As reported by Earl Christopher M.

Segales Sept 12, 2009

Definitions of religion
Two Dimensions: 2.Functional (what is the purpose for the

individual and society?)

 ‘a system of beliefs and practices by means of

which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life’  Tends to be too inclusive

3.Substantive (what are it contents?)  ‘refers to the existence of supernatural beings that have a governing effect on life’  Tends to be too exclusive

Emile Durkheim
 Religion: a unified system of beliefs and practices

related to sacred things, which are set apart.  Distinguished between the sacred and the profane  Totemism: the simplest & most basic form of religion
 Totems

had churingas (drawings) representing a clan’s emblem.  Society is the real object of religious veneration  Society is epitomized in the form of the totem.
 Religion reinforces the collective conscience

(shared values and moral beliefs)  In collective worship, members express and understand the moral bonds which unite them.

Bronislaw Malinowski
• • • •

Religion reinforces social norms and values. It promotes social solidarity. It serves as a ‘cushion’ to crises of life (anxiety and tension) Rituals reduce the feeling of uneasiness by providing confidence and a sense of control. Religion promotes social solidarity by dealing with situations of emotional stress that threaten the stability of society.
e.g. Death  the bereaved person is comforted by relatives

Talcott Parsons
 Human action is directed and controlled by norms

provided by the social system.  Since religion is embedded in this system, it provides guidelines for conduct which are expressed in a variety of norms. E.g. 10 Commandments and Laws  Two categories of human problems:


Fortuitous events are inevitable and unpredictable.  Religion enables people to restoring the normal pattern of life. The feeling of uncertainty towards the future is evident.  Religion becomes a ‘tonic for self-confidence’.

What does religion do? 2.It maintains social stability by relieving tension and frustration that could disrupt social order. 3.It makes sense of all experiences no matter how meaningless or contradictory they appear. 4.It provides a range of answers to life issues. 5.It strengthens the unity among its believers.

 Religion is an illusion which eases the pain

produced by exploitation and oppression. It justifies the subordination of the subject class and the domination of the ruling class.  “Opium of the people”  stupefies and disillusions the people into false notions: 3. It promises a paradise of eternal bliss because there is Heaven. 4. It allows poverty to become tolerable because of afterlife’s reward. 5. A supernatural intervention is possible. 6. It justifies the social order between the rich and the poor.

Religion is an instrument of oppression. It acts

as mechanism of social control which maintains system of exploitation. It prevents social change. Religion distorts reality. It allows false consciousness to pervade among the workers. Historical evidence: Hinduism caste system; Divine Right (mandate of heaven) monarchy In a truly socialist society, individuals revolve around themselves, and religion disappears.

While Christianity originated as a way of

coping with exploitation among oppressed groups, it could become a source of resistance to the oppressors and thus a force of change. Religion still exists in the context of an oppressed society. Religion has some relative autonomy as a separate entity. It may be the only available channel to bring about a social revolution. E.g. EDSA revolution as supported by the Catholic Church; Liberation Theology in Latin America

Gender, feminism and religion
Gender Inequality in Religion Main premise: Religion is a product of patriarchy rather than capitalism. Acc. to Karen Armstrong, early history shows the women played a central role in the spiritual conquest.
E.g. the idea of Mother Goddess or Mother Earth Turning point: foreign invasions  Before=polytheism; After=monotheism  Before=roster of gods & goddesses; After=Yahweh/Allah/Jehovah

Gender, feminism and religion
Acc. to Jean Holm, women have a subordinate role

in religion than men. Some examples:

 In Japanese folk religions, women organize public

rituals while men perform these.  In Chinese beliefs, Yin=women=passive=submission; Yang=men=active=aggression  In Buddhism, women=nuns; men=priests  priest are more senior to nuns  In Hinduism, women cannot enter shrines or perform rituals when they are menstruating or pregnant because these are regarded as pollutants to the sacredness of the activities/objects,

Gender, feminism and religion
Acc. to Simone de Beauvoir,  Religion gives women false beliefs that they will be compensated for their sufferings on earth by equality in heaven.  Religion can be used by oppressors (men) to control the oppressed ones (women). Acc. to Nawal El Saadawi,  In the Arab world, patriarchal dominance leads to prostitution, slavery, and abortion.  Acc. to Islam, men are permitted to marry several wives (but women can’t have many husbands), and men could divorce their spouses instantaneously.

