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Because sects are relatively small, they usually lack the bureaucracy of denominations and ecclesiae, and often also lack clergy who have received official training. Their worship services can be intensely emotional experiences, often more so than those typical of many denominations, where worship tends to be more formal and restrained.

Members of many sects typically proselytize and try to recruit new members into the sect. If a sect succeeds in attracting many new members, it gradually grows, becomes more bureaucratic, and, ironically, eventually evolves into a denomination. A cult or New Religious Movement is a small religious organization that is at great odds with the norms and values of the larger society.

Cults are similar to sects but differ in at least three respects. First, they generally have not broken away from a larger denomination and instead originate outside the mainstream religious tradition. Second, they are often secretive and do not proselytize as much. Cults, more than other religious organizations, have been subject to contemporary moral panics about brainwashing, sexual deviance, and strange esoteric beliefs. However, research challenges several popular beliefs about cults, including the ideas that they brainwash people into joining them and that their members are mentally ill.

In a study of the Unification Church Moonies , Eileen Barker found no more signs of mental illness among people who joined the Moonies than in those who did not. She also found no evidence that people who joined the Moonies had been brainwashed into doing so. Another source of moral panic about cults is that they are violent. In fact, most are not violent. Nevertheless, some cults have committed violence in the recent past. Two years earlier, the Branch Davidian cult engaged in an armed standoff with federal agents in Waco, Texas. A few cults have also committed mass suicide.

Similarly, in Canada, on the morning of October 4th, , a blaze engulfed a complex of luxury condominiums in the resort town of Morin-Heights, Quebec. Firefighters found the bodies of a Swiss couple, Gerry and Collette Genoud, in its ruins. At first it was thought that the fire was accidental, but then news arrived from Switzerland of another odd set of fires at homes owed by the same men who owned the Quebec condominiums.

All the fires had been set with improvised incendiary devices, which made the police realize they were dealing with a rare incidence of mass murder suicide involving members of an esoteric religious group known as the Solar Temple. From the recorded and written messages left behind by the group, it is clear that the leaders felt it was time to effect what they called a transit to another reality associated with Sirius.

It is important to note that cults or new religious movements are very diverse. They offer spiritual options for people seeking purpose in the modern context of state secularism and religious pluralism. Members of new religions run the risk of being stigmatized and even prosecuted Dawson, Modern societies highly value freedom and individual choice, but not when exercised in a manner that defies expectations of what is normal.

Even at a young age he claimed to be in touch with supernatural beings Gorman, At its height it had over followers around the world, many of whom sent over large sums of money. The Aquarian Foundation was based on the teachings on the Theosophical Society, which was an organization formed in New York City in Theosophy had much in common with the beliefs of Buddhism and Hinduism, such as the belief in reincarnation. It was radically different than the dominant Christian belief of the time. Theosophy also promoted the idea that there was a spiritual world beyond death inhabited by evolved spiritual beings, whose wisdom could be accessed through the occult reading of esoteric signs and the intervention of spiritual mediums Scott, These isolated areas provided a place to get away from the social pressures of the outside world.

However, an insurrection took place when Brother XII announced to his followers that he was the reincarnation of the Egyptian God Osiris. Between and , a series of trials involving Brother XII occurred, which included allegations of misusing foundation funds and having extramarital affairs. News reports claimed that he used black magic to cause witnesses and several members of the audience to faint Rutten, Wilson himself became increasingly authoritarian and used social pressure to convince members into performing gruelling physical labour that was virtually on the same level as slavery.

He did this by telling them these activities were tests of fitness to advance their spirituality. In , the group was finally dissolved and Wilson disappeared from the Nanaimo area along with hundreds of thousands of dollars of Foundation money and Mabel Skottowe one of the women with whom he was accused of having an extramarital affair. They reportedly left by tugboat and eventually made their way to Switzerland. The majority of reports say that he died in Switzerland in , though some that say he was seen in San Francisco with his lawyer after his alleged death. According to Cowan , because most people have little direct knowledge of cults and mainly get their information through sensationalist media reports, cults are easily presented as targets of moral panic for being immoral, extreme or dangerous.

The three main accusations that cults face are that they engage in brainwashing, acts of sexual deviance and social isolationism. Each of these accusations applied to the media reports on the Aquarian Foundation although their dominant theme centered on the claim that Brother XII was a fraud. While some people think of religion as something individual because religious beliefs can be highly personal , for sociologists religion is also a social institution.

Social scientists recognize that religion exists as an organized and integrated set of beliefs, behaviours, and norms centred on basic social needs and values. Moreover, religion is a cultural universal found in all social groups. For instance, in every culture, funeral rites are practiced in some way, although these customs vary between cultures and within religious affiliations. These universals, and the differences in how societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study. But why does religion exist in the first place? Despite the conflict that has accompanied religion over the centuries, it still continues to exist, and in some cases thrive.

How do we explain the origins and continued existence of religion? We will examine sociological theories below, but first we turn to evolutionary and psychological explanations. Many psychologists explain the rise and persistence of religion in terms of Darwinian evolutionary theory. Psychologist Roger Cloninger defines this core religious experience as the disposition towards self-transcendence. It has three measurable components: self-forgetfulness absorption in tasks and the ability to lose oneself in concentration , transpersonal identification perception of spiritual union with the cosmos and the ability to reduce boundaries of self vs.

The argument is that because this is a universal phenomenon, it must have a common physiological or genetic basis that is passed on between generations that enhances human survival. According to Charles Darwin all species are involved in a constant battle for survival, using adaptions as their primary weapon against an ever-changing, and hostile environment.

