Principles Of Religion

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 Principles Of Religion

Anthropological theories of religion have been primarily concerned with examining the content of different concepts of the supernatural prevalent in different societies at different times. Earlier anthropologists also tried to trace the development of religion from crude to developed forms. Recent theories focus on outlining the functions of religion.

Animism. The earliest anthropological theory about primitive religion, trying to trace and explain its origins, was given by Tylor. He said that although the origins seem to be many, there is only one idea behind it, the belief in the soul (anima); Hence the name animism for this doctrine.

Tylor’s conjectural arguments were as follows: primitive man had some experience; In his dreams he was engaged in various kinds of activities even while sleeping; He met his dead ancestors in dreams and had hallucinatory experiences about them and other beings while he was conscious; He heard the echoes of his own voice; He saw his reflection in ponds, lakes and rivers; And he failed to separate himself from his shadow. Even as he was having these incomprehensible experiences, from time to time something deeper must have had meaning and forced the mind of primitive man to think; People must have died. This devastation must have been a great intellectual challenge. What exactly had happened that brought a sudden stop to a person’s verbal and non-verbal actions? He looked the same, but he was not.

There must have been some unseen thing in her which must have escaped, must not have been seen, due to which she must have died. It was thus that the belief in an unseen thing, or power, arose that kept people alive when they were in them and left them dead when they left their bodies. Such a thing or power is called ‘soul’. But how is it that one who sleeps, like death, was not death, and how is it that people have all these different experiences in dreams, and when awake, hear echoes and see shadows and reflections? Certainly, says Tylor, primitive man must have thought that man must have two souls; a free soul that could go out and experience, and a embodied soul that would die if it left the body. The former may represent and be associated with breath and shadow, the latter with blood and the head. Primitive man would have come to the conclusion that when the soul permanently leaves the body, the person concerned dies; And his soul became a ghost or spirit. The spirit must have apparently appeared to be immortal as they could dream about people who were long dead. This uncertainty as to whether the soul has left the body temporarily or permanently may be one reason for the practice of ‘green’ and ‘dry’ double funeral rites found among some contemporary primitive peoples in India and elsewhere. Is. The first, the green funeral, takes place immediately after death and the second, the dry funeral, is celebrated after a few days when all hope of the soul’s return is abandoned; and the second funeral is often the occasion of a more important ceremony, e.g. Between Toda and Ho. Yes it is called Jangtopa; When the drums beat, Topam Jangatopam, they celebrate the union of the soul with the impersonal force which they call Bonga. Green funerals in Kota are called pasdau and take place shortly after the actual death has taken place. The second dry funeral, called Verldau, is held some time later and for all those who have passed away after the last dry funeral. Dry funeral rites symbolize the complete severance of the connection between the dead and this world and their entry into the other world.

Therefore, Tylor believed that awe and reverence for these abstract and non-material spiritual beings was an early form of primitive religion.

is original. These spiritual beings are not under our control, and therefore, they must be harmed, and so that they can provide help. Thus, ancestor worship was the earliest form of worship and the earliest temples were tombs. Animism includes such a belief in the role of spiritual beings in human life; This is a type of polytheism. Tylor believed that religious beliefs and forms underwent an evolutionary development over time and progressed from polytheism to monotheism.

It has been complained that Tylor has made of primitive man a philosopher and rationalist, which he certainly is not, and never could have been. Tylor had no field experience and did not know that primitive man leads an active life and that thin is not given so much

Posted as his theory. Instead, he observes and participates in life and nature; He’s not rational about it. As a result, other explanations were sought. But this did not suggest that Tylor’s theory was entirely wrong. It lays more emphasis on the holistic aspect of primitive religion, such as the belief in the soul and spirits. Tylor’s evolutionary sequence leading from polytheism to monotheism, however, has received no evidence and therefore does not have many adherents.

Animatism and Manism. Tylor’s early critics stated that animism was a later development in the history of religion. He postulated a pre-animistic phase when religious belief consisted primarily of the belief that everything has life and is animate. Prominent among these writers were Preece and Max Müller. The name of the latter is associated with the principle of naturalism discussed below.