Religion and social change
For Functionalists, Marxists, & Feminists,

religion is a conservative force : it prevents changes and maintains the status quo. It will also maintain traditional customs and beliefs. Fundamentalism: involves the reassertion of traditional moral and religious values against changes.
E.g. Islam Iranian revolution ; Liberation theology Latin America Here, society affects religions. There social factors or events which trigger transformation in religion.

Max Weber—The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
For him, religion affects society.  Social Action Theory: human action is directed by meanings and motives.  Worldview: the image of the world held by members.  Religion as a worldview affects social action. Ascetic Calvinist Protestantism propelled

 Elect: those chosen by God to go to heaven

even before birth.  It is difficult to ascertain whether you are an

Max Weber—The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
The ethic was ASCETIC  encouraging abstinence

from life’s pleasure, and rigorous discipline. It produced individuals who worked hard in their careers. Making money was a concrete indication of success in one’s calling. Protestants attacked time-wasting, laziness, idle gossiping and excessive sleep. Such acts impede productivity. The spirit of capitalism involves a set of ideas, ethics, and values. The essence of capitalism is the pursuit of profit and forever renewed profit.

Max Weber—The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Proper Ethics (Frugality + Efficiency + SelfDiscipline) More Productivity  Higher Profit  Better Societal Reputation  Admiration and Respect from others  Exemplary Behavior  Achieved Status and Constructed Notion of being an ELECT  HEAVEN  Such ethics were at the core of capitalist mentality.

Religion and social change
Merideth B. McGuire: Four Factors determining the religion’s potential for social change:

2. 3.


BELIEFS. Religions which emphasize strong adherence to moral codes are more likely to produce members who are critical of society. CULTURE. Is religion vital to the lives of a society? SOCIAL LOCATION. Does religion affect social structure? INTERNAL ORGANIZATION. Religions with a strong sense of authority have more chances of affecting events.

Church Refers to a large religious organization. Individuals do not necessarily have to demonstrate their faith all the time. Closely related to the state. The church stabilizes and determines the political order. Ideologically conservative and supports the status quo. Its members are not expected to withdraw from society. It affirms and accepts life. The notion of the church derives its force from the growth of Christianity and historic forms of Catholic, Orthodox, and Coptic churches. It is an essentially historical phenomena which might find itself hard to exist in modern societies.

Denominations They share several but not all of the supposed features of the church. What does it entail?
1. It does not have universal appeal to society 2. It does not identify with the state and

approves the separation of church and state. 3. It does not claim a monopoly of religious truth. 4. It is usually conservative.

Sects Characteristics are diametrically opposed to those of churches. How is a sect different?
1. Smaller and more strongly organized 2. Connected with the lower strata 3. Rejects the values of the world. 4. It s members may be expected to withdraw

from society. 5. There is no hierarchy, rather a charismatic leader is in charge.

Sects Products of the ‘upheavals of the reformation’ Tend to be type of subculture Exercise a stronger control over the individuals’ lives The members are expected to know the tenets and practice the rituals, otherwise, they may be excluded. E.g. People’s Temple  started by Rev. Jones in Cali.
 Members ought sign confessions of their crimes

they had not committed. Then, subject to public

Cults Highly individualistic expression, varying with personal experiences and interpretations. Cult: a closely-knit group organized around some common themes and interests but lacking any sharply defined and exclusive belief system. No conception of heresy Lack of fixed doctrine: a matter of interpretative belief

Roy Wallis—The Elementary forms of the Religious Life  Three kinds of religious movement: World-rejecting
 Can be found in sects. There is a definite    

conception of God. Actively seeks change Expects God’s intervention to save the world. Limited contact with outside world E.g. Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon

Usually offshoots of a major church or

denomination. Neither accepts nor rejects the world as it is, rather lives in it. More concerned with religious rather than worldly questions. Seek to restore the purity of religion which has been lost E.g. Pentecostalists believe that the Holy Spirit is lost in other Christian religions.

May have no collective ritual of worship It may lack any developed theology of ethics. Little social control. It accepts the world for

what it is. Salvation is seen as a personal achievement and as a solution to personal problems. It offers followers the potential to achieve this salvation. E.g. Transcendental Meditation meditate 20mins. Twice a day for ‘unbounded awareness’

Some organizations might have a combination

of these qualities. These result to the ‘middle-ground’ status E.g. Healthy Happy Holy Organization and Divine Light Mission.  allow members to have an alternative lifestyle.