Adaptions are genetic, or behavioral traits that are shaped by environmental pressures, and genetic variation. By dissecting religion to a core set of purposes, it can be categorized as an adaption that increases the chances of human survival. All adaptions successfully passed on to future generations aided at one point either in reproduction or survival because the genes that selected for them were passed on. This is the rule of natural selection Darwin, Much of evolutionary psychology aims at explaining the possible environments in which certain adaptions were selected.

Although religion has the potential to cause unwanted side effects, such as wars, it still provides much greater benefits, by responding to numerous survival problems through collective religious processes. A very specific benefit, for example, is disease prevention.

Many historic religions placed an emphasis on cleanliness, comparing it to spiritual purity. Consequently there is also an evolutionary benefit to this religious virtue. During a time period where disease was a constant threat to survival, idealizing cleanliness helped minimize communicable diseases from food, animals, and even humans. Although disease prevention has been an important byproduct of religious practices around the world, evolutionary psychologists argue that the main benefit religion has provided to human survival is the mutual support provided by fellow members.

More specifically, religion creates a framework for social cohesion and solidarity, even during times of loss, and grief, which has been a crucial competitive strategy of the human species. Dean Hamer for example describes a specific gene that correlates with the capacity for self-transcendence. After his research team isolated an association between the VMAT2 gene sequence and populations who scored high on psychological scales for self-transcendence, Hamer noted these genes were connected to the production of neurotransmitters known as monoamines.

The effects of monoamines on the meso-limbic systems in the human body were similar to many stimulant drugs: feelings of euphoria and positive well-being. What is striking about this evidence is the implication that evolution has favoured genes that are often displayed in religious populations. Hamer extends the evolutionary argument to suggest that religion, grounded genetically in a neuro-chemical capacity for self-transcendence, provides competitive advantages for the human species in the forms of community well-being higher rates of reciprocity and social welfare and longevity reduction of maladaptive behaviours and increased cleanliness.

Many similar effects can be observed in the present environment. Strawbridge, Sherna, Cohen, and Kaplan, conducted a year longitudinal study on religious attendance and survival. Although they found that weekly religious attendance more often assisted in targeting and reducing maladaptive behaviors such as smoking, it also aided in maintaining social relations, and marriage Strawbridge et al. Evolutionary psychology argues that these modern tendencies to feel happiness during a church congregation to reduce maladaptive behaviours are innate, sculpted by centuries of exposure to religion.

Evolutionist Richard Dawkins hypothesized a similar reason why religion has created such a lasting impact on society. Comparable to genes, memes are bits of information that can be imitated and transferred across cultures and generations Dawkins, As a vocal proponent of atheism, Dawkins believes the idea of God is a meme, working in the human mind the same way as a placebo effect. The God meme contains tangible benefits to human society such as answers to questions about human transcendence and superficial comfort for daily difficulties, but the idea of God itself is a product of the human imagination Dawkins, Although a human creation, the God meme is incredibly appealing, and as a result, has continually been passed on through cultural transfusion.

The logic of evolutionary psychology suggests that it is possible for religion to be replaced by another mechanism that is more beneficial to human survival. Just as Dawkins hypothesized that religious memes colonized societies around the world, this process could also be applied to secular memes. The secularization thesis predicts that as societies become modern, religious authority will be replaced with public institutions.

As Canada, and other countries develop, perhaps evolution will continue to favour secularization, demoting religion from its central place in social life, and religious conflicts to history textbooks and motel night tables. Where psychological theories of religion focus on the aspects of religion that can be described as products of individual subjective experience — the disposition towards self-transcendence, for example — sociological theories focus on the underlying social mechanisms religion sustains or serves.

They tend to suspend questions about whether religious world views are true or not — e. Is enlightenment achievable through meditation? Marx, Durkheim, Weber and other early sociologists lived in a time when the validity of religion had been put into question. Traditional societies had been thoroughly religious societies, whereas modern society corresponded to the declining presence and influence of religious symbols and institutions.

Nationalism and class replaced religion as a source of identity. Religion became increasingly a private, personal matter with the separation of church and state. However, modern societies seemed inevitably to be on the path towards secularization in which people would no longer define religion as real.

The question these sociologist grappled with was whether societies could work without the presence of a common religion. Instead religion was the product of a projection. Humans projected an image of themselves onto a supernatural reality, which they then turned around and submitted to in the form of a superhuman God. Religious belief was a kind of narcotic fantasy or illusion that prevented people from perceiving their true conditions of existence, firstly as the creators of God, and secondly as beings whose lives were defined by historical, economic and class relations.

Their suffering was real, but their explanation of it was false. However, Marx was not under the illusion that the mystifications of religion belief would simply disappear, vanquished by the superior knowledge of science and political-economic analysis. The problem of religion was in fact the central problem facing all critical analysis: the attachment to explanations that compensate for real social problems but do not allow them to be addressed.

They would continue to live under conditions of social inequality and grasp at the illusions of religion in order to cope. The critical sociological approach he proposed would be to thoroughly disillusion people about the rewards of the afterlife and bring them back to earth where real rewards could be obtained through collective action. Emile Durkheim explained the existence of religion in terms of the functions it performs in society. Unlike Marx, however, he argued that religion fulfills real needs in each society, namely to reinforce certain mental states, sustain social solidarity, establish basic rules or norms, and concentrate collective energies.

These can be seen as the universal social functions of religion that underlie the unique natures of different religious systems all around the world, past and present Sachs, He was particularly concerned about the capacity of religion to continue to perform these functions as societies entered the modern era in the 19th and 20th centuries. The key defining feature of religion for Durkheim was its ability to distinguish sacred things from profane things.

