": dulls people's sensitivity to and understanding of their desperate (exploited) situation

On the other hand- Religious groups have been involved in social justice work, religious doctrines are used to support social justice causes, places of worship used as organizing bases for social movements (civil rights movement) Religion: Macro Level Durkheim: Elementary Forms of Religious Life Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism European Puritans held Calvinist belief: predestination

Look for signs of fate in this life- a sign of God's favor: financial success

Rationality: bookkeeping and pursuit of profit

Eventually, rational pursuit of profit becomes its own goal, Capitalism gets a major leg up!

Study considered evidence that religion can affect economic activity American Religion in an Age of Individualism: Sheilaism

Bellah and Madsen (1985): "I believe in God. I'm not a religious fanatic. I can't remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It's Sheilaism. Just my own little voice...It's just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think He would want us to take care of each other."
-Sheila Larson, Nurse -Religion in America has changed from highly public and unified to extremely private and diverse

-"Sheilaism" is "a perfectly natural expression of current American religious life" (Bellah and Madsen 1985) Mundane, everyday life experience Where do we learn religion?
Mainly through family socialization
Religion (beliefs, practices) learned formally and informally
Unlikely people will adopt religion outside their society
Belonging leads to Believing Belonging System
-Interpersonal networks and emotional ties that develop between adherents of a faith community
-Friendship and kinship network (Community) Structural System
-Roles, statuses, and committees
-Religious organizations are bureaucracies
-Routinization of charisma (Weber)
-Institutionalization is necessary Symbolic Interaction Theory-
Focuses on Meaning System: Includes ideas and symbols the religion uses to provide a sense of purpose in life and help explain why suffering, injustice, and evil exist
Myth, Ritual, Symbol
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