More recently, Meret developed a special form of animist theory which he called animism. Meret stated that the entire religious life of primitive peoples arose out of their belief in a certain incomprehensible, impersonal, non-material and impersonal supernatural power, which resides in all things, animate and inanimate, that exist. world. It is more or less beyond the reach of the senses but manifests itself in the form of physical force or such other excellence that man can perceive in himself, in others and even in the things around him. It can vary in intensity depending on the degree to which it is present on a person or thing, but in essence it is always the same. Such a set of beliefs was called animatism or manism by Maret after the term used by the Melanesians to designate this force. Majumdar’s description and analysis of the concept of bonga among the Ho (given below) are consistent with Meret’s theory of primitive religion. Some North American tribes refer to this power as orenda. It is known elsewhere as Aren and Wakua.

But this interpretation is also somewhat open to the main criticism leveled against Tylor, namely that it invests primitive peoples with an aptitude for thinking and rationality that they do not in fact possess.

Naturalism. Reference has already been made to the German theory of naturalism associated with Max Müller. He said that the most ancient form of religion must have been the worship of the objects of nature; And evidence in support of such a view comes from archaeological excavations carried out in Egypt and elsewhere. It is believed to arise as a result of a ‘diseased’ mind of awe or love and reverence towards objects of nature that invest lifeless things with life and all the forces associated with life. This error of mind, according to this theory, stems from faulty language. Such linguistic errors as the sun rises and sets, or lightning rains, or trees bear flowers and fruits, lead to a belief in some power inherent in the sun, thunderbolt, trees, etc.

In so far as it is held that the objects of nature were worshipped, no difficulty arises; The evidence in favor of such a practice is overwhelming. But any claim, or explanation given, of such worship being the oldest form of religion, is not credible. There is no evidence to show that different concepts follow linguistic expressions about the same. In contrast, linguistic expressions may follow some pre-existing idea.

The merit and usefulness of these various theories emerge when taken together, for each of them expresses some essential truth about primitive religion.

Functional Theory Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown have given a functional explanation of primitive religion. Malinowski explains in the context of the Trobriand Islanders that religion is closely related to various emotional states, which are states of stress. For example, some of their magical and religious practices are centered around fishing expeditions. These are the results of a state of fear that gives rise to a possible disaster upon them. Similarly, hatred, greed, anger, love etc. can arise due to various circumstances in human life. These conditions create stress and tension and if they are allowed to remain for a long time, all actions become ineffective. A person has to act individually; And normal functioning is not possible in an emotionally disturbed state of existence. In such a situation, religion is used as a tool of adaptation; Its purpose is to connect the human mind with its body.

It is meant to relieve tension and stress, that is, it is cathartic in its action. In other words, the function of religion is to bring about a readjustment between the human and the supernatural in the turbulent state of existence. It is a tool to secure mental and mental stability in a person’s life.

Radcliffe-Brown takes a different stand. They say that the function of religion is not to remove fear and other emotional tensions from the human mind, but to create in it a sense of dependence. He says that, ultimately, the survival of the group is more important than that of the individual; One

And if the latter has to sacrifice something, it is in his own interest to do so, because individual existence is not possible without social existence. However, the individual does not always realize this, and seeks to chart a personal course of action. If everyone did this there would be complete confusion and chaos and no organized activity would be possible. Adherence to a model of behavior is essential in the context of social survival; and also the expectation of support in the matter of socially accepted conduct from which it follows. Therefore, the function of religion is to create a dual sense of dependence on society and thereby achieve the individual’s concordance with social norms, the ultimate goal being social survival. The function of religion is the contribution it makes to the overall activity that is designed to perpetuate society.

Here again we can say that the truth lies in the combination of the views of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. Their viewpoints may appear opposing, but they are not; They have to be taken as supplements. The individual is as important to the society as the society is to the individual.

The sociological interpretations of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski are partly derived from Durkheim’s theory of religion. Durkheim says that religious concepts are born and conceived when we find social groups gathering together for festivals and other social gatherings. On such occasions social life is at its height, and impresses upon the human mind the transcendence and omnipotence of the group. It is conceived as the source of all that man has and all that man is. Religion is the recognition of the moral and material superiority of the collectivity over the individual.

Durkheim defined religion on the basis of the parts of which it is composed. These parts are faith and rites; The former constitute the static part of religion and the latter the dynamic part. Mere beliefs make up theology. In religion we have only sacred beliefs; Beliefs that refer to gods and deities that are actually symbols of the society. These beliefs are put into practice by the performance of rites. Unholy beliefs and practices are not sacred and are not part of religion; They are magic. They are indicative of personal ego and are anti-social and hence impure. 


Types of Religious Organizations

Religions organize themselves – their institutions, practitioners and structures – in a variety of fashions. For example, when the Roman Catholic Church arose, it borrowed many of its organizational principles from the ancient Roman military, for example turning senators into cardinals. Sociologists use different terms, such as church, denomination, and sect, to define these types of organizations. Scholars also know that these definitions are not static. Most religions transition through various organizational stages. For example, Christianity began as a cult, transformed into a sect, and exists today as a church.

Cults, like sects, are new religious groups. In popular usage, the term often has pejorative connotations. Today, the term “cult” is used interchangeably with the term new religious movement (NRM). However, almost all religions began as NRMs and gradually grew to greater sizes and levels of organization. In its pejorative use, these groups are often disparaged as being secretive, exerting excessive control over the lives of members, and dominated by a single, charismatic leader.

Controversy exists as to whether some groups are cults, perhaps because of media sensationalism over groups such as the polygamous Mormons or the Peoples Temple followers who were killed in Johnstown, Guyana. Some groups that are controversially labeled as cults include the Church of Scientology and the Hare Krishna movement.

A sect is a small and relatively new group. Most of the well-known Christian denominations in North America today began as sects. For example, Presbyterians and Baptists protested against their original Anglican Church in England, just as Henry VIII protested against the Catholic Church by creating the Anglican Church. From “protest” comes the word Protestant.

Occasionally, a cult is a breakaway group that may be in tension with the larger society. They sometimes claim to return to “fundamentals” or to contest the veracity of a particular doctrine. When membership in a denomination increases over time, it may develop into a sect. Often a sect begins as an offshoot of a sect, when a group of members

The group believes that they should be separate from the larger group.

Some sects developed without developing into sects. Sociologists call these established sects. Established sects, such as the Hutterites or Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada, fall halfway between sect and sect on the sect-cult continuum because they have a mixture of sect-like and sect-like characteristics.

A sect is a large, mainstream religious organization, but one that does not claim to be official or state-sponsored. There is one religion among many religions. For example, in Canada the Church of England, the Presbyterian Church, the United Church and Seventh-day Adventists are all Christian denominations.

The word ecclesia, originally referring to a political assembly of citizens in ancient Athens, Greece, now refers to a congregation. In sociology, the term is used to refer to a religious group to which most members of a society belong. It is considered a nationally recognized, or official, religion that maintains a religious monopoly and is closely associated with the state and secular powers. Canada does not have an ecclesia by this standard.

One way to remember these religious organizational terms is to think of cults (NRMs), denominations, sects, and churches as representing a continuum with increasing influence on society, with cults being the least influential and churches being the least influential. are most influential.

types of religions

Scholars from different disciplines have tried to classify religions. A widely accepted classification that helps people understand different belief systems considers what or whom people worship (if anything). Using this method of classification, religions can fall into one of these basic categories,


Religious Classification What/Who Are Divine Examples

polytheism multiple gods ancient greeks and romans

monotheism single god Judaism Islam

atheism no god atheism

animism nonhuman beings (animals, plants, natural world) indigenous nature worship (Shinto)

Totemism Human-Natural Existential Relationship Ojibwa (First Nations)


Religious Classification What/Who Is Divine Example

Polytheism Multiple gods Ancient Greeks and Romans

Monotheism Single god Judaism, Islam

Atheism No deities

Animism Nonhuman beings (animals, plants, natural world) Indigenous nature worship (Shinto)

Totemism Human-natural being connection Ojibwa (First Nations)


Note that some religions may be practiced or understood in different categories. For example, the Christian notion of the Holy Trinity (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit) defies the definition of monotheism for some scholars. Similarly, many Westerners view the many forms of the divinity of Hinduism as polytheistic, while Hindus may describe manifestations that are a monotheistic parallel to the Christian Trinity.

It is also important to note that in every society there are atheists, such as atheists, who do not believe in God.





sociological approach to religion

From the Latin religio (reverence for that which is sacred) and religare (to bind, in the sense of an obligation), the word religion describes various systems of belief and practice that people determine to be sacred or spiritual (Durkheim 1915). ; Fashing and Dechant 2001). Throughout history, and in societies around the world, leaders have used religious narratives, symbols, and traditions in an effort to give greater meaning to life and to understand the universe. Some form of religion is found in every known culture, and it is usually practiced publicly by a group. The practice of religion may include celebrations and festivals, gods or deities, marriage and funeral services, music and art, meditation or initiation, sacrifice or service, and other aspects of culture.

While some consider religion to be something personal because religious beliefs can be highly personal, religion is also a social institution. Social scientists believe that religion exists as an organized and unified set of beliefs, practices and norms centered on basic social needs and values. Furthermore, religion is a cultural universal found in all social groups. For example, in every culture, funeral rites are performed in some way, although these customs differ between cultures and religious affiliations. Despite the differences, ceremonies marking a person’s death have common elements, such as the announcement of death, the care of the deceased, disposition, and the ceremony or ritual. These universals, and the differences in how societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study.

In studying religion, sociologists distinguish between what they refer to as the experience, beliefs, and customs of a religion. Religious experience refers to a firm belief or feeling that one is connected to “the divine”. This type of communication can be experienced when people are praying or meditating. Religious beliefs are specific ideas that members of a particular faith hold to be true, such as that Jesus Christ was the son of God, or belief in reincarnation.

Was sleeping Another example of religious beliefs is that different religions follow certain creation stories. Religious rituals are behaviors or practices that are required or expected of members of a particular group, such as a bar mitzvah or confession (Barken and Greenwood 2003).

History of Religion as a Sociological Concept

In the wake of 19th-century European industrialization and secularization, three social theorists attempted to examine the relationship between religion and society: Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx. He is one of the founding thinkers of modern sociology.

As stated earlier, the French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) defined religion as “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things” (1915). To them, the sacred meant something extraordinary—something that inspired wonder and that seemed to be linked to the concept of the “divine”. Durkheim argued that society “has religion” when there is a separation between the profane (ordinary life) and the sacred (1915). A rock, for example, is not sacred or profane just because it exists. But if someone builds it into a headstone, or someone else uses it for landscaping, it has different meanings—one sacred, one profane.

Durkheim is generally considered to be the first sociologist to analyze religion in terms of its social impact. Above all, Durkheim believed that religion is about community: it binds people together (social cohesion), promotes behavioral stability (social control), and helps them through life’s transitions and tragedies (meaning and purpose). Provides strength to people during By applying natural science methods to the study of society, he held that the source of religion and morality is the collective psyche of society and that the harmonious bonds of social order arise from common values in society. He argued that these values needed to be maintained in order to maintain social stability.

Religion then provided varying degrees of “social cement” that held societies and cultures together. Faith provided a justification for society to exist beyond the mundane and partial explanation of existence as provided in science, even to contemplate an intentional future: “For faith is first of all action.” One is inspiration, whereas science, no matter how far it is pushed, always remains at a distance from it (Durkheim 1915, p. 431).

But what if religion collapses? This question led Durkheim to believe that religion is not just a social construct but something that represents the power of society: when people celebrate sacred things, they celebrate the power of their society. Huh. By this logic, even if traditional religion disappears, society will not necessarily disintegrate.

New Sociology


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