Sacred objects are things said to have been touched by divine presence.

They are set apart through ritual practices and viewed as forbidden to ordinary, everyday contact and use. Profane objects on the other hand are items integrated into ordinary everyday living. They have no religious significance. This basic dichotomy creates two distinct aspects of life, that of the ordinary and that of the sacred, that exist in mutual exclusion and in opposition to each other. This is the basis of numerous codes of behavior and spiritual practices. Durkheim argues that all religions, in any form and of any culture, share this trait. Therefore, a belief system, whether or not it encourages faith in a supernatural power, is identified as a religion of it outlines this divide and creates ritual actions and a code of conduct of how to interact with and around these sacred objects.

Durkheim examined the social functions of the division of the world into sacrd and profane by studying a group of Australian Aboriginals that practiced totemism. Totemic societies are divided into clans based on the different totemic creatures each clan revered. In line with his argument that religious practice needs to be understood in sociological terms rather than supernatural terms, he noted that totemism existed to serve some very specific social functions.

For example, the sanctity of the objects venerated as totems infuse the clan with a sense of social solidarity because they bring people together and focus their attention on the shared practice of ritual worship. They function to divide the sacred from the profane thereby establishing a ritually reinforced structure of social rules and norms, they enforce the social cohesion of the clans through the shared belief in a transcendent power, and they protect members of the society from each other since they all become sacred as participants in the religion. They create a collective consciousness and a focus for collective effervescence in society.

In a religious context, this feeling is interpreted as a connection with divine presence, as being filled with the spirit of supernatural forces, but Durkheim argues that in reality it is the material force of society itself, which emerges whenever people come together and focus on a single object. As individuals actively engage in communal activities, their belief system gains plausibility and the cycle intensifies.

The fundamental principles that explain the most basic and ancient religions like totemism, also explain the persistence of religion in society as societies grow in scale and complexity. However, in modern societies where other institutions often provide the basic for social solidarity, social norms, collective representations, and collective effervescence, will religious belief and ritual persist?

In his structural-functional analysis of religion, Durkheim outlined three functions that religion still serves in society, which help to explain its ongoing existence in modern societies. First, religion ensures social cohesion through the creation of a shared consciousness form participation in rituals and belief systems. Second, it formally enforces social norms and expectations of behavior, which serve to ensure predictability and control of human action. As long as the needs remain unsatisfied by other institutions in modern social systems, religion will exist to fill that void.

He abandoned the idea of a religious or rabbinical career, however, and became very secular in his outlook. Religion performs the key function of providing social solidarity in a society. This type of analysis became the basis of the functionalist perspective in sociology. He explained the existence and persistence of religion on the basis of the necessary function it performed in unifying society. His approach was to determine the meaning of religion in the conduct of life for members of society.

Three key themes concerning religion emerge from his work: the concept of theodicy, the disenchantment of the world, and the Protestant Ethic. They give meaning to why good or innocent people experience misfortune and suffering. Therefore believers must accept that there is a higher divine reason for their suffering and continue to strive to be good.

Individuals must struggle in this life to rectify the evils accumulated from previous lives. In particular, he was interested in the development of the modern worldview which he equated with the widespread processes of rationalization : the general tendency of modern institutions and most areas of life to be transformed by the application of technical reason, precise calculation, and rational organization. Again, central to his interpretivist framework, how people interpreted and saw the world provided the basis for an explanation of the types of social organization they created.

In this regard, one of his central questions was to determine why rationalization emerged in the West and not the East. Eastern societies in China, India, and Persia had been in many respects more advanced culturally, scientifically and organizationally than Europe for most of world history, but had not taken the next step towards developing thoroughly modern, rationalized forms of organization and knowledge.

The relationship to religion formed a key part of his answer. One component of rationalization was the process Weber described as the disenchantment of the world , which refers to the elimination of a superstitious or magical relationship to nature and life. Weber noted that many societies prevented processes of rationalization from occurring because of religious interdictions and restrictions against certain types of development. A contemporary example might be the beliefs concerning the sacredness of human life, which serve to restrict experimenting with human stem cells or genetic manipulation of the human genome.

For Weber, disenchantment was one source for the rapid development and power of Western society, but also a source of irretrievable loss. A second component of rationalization, particularly as it applies to the rise of capitalism as a highly rationalized economic system, was the formation of the Protestant Ethic. This will be discussed more fully below. The key point to note here is that Weber makes the argument that a specific ethic or way of life that developed among a few Protestant sects on the basis of religious doctrine or belief, i.

The restrictions that religions had imposed on economic activities and that had prevented them from being pursued in a purely rational, calculative manner, were challenged or subverted by the emergence and spread of new, equally religious, forms of belief and practice. He noted that in modern industrial societies, business leaders and owners of capital, the higher grades of skilled labour, and the most technically and commercially trained personnel were overwhelmingly Protestant.

He also noted the uneven development of capitalism in Europe, and in particular how capitalism developed first in those areas dominated by Protestant sects. As opposed to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church in which poverty was a virtue and labour simply a means for maintaining the individual and community, the Protestant sects began to see hard, continuous labour as a spiritual end in itself.

Hard labour was firstly an ascetic technique of worldly renunciation and a defense against temptations and distractions: the unclean life, sexual temptations, and religious doubts. Weber argued that the ethic , or way of life, that developed around these beliefs was a key factor in creating the conditions for both the accumulation of capital, as the goal of economic activity, and for the creation of an industrious and disciplined labour force.

It is an element of cultural belief that leads to social change rather than the concrete organization and class struggles of the economic structure. As the impediments toward rationalization were removed, organizations and institutions were restructured on the principle of maximum efficiency and specialization, while older, traditional i.