New Age type People withdrew from the traditional religious orgs and have begun to look inside themselves in search of the spiritual. Salvation: it comes from discovering and perfecting oneself. To experience the spiritual and transcendental through nature. E.g. astrology, tarot cards, spirit masters, magic, Feng Shui, witchcraft

New Age type It is a response to the acknowledged failure of the scientific and materialist worldview to deliver meaning. It is a product of modernity. It appeals to affluent members of society. They have experienced personal development themselves and therefore find it plausible to believe that there is potential to be discovered within. It is a symptom of extreme relativism because your belief becomes subjective.  due to the decline of religion Modernity gives people a multiplicity of roles. The New Age offers ways of finding an identity.

Industrialization and scientific knowledge led to

this. It is the decline of religion. Acc. to Weber, rationalization would erode religious influence. Acc. to Marx, a motion of events would lead to its disappearance. Acc. to Comte, human societies passed to 3 stages:
1. Theological: religious and superstitious beliefs

were dominant 2. Metaphysical: philosophy becomes more important 3. Positivism: Science would dominate human thinking.  The role of religion in society weakens.

Disengagement: the church withdrawing from wider society. E.g. obsolescence of excommunication Differentiation: separation of religion from state affairs. Social differentiation: the church has now much less opportunity to get involved in non-religious spheres. This was brought about by rationalization. Societalization: a process in which social life becomes fragmented and ceases to be locally based. People interact at a higher level of community rather than a smaller

Religion and Globalization
Peter Beyer (Three Directions of Religion) Religion take a relatively marginal position in a global society. Globalization leads to the world becoming dominated by specialized sub-systems. Global capitalist economy on money matters; global political system (UN) on bureaucratic leadership matters; global science on matters of ‘truth’. Given these, where can religion position itself?

Religion and Globalization
Peter Beyer Since everything is global, it leaves little or no room for identities to develop. Who am I really? What is my position in this global setting? Religion can become a source of identity. It can provide answers to questions. Lastly, religion can consolidate different faiths. E.g. environmentalism: genuine concern for Mother Earth

Religion and Globalization
Samuel Huntington There is clash of civilizations (a cultural identity). The world is divided into language, history, and traditions. Religion can fill the between such differences. There is evidence of unsecularization.
E.g. The end of socialism in USSR signaled the

start of fundamentalism in Eastern Europe. Religion is still very much important in the global society.

Religion and Globalization
Karen Armstrong (Islam & Modernization) There is nothing inherently incompatible with the West and Muslim worlds. Rather, economic and political factors led to increased tensions. Islam advocates the sharing of resources, and at the same trend of towards greater equality was evident in some Western societies. Muslim countries (Egypt, Sudan, Libya) ‘idolized’ Western models of development. Muslim countries were supported by the Western nations. However, only a small percentage benefitted from such investments. Much of the conflict started from within. This was aggravated by the entry of the West.

High Modernity, Postmodernity and Religion
Anthony Giddens Features of high modernity (a step higher than modernity):
1. Reflexivity: people are willing to change

beliefs in order to gain to new knowledge and experience 2. Separation of time and space: advent of the Internet and similar technology. 3. Disembedding: social interaction becomes restructured from local context to global arena.

High Modernity, Postmodernity and Religion
Anthony Giddens High modernity provides the conditions of religion’s resurgence. People make more conscious choices about who they are and what they wish to become. Some problems:
1. Modernity=rationality; High Modernity=

increase of doubt. Which one should I choose? 2. Existential questions: Why do I exist? Where do I go when I die?

High Modernity, Postmodernity and Religion
Anthony Giddens As people try to make sense of their lives in reflexive way, they are in a moral vacuum. There is no ground or any basis since everything is subjective and open to change. In response, religion particularly fundamentalism begins to emerge.

High Modernity, Postmodernity and Religion
Zygmunt Bauman (Religion and Postmodernity) Postmodernity tears down/deconstructs any claims to universal truth. Postmodernity is a state of mind. “Postmodernity is a shopping mall overflowing with goods whose major use is the joy of purchasing them…indefinitely.” Once the rational basis of life has been torn down, it leads to the renewed emphasis on the ethical and moral. Morality, as a facet of religion, becomes a matter of personal choice. In postmodernity, people seek a process of self-constitution. Rather than achieving things, they want to be somebody. Again, religion is most likely to enter the picture

Discussion questions:
1. Is atheism really the absence of religion, or

perhaps a more radical worldview? 2. What is social relevance of religion in your respective countries? 3. In what ways can religion impede or support development in your respective countries?

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful