2. MODULE 14:
Religion and Belief Systems
Functions of Religion
Kinds of Religious patterns
Types of Religious Practitioners
Various forms of Religious Activities
Types of Cults
According to Anthropologists,
Religion is “a set of attitudes, beliefs,
and practices, pertaining to
supernatural beings and forces. Such
beliefs may vary within a culture as
well as among societies, and they may
change over time” (Ember, Ember,
4. RELIGIOUS AND
Kikuyu of Kenya
Vomiting is a religious
practice as it eliminates
all the evil in a person’s
In most societies
Vomiting is not
considered religious, as
it is understood as a
typical biological event.
5. SPIRITUAL AND NATURAL WORLD
Believe that the two
worlds are not separate
and that they coexist in
Believe that there is a
(i.e.,heaven/hell) that is
separated from the
natural world (ie., Earth).
Religions are different in terms of
perspectives and practices.
Religion can be found in all human
societies which makes it cultural
7. RELIGION DURING
THE ANCIENT PERIODS
Early societies (Egyptians, Greeks,
and Sumerians used religious
symbols and practiced ritualistic
ceremonies, which made religion
one of the central parts of the
development of human societies.
8. RELIGION DURING
THE ANCIENT PERIODS
Cave wall carvings - Evidence of the ealiest record on
the existence of religion that dates to 60 000 years ago
The Sorcerer of Les Gabillou in
The Sorcerer is one name for an
enigmatic cave painting found in the cavern
known as 'The Sanctuary' at the Cave of the
Trois-Frères, Ariège, France, made around
13,000 BC. The figure's significance is
unknown, but it is usually interpreted as some
kind of great spirit or master of animals. The
unusual nature of The Sanctuary's decoration
may also reflect the practice of magical
ceremonies in the chamber.
11. Religion affects us and our way of thinking in
the existing world. It serves as a pattern for
the actions we take in day-to-day existence.
Religion is seen not only as a social belief but
also as a social institution that continues to
develop over time.
Sociologists study religion while considering
diverse societal factors such as gender, age,
race, and education, that also tap other social
institutions and the concept of social change.
12. FUNCTIONS OF RELIGION
Major Sociological Theories and
Their Major Assumptions Concerning Religion
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE MAJOR ASSUMPTIONS
Functionalism Emile Durkheim
Religion serves several functions for society.
1. Giving meaning and purpose to life.
2. Reinforcing social unity and stability
3. Serving as an agent of social control of
4. Promoting physical and psychological
5. Motivating people to work for positive
13. FUNCTIONS OF RELIGION
Major Sociological Theories and
Their Major Assumptions Concerning Religion
Conflict Theory Karl Marx
Religion reinforces and promotes social
inequality and social conflict. It helps
convince the poor to accept their lot in life,
and it leads to hostility and violence
motivated by religious differences.
Symbolic Interactionism Max Weber
This perspective focuses on the ways in
which individuals interpret their religious
experiences. It emphasizes that beliefs and
practices are not sacred unless people regard
them as such. Once they are regarded as
sacred, they take on special significance and
give meaning to people’s lives.
Source: Barkan, Steven. “Sociological Perspectives on Religion.” In Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World,
Belief that the natural world, as a whole or
in parts, has a soul or spirit.
As a whole = World Spirit, Mother Earth, Gaia
In parts = rocks, trees, springs, and animals.
Natural phenomena and environmental
destructions are understood as
repercussions of the interaction between
humans and spirits.
In animism, Spirits can be in either good or bad
form which can make interactions and influences
on humans in various ways and forms
*Bad spirits = negative energies, possessions, demonic
disturbances and cases of insanity.
*Good spirits = attributes that aid humans in acquiring
their needs and addressing their issues.
Native Americans try to gain favors through
festivals, ceremonies, and prayers.
Ex: Lakota Sioux War Dance
- performed by the Lakota Sioux.
Belief in more than one deity which is
characterized by the worship of many deities
that illustrate the ways of life including beliefs,
practices and traditions.
Rooted from the words: poly, which means
“many”, and theism which means “god”.