Introduction to Religion

The irony of the Protestant Ethic as one stage in this process is that the rationalization of capitalist business practices and organization of labour eventually dispensed with the religious goals of the ethic. Phenomenology seeks to describe the way in which all phenomena, including religion, arise as perceptions within the immediate sensorial experience and awareness of individual subjects. Phenomenologists study the ways in which the world, and ourselves within it, first come to presence in experience and only later become separate objects, social structures or selves.

Religion is only secondarily a structure, institution, practice, or set of beliefs. How do humans go from the flux of immediate perception to a religious worldview? For Berger, religion is a particular type of culture Berger In order for humans to survive, the world must be culturally prepared as a world in which things and people have stable meanings. Culture, Berger argues, exists therefore as an artifice that mediates between humans and nature and provides needed stability and predictability in human life. From the phenomenological point of view, culture enables both the ongoing creation of the world as a stable, objective social reality outside the subject and the simultaneous creation, or interiorization, of social roles and social expectations within the subject.

Religion develops because the stability of culture is inherently fragile. Just as the immediate experience of the individual is subject to flux and change, so is the foundation of the ordered, meaningful world of culture. Cultural meanings tend to be fixed and rigid through time, whereas the underlying reality they describe is not. Events occur that are not explainable. They fall outside the categories and threaten to put the whole cultural framework or nomos into question.

Religion comes into existence as a solution to this problem. Religion is able to resolve the threat of instability and terror of anomie by postulating a supernatural agency or cosmological view of the world, which are unaffected by everyday inconstancy and uncertainty. In a religious cosmology the order described by culture is the natural order, that is, it is the way the gods have decided things must be. Things that occur that cannot be explained in human terms are explained as the products of divine will. Religion is therefore a source of ultimate legitimation because it provides the social order with an unquestionable foundation of legitimacy: the way things are is the will of the gods.

From a phenomenological point of view however, the price of this religious solution is a mode of forgetfulness and alienation. For the legitimation effect of religion to work and be plausible, humans must forget that they themselves have created religion. They must forget that religion is a human accomplishment. In The Sacred Canopy, Berger argued that the processes of secularization will eventually erode the plausibility of religious belief.


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For religion to function as a sacred canopy and ultimate legitimation, it must provide the foundation for a shared belief system. In modern societies however, other types of knowledge and expert systems like science assume greater authority to describe the nature of the world and our role within it. As we will see below in Section Despite the dominant expectation that modern societies were becoming ever more secular, Stark believed that religion was, and would continue to be, an important and influential factor for individuals and society.

Stark notes that church membership and new religious movements have actually increased in the United States as the country modernized. In Europe, where religious participation is relatively low, levels of individual belief nevertheless remain high and participation has not undergone a long-term decline Stark, b. What explanation can be provided for the persistence of religion? Stark begins with the stipulation that the importance of the supernatural must be recognized when studying religion.

Belief in a higher force or power is the feature that distinguishes religions from non-religious beliefs and organizations. Any theory of religion must take this into account. Stark attempts to answer this question by proposing a number of basic, general rules about humans and their behavior. Rational choice theory states that the most basic human motive is individual self-interest, and that all social activities are a product of rational decision making in which individuals continuously weigh the benefits of choices against their costs Scott, A person who has a choice between two jobs, for example, would weigh the rewards of each one such as higher pay or better benefits against the possible costs of longer work hours or further commutes.

Individuals will on balance choose the course of action that maximizes their rewards and minimizes their costs. In this sense, even seemingly irrational decisions or beliefs can be understood as rational choices from the point of view of the individual decision maker Stark, a. Religious belief in the supernatural may seem irrational from an outside perspective because it involves an orientation to invisible, supernatural powers that affect the everyday material world through unobservable mechanisms.

However, for the religious believer whose worldview is shaped by this assumption, it is completely rational that they would choose to worship and make offerings to these supernatural powers in the hopes of gaining rewards and avoiding wrath or misfortune. Moreover, by participating in religious practice, people also surround themselves with other believers who make the rationality of supernatural choices even more plausible. According to Stark, the rewards people desire most intensely are often scarce or not available at all, such as an end to suffering or eternal life.

Consequently, when such rewards cannot be attained through direct means, humans will create and exchange compensators. These are promises or IOUs of a reward at an unspecified future date, along with an explanation of how they can be acquired. Stark argues that rewards such as these are so monumental and scarce that they can only be provided through a supernatural source. This is why religious belief persists. In other words, a person must believe that a supernatural power exists which is capable of providing this reward in order to rationally believe that it is attainable.

In this sense, religious belief and practice are rational choices humans make to get the most coveted rewards regarding human existence. Religious organizations function to provide compensators for these rewards by claiming to provide access to supernatural powers or deities. For Stark, this is the root of why religion continues to exist in the modern world, and why it will continue to persist.

By using a positivist approach, Stark creates a theory where every proposition, including this one, can in principle be tested. The proposition above could be verified by examining the number of gods and their powers in the religions of small, traditional societies and comparing that to the number of gods worshipped in more established, modern ones. In reality however, many of the propositions are difficult to test because the concepts he uses are hard to measure or compare between religions. How does one empirically quantify the scope of a certain god and compare it to that of an unrelated god from a different religion?

His theory has also been critiqued for having an inherent bias towards monotheistic and particularly Protestant Christian measures of religion Carroll, In other words, he places higher value on measures of religiosity that fit the Protestant model, such as belief and adherence to doctrine, over those that better describe other religions, such as the ritual aspects of Hinduism or Catholicism. His work may then implicitly suggest that Protestants are more religious than the others based on these skewed measures of religiousness.

