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Beliefs In Society Overview

  1. BELIEFS IN SOCIETY Ashleigh Dark
  2. WHAT IS RELIGION? Substantive Definition- Belief in God or the supernatural. Functional Definition- Functionalists define religion in terms of the functions it performs e.g. social integration. Social Constructionist Definition- Social constructionists argue that it’s not possible to produce a universal definition of religion and instead focus on how individuals define religion.
  3. FUNCTIONALIST PERSPECTIVE OF RELIGION Functionalists argue that religion is important for society because it promotes social solidarity and consensus. The Sacred and The Profane (Durkheim)- The sacred is forbidden and inspire feelings of awe and the profane have no special significance. The sacred represent something of high significance and by worshipping them it unites members of society. Psychological Functions (Malinowski)- Religion provides psychological functions by helping the individual cope with emotional stress e.g. an afterlife in Christianity provides comfort when somebody has died. Civil Religion (Bellah)- Civil religion unifies society as it is a belief system attached to society.
  4. MARXIST PERSPECTIVE OF RELIGION Marxists argue that religion is an ideological tool that promotes class inequality. Religion as an Ideology (Marx)- Religion is a belief system that distorts people’s perception of reality to benefit the middle class. Religion and Alienation (Marx)- Religion is the product of alienation. Religion acts as a consolation for suffering but doesn’t do anything to end suffering.
  5. FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE OF RELIGION Feminists see religion as a patriarchal tool that legitimates gender inequality. Evidence of patriarchy in religion include; Religious Organisation- Religions organisations are male dominated. For example Catholicism forbid women to become priests. Places of Worship- Many places of worship segregate men and women. For example in Judaism females have to worship in a smaller less decorative room. Woodhouse critiques these explanations of oppression. She argues that religion can be used to grant females greater freedom. Western feminists see the hijab as oppressing whilst Muslims see it as liberating. They wear it to enter the public sphere without losing their culture.
  6. RELIGION AS A CONSERVATIVE FORCE Religion can be seen as a conservative force as it defends traditional values and preserves society to keep it functioning the same. Religion’s Conservative Beliefs- Most religions have traditional beliefs and oppose change that allows individuals more personal and sexual freedom. For example the Catholic Church forbids divorce, abortion and contraception. Religion’s Conservative Functions- Functionalists believe that religion functions to preserve social solidarity. Marxists believe that religion functions to preserve class inequality by preventing social change. Feminists believe that religions functions to preserve gender inequality by promoting patriarchal ideology.
  7. RELIGI0N AS A FORCE FOR CHANGE (WEBER) Calvinism- Weber argues that Calvinism helped emerged modern Capitalism. Calvinist beliefs such as predestination, divine transcendence and asceticism all contributed towards the emergence of modern Capitalism. Hinduism and Confucianism- Ancient China and India were more advanced than England but Capitalism failed to take off. Hinduism in India was ascetic but other worldly and directed members towards the spiritual world. Confucianism in China was this worldly but not ascetic. Calvinism was a mixture of the two and this is why Calvinism led to the emergence of Capitalism.
  8. RELIGION AND SOCIAL PROTEST (BRUCE) Bruce identifies two social protests that have been inspired by religion. The American Civil Rights Movement- Religion was an ideological resource to the black protesters fighting for civil rights. Religion aided the civil rights movement by taking the moral high ground, acting as a honest broker. The New Christian Right- The New Christian Right Movement aim to take America ‘back to God’. They believe in traditional family and gender roles. They used media and broadcasting to protest about issues such as abortion and the banning of sex education in school.
  9. MARXISM AND CHANGE Although Marxists argue that religion is a conservative ideology, some Marxists recognise that religion can have a duel character and act as a force for change. Liberation Theology- A movement that emerged within the Catholic Church in Latin America. Priests helped the poor establish support groups and helped workers fight oppression. Millenarian Movements- Religion creates the desire to change things. Millenarian movements appeal to the poor as they promise immediate improvement.
  10. SECULARISATION IN BRITAIN Secularisation theorists put forward many ideas as to why religion is declining and losing it’s importance in Britain. Disenchantment (Weber)- People have started thinking rationally rather than spiritually. A Technological World View (Bruce)- A technological world view has replaced religious explanations of why things happen. For example a plane crash is now explained by a technological fault rather than God’s will. Structural Differentiation (Parsons)- Prior to secularisation, all functions were performed by the church. As industrialisation increased, separate institutions perform different functions which has led to the disengagement of religion.