Polytheistic deities consist of variants such as:
Sky god, Death deity , Mother goddess ,
Love goddess, Creator deity, Trickster deity , Life-
death-rebirth deity, Culture hero
David Hume in The Natural History of
Religion (1755) argued that polytheism was the
earliest form of religion among several
societies. The ideas of religion are said to be
rooted in the “events of life including hopes
and fears which actuate the human mind.”
Ex: Polytheistic societies ( Greeks, Romans,
Indians , Aztecs)
Considered as the world's oldest
religion still being practiced today.
There is only one supreme
god in Hinduism, Brahma, and all
other deities are his aspects and
reflections. Since Brahma is too
immense a concept for the human
mind to comprehend, he presents
himself in the many different
versions of himself which people
recognize as deities such as Vishnu,
Shiva, and the many others.
*One of the Hindu gods - an elephant-headed
*god of wisdom and learning, as well as the
remover of obstacles, and consequently the
sign of auspiciousness.
*said to have written down the Mahabharata
from the dictation of Vyasa. He is the lord
(Isa) of the Ganas or troops of inferior deities,
but more well-known as the son of Shiva and
*in the most common representations of
Ganesh, he appears as a pot-bellied figure,
usually but not always yellow in color. In his
four hands, he holds a shell, a discus, a club,
and a water lily; his elephant head has only
Belief in one god, which is accountable for all
the things happening in the world including
the world’s creation and existence.
Scholars argue that as human societies affiliate
with a few of the gods in the pantheon, they
have come to practice exclusive worship of
several deities that was promoted with the
ascension of a singular chosen deity to
Hume (2015) believed that the differences
between polytheism and monotheism led to
the changes of the human mind, wherein
rationality is more associated with
monotheism while tolerance is to polytheism.
Ex: Christians and Muslims
24. CHARACTERISTICS OF
1. Wide-scale religious clout
The number of individuals affiliated with this religious
institution is immense that it crosses political and
international borders and cuts across social status.
2. Hierarchical leadership and membership
Followers of this type of faith system are relegated to
socio-political posts within the system, which provides
ranking and status. This implies that access to the divine may
not be given to every member but is a privilege of a select few.
The decisions for the welfare of the religious group are also
made by those who hold power while members are expected
to follow them.
25. CHARACTERISTICS OF
3. Codified Rituals
Processes of interacting with the divine and
with fellow members are guided by written rules and
regulations that have the power of the law , such that
a member’s inability to comply results in the
imposition of sanctions.
26. INSTITUTIONALIZED RELIGION
Growth of neolithic societies = rise of
As the societies grow more complex, the
systems of worshipping the divine became
The declaration of a country’s official
religion is premier example of how a
religion is institutionalized.
27. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
The 1987 Philippine Constitution Article III Section 6
states that “The separation of Church and state shall be
Article III Section 5:
No law shall be made respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise
and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without
discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious
test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
However, despite such provisions, the religious culture of
the Filipinos have oftentimes empower the religious
sectors to influence the political affairs of the country.
28. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
*In ancient Societies, the church and state are
synonymous as the leaders of the church are also the
political elite which, also referred to as Theocracy or the
rule of divine.
Ex: Japanese society believed that their emperor was the
direct descendant of a god.
*Ancient Egyptians and Sumerians regarded their
pharaohs and kings as god-kings, as they were believed to be
earthly incarnations of the divine.
As states developed into more complex political units, the
church is regarded as a separate entity from the state.
29. TYPES OF RELIGIOUS
Religious practices are performed by the individuals in
Four main types of religious practitioners:
also known as a community healer
position usually occupied by a male who has
fairly high status in his community.
also involved in other nonreligious activities
in his community, making his religious
function an occasional preoccupation.
Shamanism was observed in most parts of
Asia . In the Philippines, it has been
practiced in the province of Siquijor.
31. SORCERER AND WITCH
poorly regarded in their societies due to the
perceived malevolence that they inflict on
have very low social and economic status and
often ostracized by members of the society.
sorcerer uses “materials, objects and
medicines to invoke supernatural malevolence”
witch can accomplish malevolence by means of
“thoughts and emotions alone”
well favoured by the members of hisher
community as heshe is involved in healing
rituals while in a possessed trance.
capable of performing divination to predict
future courses of action.
most mediums tend to be females who
perform other roles when not in religious
tends to be a male whose sole
preoccupation is to officiate religious
ceremonies and rituals.
due to his status in religious hierarchy,
he is highly regarded by community
34. TYPES OF RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES
Humans interact with the divine in various
Major forms of religious activities
3. Sorcery and Witchcraft
4. Prayers, Feasts, and Sacrifices
constitutes the “manipulation of supernatural
forces for the purpose of intervening in a wide
range of human activities and natural events”
deals with solving a current problem by seeking
the intervention of the divine through the
performance and offering of gifts
Ex: the Native American practice of rain
dance to invoke deities to release rain
intends to gain from the divine practical
answers for any concern that may range from
war plans to marriage choices.
- a Chinese numerical system that is
believed to predict future occurences.
- highly popular during the Warring States
Period of China as military leaders utilized it
to strategize campaigns.
37. SORCERY AND WITCHCRAFT
popularized by modern literature (Harry
Potter novels), it have been depicted by
media as a socially accepted activity.
usually marginalized and ostracized as they
perceived to be bringers of malevolence and
38. SORCERY AND WITCHCRAFT
Sorcerer – inflicts harm on individuals by the use
of materials such as dolls, wands and medicines.
Ex: Voodoo – use materials related to the victim
(hair, pieces of clothing) to cast sickness and
pain to them.
Witchcraft – promotes the same effect as the
sorcerer with a mere difference in method as the
witch craft only uses emotions and words of the
practitioner to impact its victim.
Ex: Kulam sa hangin – a Filipino belief which
inflicts harm on the victim through curses
uttered by a practitioner.
39. PRAYERS, FEASTS AND SACRIFICES
promote a direct interaction with the
divine, as individuals or groups
communicate their thoughts and desires
to the supernatural through uttered
requests (prayers), celebrations (feasts),
and gifts (sacrifices).
40. RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
Human groups create various
religious organizations depending on
the political and economic norms of
Anthropologists associate religious
organizations to the concept of cult.
A small group of individuals who have extreme religious
beliefs and practices.
“Cult is not a group of people, rather it is an organized
system associated with cultural beliefs and practices which
also make it a social structure”
– Anthony Wallace, an anthropologist
Four types of Cults:
FOUR TYPES OF CULTS:
The degree of complexity of the organizations is
related to the extent by which labor
specialization is enforced in the society.
45. INDIVIDUALISTIC CULTS
Practiced in food-collecting societies where equality is
central to the group’s culture
Individuals are able to access the divine without
restrictions or need for an intercessor.
Practice no role specialization further foster the capacity
of individual to communicate with the supernatural.
Not an exclusive organization as it can be merged with
other form of cults.
Ex: Crow Indian practice of vision quest – a Crow Indian
male goes on a solitary journey to gain a divine relation to
his nature and identity.
46. SHAMANISTIC CULTS
Similar to the structure of individualist cults except that this
type believes in shaman or medicine man.
Present in most egalitarian societies that are based on
economies focused on foraging, horticulture, and
Functions of shaman includes:
*healing, intercession and punishment
Authority is based on the participant’s belief on the
shaman’s religious experiences.
Capacity to heal is gained through training from older
Legitimacy of power is temporary depending on his
47. COMMUNAL CULTS
Similar to shamanistic cults, it allows a group direct
access to the divine except for situations that needs
shaman and witch’s expertise.
Often present in societies with labor specialization
wherein, group of individuals has direct access to scarce
values and resources based on their economic
Ex: Pastoral Societies – favour men as they are the ones
involved in animal herding. Wherein, men are also given
more access to religious activities and rituals.
48. ECCLESIASTICAL CULTS
Have full time religious practitioners – Priests
Often present in highly stratified societies where
individuals have unequal access to values and
49. The belief in the supernatural is a cultural
universal as the need by humans to understand
their environment and self persists. Due to
economic and political differentiation, humans
tend to create varying religious norms and
practices. Religion is a mirror f one’s society as it
reflects the social dynamics experienced y its
members. An understanding of the variance of
religion promotes tolerance and acceptance
50. Understanding Culture,
Society, and Politics
Aguas, Francis E.
Pantaleon, Rovic C.
De Leon, Coleen D.
Del Rosario, Mariez D.
Malabay, Marry Rose M.
Pineda, Wendy D.
Mr. Ariel Sobrevilla