Beliefs in society


What is religion?

Substantive definition -
Max Weber - religion is  a belief in a superior or supernatural power that is above nature and cannot be explained scientifically.
- to be a religion> must have belief in God or supernatural .
Accused of Western bias.
Excludes Buddhism.

Functional definition -
Define religion as the social or psychological function it performs for indivuduals + society!
Durkheim > religion = contribution to social intergration rather than a specific god.
Functional definitions are inclusive.- they include different beliefs as NO BIAS to western or non western. 

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What is religion 2?

Social constructionist definitions. 
Interpretivist approach. - say it isnt possible to produce one single definition of religion to cover all. ( religion means different things to different people.)
- imposible to generalise nature of religion as its up to personal meanings + opinions.

Functionalist theories of religion. 
social order, intergration and solidarity.  
Religion aids the organism analogy!!

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Durkheim on religion.

Durkheim - religion creates + maintains value consensus.  
The sacred + profane  
sacred things evolve meaning and power in believers. (symbols)
Durkheim says this can only be society as it has power to change.
- so people worship symbols which are actually society itself.
-> These sacred symbols/ practices encourage collective groups.
-> uniting believers whatever religion

Studied tribes -> come together to worship totems.
-> Gives identity to a group ( reinforces solidarity) 

Collective conscience 
Shared norms + values -> without these society would disintergrate.  
Sacred symbols represent collective conscience.
Religion maintains social integration.
Therefore religion provides function for the invididual.  

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Durkheim on religion 2.

Cognitive functions of religion.
Ability to fixate catergories- eg god being the beginning of earth. 

Evidence of toteism is unsound -> WORSLEY says this doesnt even prove discovery of all religions.
May just apply ti small-scale societies with single relisions.
- May explain social intergration but not conflict of religion.

+ increased diversity fragments collective conscience as there is no single shared norm/value system to religion.  

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Psychological functions

Malinowski -> religion promotes social solidarity. 
Religion is an emotional coping function! 

>At times of life crisis. (birth/marriage/ puberty/death)
- religion aids disruption of these crisises- Funerals give social solidarity.  

> At times of uncontrolable outcomes- trobriand islanders fishing in lagoons then sea.
- rituals done when ocean fishing. - gives a sense of control
Malinowski says death is main reasons for religious beliefs.

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Parsons Values and meanings

Parsons -> religion creates + legitiates central values. 
Religion is primary source of meaning. - eg meritocracy, individualism.
-Religion answers unanswered questions.
Some events (death) makes us question societies values.
Religion gives answers and reward for faith.

Civil religion
Bellah -> (Americanism) joins people together.
Civil religion intergrates society that individual religions cant. 
Eg, national anthem! 

Functional alternatives. 
Some belief systems perform same functions.
Nazi/ soviets - uniting society. 

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Evaluation of Functionalism views on religion.

Neglects negatives of society from religion. 
(oppression to poor/ women.)

Ignores religion as a division + conflict

Civil religion may not be a religion if not based on beliefs of supernatural.

Marxist + Feminist.  

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Marxist theories of religion.

Religion as ideology
Marx -> ideology is a belief system that distorts perception of reality in order to serve ruling class.
Institutions-> church, media, education have ruling class ideas spread so people socialised to now know better. - legitimates exploitation.

Relision gives False conscionsness. Eg "harder for a rich man to enter kingdom of heaven than a camel to pass through a needle." 

Lenin -> religion is a 'spiritual Gin' 
Ruling class create mystical fog for poor so they arent overthrown.  

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Marxist theories of religion 2

Religion + alienation 
Marx-> religion is a product of alienation.  
- Workers are exploited + treated like machines.
Marx - relision is the opium of the people.-> dulls the pain of exploitation. 
- spirit of the spiritless situation.  
Religion masks pain rather than treats the cause.
-> religion promises afterlife to create illusionary happiness.
-> religion helps maintain power and compensates the poor.

Ignores positive functions of religion-> psychological adjustment to misfortune!
Althusser - rejects alienation as it is unscientific.
Inadequate for religion.  

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Feminist theory of religion.

Feminist - society is partiarchal. 
Religion is patriarchal instituation that reproduces inequality.  
- religious beliefs function ideology that legitimates female subordination.
Religious organisations - male dominated / forbid women in high religious positions.  

Places of worship-> segregation of sexes. (women behind screens)
Men occupy sacred places.
Islam -> women on PERIOD cannot touch the Qur'an.

Sacred texts -> male gods / written + interprutted by men.
Religious laws + customers -> womens rights to divorce. + decision making
Cultural norms (gender domains)
Religious regulate womens reproduction-> Catholics done use contraception.  

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Woodhead -> religious feminism.

Religious forms of feminism -> women use religion to gain freedom.
eg women wearing the hijab worn by muslims. 
Westerns see it as oppression - some women wear it to avoid being looked at as an object by men. 

Position of women is changing. eg emplyment laws/ sex discrimination acts.  

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