  11. POSTMODERNITY AND RELIGION Postmodernists reject the idea that religion is losing it’s importance and instead argue that religion is changing. Believing Without Belonging (Davie)- Religion has become privatised. People are choosing to worship in their own home rather than join a religious organisation. Vicarious Religion (Davie)- A small number of clergy practicing religion on behalf of a larger amount of people. Spiritual Shopping (Hervieu-Leger)- Cultural amnesia has led to a change of religion. Children are no longer taught religion by their parent. Children now make up their own minds about religion and often combine aspects from different beliefs.
  12. EXISTENTIAL SECURITY THEORY (NORRIS AND INGLEHART) Norris and Inglehart argue that variations in religiosity because of different degrees existential security. This means that religion meets a need for security do therefore people who feel secure are less likely to need religion. Poor Societies- People who face famine, disease and natural disaster have high levels of religiosity. Rich Societies- People who have a high standard of living have a high sense of security and don’t need religion.
  13. RELIGION AND DEVELOPMENT It can be argued that religion has contributed to globalisation. Hinduism and Consumerism (Nanda)- Globalisation has created a educated, urban, middle class in India. These people are still extremely religious. They believe that their wealth was given to them by low status village gods. As they are ambivalent about their new wealth, their religiosity levels increase. Capitalism in East Asia (Redding)- East Asian tiger economies such as South Korea and Singapore have been successfully industrialised. Redding argues this is because their post-Confucianism values encourage hard work, self discipline and a commitment to education.
  14. FUNDAMENTALISM (GIDDENS) Fundamentalism- Fundamentalists are traditionalists who seek to take their religion back to it’s fundaments. They believe in the literal scripture and are intolerant of other people’s views. Examples of fundamentalist groups are Al Qaeda and Boko Haram. Cosmopolitanism- Cosmopolitanism is a way of thinking that embraces modernity and social change. It is tolerant of others’ views and can modify their views in light of new information.
  15. TYPES OF RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION Church- Large organisation, run by a bureaucratic hierarchy, claim a monopoly of truth, tend to attract higher classes. Sects- Small and exclusive groups, hostile to wider society, expect a high level of commitment from members, attract the poor and oppressed, led by a charismatic leader. Denomination- Halfway between a church and a sect, less exclusive, not linked to the state, impose minor restrictions on members. Cults- Individualistic, small group with shared interests, led by practitioners who claim special knowledge, don’t demand strong commitment.
  16. NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS World Rejecting- They are highly critical of the outside world and seek radical change. Examples are the Moonies and the Manson Family. World Accommodating- They are often breakaways from existing churches or denominations. They neither accept or reject the world. World Affirming- They offer their followers access to spiritual or supernatural powers. They accept the world as it is and are optimistic and tolerant of other religions.
  17. GENDER AND RELIGIOSITY More women participate in religion than men. There are many reasons and explanations for this. Socialisation (Miller and Hoffman)- Women are more religious because they're socialised to be more caring and obedient. These are qualities valued by most religions. Woman and the New Age- New Age Movements often celebrate the natural. Women are associated with nature as they give birth so New Age Movements give women a higher status. Compensation for Deprivation (Stark and Bainbridge)- Women are deprived more than men so they join religious organisations to compensate from deprivation.
  18. ETHNICITY AND RELIGIOSITY There are higher than average religiosity rates for most ethnic minority groups. There are many explanations for these rates. Cultural Defence- Religion offers a sense of cultural identity in a new environment. Cultural Transition- Religion provides comfort for ethnic minorities migrating to a new country.
  19. AGE AND RELIGIOSITY The older you are, the more likely you are to participate in religion. However there are two exceptions to this pattern. Under 15s- More likely to go to church than any other age because they are made to by their parents. Over 65s- More likely to be sick or disabled so not able to attend church. Reasons for the pattern are; The Ageing Effect- People get more religious as they get older as they are nearing death and need questions answering The Generation Effect- Each generation is less religious than the previous one due to secularisation.
  20. SCIENCE AS A BELIEF SYSTEM Open Belief System (Popper)- Popper argues that science is an open belief system. This means that it is open to falsification in order for it to improve and grow. Closed Belief System- Religion is a closed belief system. It holds a monopoly of truth and is not tolerant of other beliefs.