Feminist theories of religion analyze and critique the ways in which sacred texts and religious practices portray and subordinate—or empower—women, femininity, and female sexuality Zwissler, The crucial insight into religion that forms the basis for feminist research is the gendered nature of religion Erikson, Feminists therefore argue that questions about gender are essential for a meaningful analysis and explanation of religion. In one line of inquiry, feminist theorists of religion have analyzed the representation of women within sacred religious texts, identifying and critiquing the way women are portrayed.

For example, the gender of the deity is an issue for women, particularly in the monotheistic Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism Zwissler, God, within these religious beliefs, is usually understood as male. The question this raises is whether religion is therefore the direct cause of misogyny —the aversion or distaste for people of the female sex, including belittling, sexual objectification, sexual violence, and discrimination against women—or whether male-dominated religious practices are the product of broader gendered inequalities and societal norms outside of religion Zwissler, ?

A critical analysis on African Traditional Religion and the Trinity

A second line of inquiry focuses on why power relationships within religious institutions are typically gendered Erikson, Feminist theorists note that women are frequently prevented from holding positions of power within religious practice. Ministers, imams, rabbis, buddhas, and Brahmin priests are positions within religious hierarchies which have traditionally excluded women.

Despite this, cross-culturally women are proportionately more religious than men. This can be seen as a paradox within feminist religious studies. Placed along two axes see Figure The challenges faced by women are different within each religion, and therefore the strategies women of faith use to change or work within their respective religion may vary. Being an interdisciplinary perspective, feminism brings a diversity of voices into the discussion, illuminating important issues of inequality, oppression, and power imbalance, all of which are of great importance to the study of sociology.

Through analysis of the gender structures within religious practices worldwide, a deeper understanding of how different cultures and traditions function is revealed. The understanding that women frequently do not identify as being oppressed by their religion is an important insight in trying to fully understand the nature of gendered religious practice on a global scale.

Religion has historically been a major impetus to social change. In early Europe, the translation of sacred texts into everyday, non-scholarly language empowered people to shape their religions. Disagreements between religious groups and instances of religious persecution have led to mass resettlement, war, and even genocide. To some degree, the modern sovereign state system and international law might be seen as products of the conflict between religious beliefs as these were founded in Europe by the Treaty of Westphalia , which ended the Thirty Years War. As outlined below, Canada is no stranger to religion as an agent of social change.

Nevertheless debate continues in sociology concerning the nature of religion and social change particularly in three areas: secularization, religious diversity, and new religious movements. Secularization refers to the decline of religiosity as a result of the modernization of society. This is a large increase from the , Canadians who claimed no religious affiliation in the Statistics Canada census Statistics Canada, Sociologists suggest that it is important to distinguish between three different types of secularization: societal secularization, organizational secularization, and individual secularization.

The move to ordinate female ministers to reflect the growing gender equality in society or the use of commercial marketing techniques to attract congregations are examples. Individual secularization is the decline in involvement in churches and denominations or the decline in belief and practice of individual members. As we saw earlier in the chapter, the equation of secularization with modernity has been the view of many important sociologists including Marx, Durkheim, and Weber.

But in more recent years there has been a growing number of sociologists who question the universality of the process of secularization and propose that contemporary society is going through a period of religious revitalization. Similarly, Fink and Stark have argued that Americans, at least, actually became more religious as American society modernized.

Even in Europe, where church attendance is very low, they suggest that religious practice is stable rather than in long term decline and that people still hold religious beliefs like the belief in God or life after death. However, Canada, like most of Europe, appears to be an exception to the trend of religious resurgence, meaning there has been less of an emergence of new and revived religious groups, as opposed to the U. Prior to the s Canada was a more religious nation than the United States, now it is much less religious by any standard measure.

Rather than a progressive and continuous process of secularization, Bibby argues that there have been three consecutive trends in Canada since the s: secularization, revitalization and polarization. After a period of steady secularization between the s and measured by levels of church attendance , Bibby presents evidence of revitalization in the s including small increases in weekly or monthly attendance for different age groups.

He also notes the four fold increase of non-Christians Muslims, Buddhists, Jews in Canada since the s, the high level of spiritual belief among people who do not attend church, the way that many people retain connections with churches for special occasions, and surveys that report that many would consider attending regularly if organizational or personal factors could be addressed.

Since the s, Bibby describes a third trend of polarization, with the public increasingly divided into opposite poles of the highly religious and the non-religious. Overall it can be said that understanding secularization and desecularization is an essential part of the sociological analysis of religion. Knowing the relationship between modernity and religion provides insight into the complex dynamics of the late modern world and allows sociologists to predict what is to come for religion in the future.

The question is whether secularization necessarily accompanies modernization or whether there is a cyclical process between secularization and religious revivalism. Are secular or non-secular societies the exceptions to the dominant trend of modern society? In other words, in modern societies there is neither a steady one-way process of secularization nor a religious revitalization, but a growing diversity of belief systems and practices.

The practice of religion in Canada is ever changing and has recently become increasingly diverse. Religious diversity can be defined as a condition in which a multiplicity of religions and faiths co-exist in a given society Robinson, Because of religious diversity, many speculate that Canada is turning into a Post-Christian society , in the sense that Christianity has increasingly become just one among many religious beliefs, including the beliefs of a large number of people who claim no religion. For those who report having a Christian heritage, only a minority can articulate the basic elements of Christian doctrine or read the bible on a regular basis.

To an ever greater extent, Christianity no longer provides the basic moral foundation for Canadian values and practices. Canada appears to moving towards a much more religiously plural society. This is not without its problems however. Religious diversity in Canada has accelerated in the last twenty years due to globalization and immigration.

There were only a handful of members from the other main world religions. Other religions during this time such as Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus only made up a negligible percentage of the population. With the opening up of immigration to non-Europeans in the s, this began to change. In the 21st century, religion in Canada has become increasingly diverse. Including the various Protestant denominations Statistics Canada surveyed 80 different religious groups in Canada in Statistics Canada, Religious diversity does not only include the increased number of people who participate in non-Christian religions.

During its first appearance, approximately four percent of the population in Canada identified as religiously unaffiliated. By , that number had increased nearly a quarter, rising to about 24 percent Pew Research Center, Canadians have had varying responses to religious diversity. On an individual level, while many accept religious beliefs other than their own, others do not. Individuals are either open to embracing these differences or intolerant of the varying viewpoints surrounding them.

Wuthnow describes three types of individual response to religious diversity. Firstly there are those who fully embrace the religious practices of others, to the point of creating hybrid beliefs and practices. Christians might practice yoga or Eastern meditation techniques, for example. Secondly, there are those who tolerate other religions or accept the value of other religious beliefs while maintaining religious distinctions intact.

This can manifest in the range of negative individual responses to Muslim women who wear a hijab or headscarf for example. On a societal level, there are three main types of social response to religious diversity: exclusion, assimilation and pluralism. Exclusion occurs when the majority population does not accept varying or non-traditional beliefs, and therefore believe that other religions should be denied entry into their society. The exclusionary response tends to happen when a society that identifies with a previously homogeneous faith community is confronted with the spread of religious diversity.

On the other hand, the Canadian policy towards Jews was exclusionary until relatively recently. Universities like McGill and the University of Toronto had quota systems that restricted the number of Jewish students until the s. Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in the s were brutally turned away by Canadian officials.

A step beyond exclusion is assimilation. An example of assimilation in Canada is the history of Aboriginal spiritual practices like the sun dance, spirit dance and sweat lodge ceremonies. Between and midth century these practices were outlawed and suppressed by both the Canadian state and Church organizations. They were seen as counter to the project of assimilating First Nations people into Christian European society and a settled, agricultural way of life Waldram, Herring and Young, In and , first a pass system and then an outright ban on leaving reserves were imposed on Plains Indian people to prevent them from congregating for Sun Dances, where they sought to honour the Great Spirit and renew their communities.

The most accommodating response to religious diversity is pluralism. Pluralism is the idea that every religious practice is welcome in a society regardless of how divergent its beliefs or social norms are. This response leads to a society in which religious diversity is fully accepted Berry, Today pluralism is the official response to religious diversity in Canada and has been institutionalized through the establishment of Multicultural policy and the constitutional protections of religious freedoms.

However, some thorny issues remain when the values of different religious groups clash with each other or with the secular laws of the criminal code. The right to follow Sharia law for Muslims, the right to have several wives for Mormons, the right to carry ceremonial daggers to school for Sikhs, the right to refuse to marry homosexual couples for Christian Fundamentalists, are all issues that pit fundamental religious freedoms against a unified sovereign law that applies to all equally. The acceptance of religious diversity in the pluralistic model is not without its problems.

For example, one pluralistic strategy for managing the diversity of beliefs has been to regard religious practice as a purely private matter. In order to avoid privileging one religious belief system over another in the public sphere, e. All religious faiths and practices are equal, included and accommodated as long as they remain private. In the guise of implementing pluralism, the attempt to secularize the public sphere artificially restricts it Connelly, Religious freedom and diversity keeps the religious life of Canadians interesting.

10 Common Catholic Myths and Misconceptions

The full acceptance of religious differences may take some time, however studies show that Canadians are moving in this direction. The evidence is that as people become more exposed to religious diversity and interact with people of other religions more frequently, they become more accepting of beliefs and practices that diverge from their own Dawson and Thiessen, While veiling continues to be practiced by Muslim women, and is more often associated with Islam than with other religious traditions, the practice of veiling has been integral to all three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Christian and Jewish women wear headscarves as a cultural practice or commitment to modesty or piety, particularly in religious sects and cultural traditions like the Amish or Hutterites for example. Today, we know the hijab to be worn as a headscarf covering the whole head and neck, while leaving the face uncovered. The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear and is worn accompanying the hijab. The burka is a one-piece loose fitting garment that covers the head, the face and entire body, leaving a mesh screen to see through.

There is a popular belief among Muslims and non-Muslims alike that Islam dictates veiling upon Muslim women. Furthermore, there is a parallel belief among both Muslims and non-Muslims that the prescription of veiling is stated clearly in the Koran, the Holy Book of Islam. As to the question of whether or not it is obligatory for women to wear hijab, the Koran states that women should cover their bosoms and wear long clothing, but does not specifically say that they need to cover their faces or hair Koran, But the best garment is the garment of righteousness.

The hijab as we know it today, is not mentioned specifically in the Koran. The prophet Mohammed was once asked by a woman if it was okay for women to go to prayers without their veils. Critics of the veiling tradition argue that women do not wear the veil by choice, but are forced to cover their heads and bodies. Purdah is part of the Pushtunwali or customary law in which women are regarded as the property of men. It is significant that following the Iranian revolution in and the seizing of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban in , the new Islamist governments forced unveiled women to wear the hijab in Iran and the burqa in Afghanistan as one of the first policies enacted to signal the Islamization of cultural practices.

Muslim women who choose to wear coverings are seen as oppressed and without a voice. However, Muslim women choose to wear the hijab or other coverings for a variety of reasons. Many daughters of Muslim immigrants in the West contend that they choose to wear the veil as a symbol of devotion, piety, religious identity and self-expression. Zayzafoon, Through their interpretation of the Koran, they believe that God has instructed them to do so as a means of fulfilling His commandment for modesty, while others wear it as a fashion statement.

Furthermore, studies have shown that for some women, the hijab raises self-esteem and is used as form of autonomy. Some Muslim women do not perceive the hijab to be obligatory to their faith, while others wear the hijab as a means of visibly expressing their Muslim identity. Unfortunately this association has also occasionally resulted in the violent assaults of Muslim women wearing hijab.

By making assumptions about the reasons women have for veiling, the freedom of these women to wear what they feel is appropriate and comfortable is taken away. Most people view the hijab as cultural or religious, but for some, it carries political overtones. Muslim women who wear the hijab to communicate their political and social alliance with their birth country do so by challenging the prejudices of the Western world.

Wearing hijab is also used as a tool to protest Western feminist movements which present hijab-wearing women as oppressed or silenced. Although the principles of modesty are distinctly outlined in the Koran, some Muslim women perceive the wearing of the headscarf as a cultural interpretation of these scriptures, and choose to shift their focus internally to build a deeper spiritual relationship with God.

While wearing hijab granted women in the past to engage outside the home without bringing attention to them, the headscarf in modern Western society has an adverse effect by attracting more attention to them which ultimately contradicts the hijabs original purpose. Despite the assumptions of secularization theory and some of the early classical sociologists that religion is a static phenomenon associated with fixed or traditional beliefs and lifestyles, it is clear that the relationship of believers to their religions does change through time. We discussed the emergence of the New Religious Movements or cults above for example.

Especially in the s and s, cults represented particularly intense forms of religious experimentation that spoke to widespread feelings of dissatisfaction with materialism, militarism and conventional religiosity. They were essentially new religious social forms. Below we will examine the rise of fundamentalism as another new religious social form that responds to issues of globalization and social diversity.

Sociologists note that the decline in conventional religious observance in Canada, Europe and elsewhere has not necessarily entailed a loss of religious or spiritual practices and beliefs per se Dawson and Thiessen, Secondly, the orientation to these beliefs and practices has also changed. New Age spirituality — the various forms and practices of spiritual inner-exploration that draw on non-Western traditions e.

Dawson has characterized this new religious sensibility in terms of six key characteristics:. At the same time, the basic questions of fate, suffering, illness, transformation and meaning have not been satisfactorily answered by science or other secular institutions, which creates a continued demand for religious or spiritual solutions. With the above stereotypes, it is easy to overlook the beliefs, rituals, and origins of Rastafarianism as a religion.

Through the popularization of reggae music and artists like Bob Marley, the style of Rastafarianism has globalized though many do not know there is more to the movement than the outward appearance of its members. Today, most followers of Rastafarianism are in Jamaica, although smaller populations can be found in several countries including Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, Ethiopia and Israel.

He said that a King would soon be crowned to liberate black people from the oppression caused by slavery. This was an event with more than just political significance. Many black Jamaicans regarded the coronation of Ras Tafari Makonnen as the inauguration of a new era of spiritual redemption for dispossessed Africans after centuries of colonization, cruelty, oppression and slavery.

In modern societies however, other types of knowledge and expert systems like science assume greater authority to describe the nature of the world and our role within it. As we will see below in Section Despite the dominant expectation that modern societies were becoming ever more secular, Stark believed that religion was, and would continue to be, an important and influential factor for individuals and society.

Stark notes that church membership and new religious movements have actually increased in the United States as the country modernized. In Europe, where religious participation is relatively low, levels of individual belief nevertheless remain high and participation has not undergone a long-term decline Stark, b. What explanation can be provided for the persistence of religion?

Stark begins with the stipulation that the importance of the supernatural must be recognized when studying religion. Belief in a higher force or power is the feature that distinguishes religions from non-religious beliefs and organizations. Any theory of religion must take this into account. Stark attempts to answer this question by proposing a number of basic, general rules about humans and their behavior.

Rational choice theory states that the most basic human motive is individual self-interest, and that all social activities are a product of rational decision making in which individuals continuously weigh the benefits of choices against their costs Scott, A person who has a choice between two jobs, for example, would weigh the rewards of each one such as higher pay or better benefits against the possible costs of longer work hours or further commutes. Individuals will on balance choose the course of action that maximizes their rewards and minimizes their costs.

In this sense, even seemingly irrational decisions or beliefs can be understood as rational choices from the point of view of the individual decision maker Stark, a. Religious belief in the supernatural may seem irrational from an outside perspective because it involves an orientation to invisible, supernatural powers that affect the everyday material world through unobservable mechanisms. However, for the religious believer whose worldview is shaped by this assumption, it is completely rational that they would choose to worship and make offerings to these supernatural powers in the hopes of gaining rewards and avoiding wrath or misfortune.

Moreover, by participating in religious practice, people also surround themselves with other believers who make the rationality of supernatural choices even more plausible. According to Stark, the rewards people desire most intensely are often scarce or not available at all, such as an end to suffering or eternal life. Consequently, when such rewards cannot be attained through direct means, humans will create and exchange compensators.

These are promises or IOUs of a reward at an unspecified future date, along with an explanation of how they can be acquired. Stark argues that rewards such as these are so monumental and scarce that they can only be provided through a supernatural source. This is why religious belief persists. In other words, a person must believe that a supernatural power exists which is capable of providing this reward in order to rationally believe that it is attainable.

In this sense, religious belief and practice are rational choices humans make to get the most coveted rewards regarding human existence. Religious organizations function to provide compensators for these rewards by claiming to provide access to supernatural powers or deities. For Stark, this is the root of why religion continues to exist in the modern world, and why it will continue to persist.

By using a positivist approach, Stark creates a theory where every proposition, including this one, can in principle be tested. The proposition above could be verified by examining the number of gods and their powers in the religions of small, traditional societies and comparing that to the number of gods worshipped in more established, modern ones.

In reality however, many of the propositions are difficult to test because the concepts he uses are hard to measure or compare between religions. How does one empirically quantify the scope of a certain god and compare it to that of an unrelated god from a different religion? His theory has also been critiqued for having an inherent bias towards monotheistic and particularly Protestant Christian measures of religion Carroll, In other words, he places higher value on measures of religiosity that fit the Protestant model, such as belief and adherence to doctrine, over those that better describe other religions, such as the ritual aspects of Hinduism or Catholicism.

His work may then implicitly suggest that Protestants are more religious than the others based on these skewed measures of religiousness. Feminist theories of religion analyze and critique the ways in which sacred texts and religious practices portray and subordinate—or empower—women, femininity, and female sexuality Zwissler, The crucial insight into religion that forms the basis for feminist research is the gendered nature of religion Erikson, Feminists therefore argue that questions about gender are essential for a meaningful analysis and explanation of religion.

In one line of inquiry, feminist theorists of religion have analyzed the representation of women within sacred religious texts, identifying and critiquing the way women are portrayed. For example, the gender of the deity is an issue for women, particularly in the monotheistic Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism Zwissler, God, within these religious beliefs, is usually understood as male. The question this raises is whether religion is therefore the direct cause of misogyny —the aversion or distaste for people of the female sex, including belittling, sexual objectification, sexual violence, and discrimination against women—or whether male-dominated religious practices are the product of broader gendered inequalities and societal norms outside of religion Zwissler, ?

A second line of inquiry focuses on why power relationships within religious institutions are typically gendered Erikson, Feminist theorists note that women are frequently prevented from holding positions of power within religious practice. Ministers, imams, rabbis, buddhas, and Brahmin priests are positions within religious hierarchies which have traditionally excluded women.

Despite this, cross-culturally women are proportionately more religious than men. This can be seen as a paradox within feminist religious studies. Placed along two axes see Figure The challenges faced by women are different within each religion, and therefore the strategies women of faith use to change or work within their respective religion may vary.

Being an interdisciplinary perspective, feminism brings a diversity of voices into the discussion, illuminating important issues of inequality, oppression, and power imbalance, all of which are of great importance to the study of sociology. Through analysis of the gender structures within religious practices worldwide, a deeper understanding of how different cultures and traditions function is revealed. The understanding that women frequently do not identify as being oppressed by their religion is an important insight in trying to fully understand the nature of gendered religious practice on a global scale.

Religion has historically been a major impetus to social change. In early Europe, the translation of sacred texts into everyday, non-scholarly language empowered people to shape their religions. Disagreements between religious groups and instances of religious persecution have led to mass resettlement, war, and even genocide. To some degree, the modern sovereign state system and international law might be seen as products of the conflict between religious beliefs as these were founded in Europe by the Treaty of Westphalia , which ended the Thirty Years War.

As outlined below, Canada is no stranger to religion as an agent of social change. Nevertheless debate continues in sociology concerning the nature of religion and social change particularly in three areas: secularization, religious diversity, and new religious movements. Secularization refers to the decline of religiosity as a result of the modernization of society. This is a large increase from the , Canadians who claimed no religious affiliation in the Statistics Canada census Statistics Canada, Sociologists suggest that it is important to distinguish between three different types of secularization: societal secularization, organizational secularization, and individual secularization.

The move to ordinate female ministers to reflect the growing gender equality in society or the use of commercial marketing techniques to attract congregations are examples. Individual secularization is the decline in involvement in churches and denominations or the decline in belief and practice of individual members.

As we saw earlier in the chapter, the equation of secularization with modernity has been the view of many important sociologists including Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. But in more recent years there has been a growing number of sociologists who question the universality of the process of secularization and propose that contemporary society is going through a period of religious revitalization. Similarly, Fink and Stark have argued that Americans, at least, actually became more religious as American society modernized.

Even in Europe, where church attendance is very low, they suggest that religious practice is stable rather than in long term decline and that people still hold religious beliefs like the belief in God or life after death. However, Canada, like most of Europe, appears to be an exception to the trend of religious resurgence, meaning there has been less of an emergence of new and revived religious groups, as opposed to the U. Prior to the s Canada was a more religious nation than the United States, now it is much less religious by any standard measure.

Rather than a progressive and continuous process of secularization, Bibby argues that there have been three consecutive trends in Canada since the s: secularization, revitalization and polarization. After a period of steady secularization between the s and measured by levels of church attendance , Bibby presents evidence of revitalization in the s including small increases in weekly or monthly attendance for different age groups. He also notes the four fold increase of non-Christians Muslims, Buddhists, Jews in Canada since the s, the high level of spiritual belief among people who do not attend church, the way that many people retain connections with churches for special occasions, and surveys that report that many would consider attending regularly if organizational or personal factors could be addressed.

Since the s, Bibby describes a third trend of polarization, with the public increasingly divided into opposite poles of the highly religious and the non-religious. Overall it can be said that understanding secularization and desecularization is an essential part of the sociological analysis of religion.

Knowing the relationship between modernity and religion provides insight into the complex dynamics of the late modern world and allows sociologists to predict what is to come for religion in the future. The question is whether secularization necessarily accompanies modernization or whether there is a cyclical process between secularization and religious revivalism. Are secular or non-secular societies the exceptions to the dominant trend of modern society? In other words, in modern societies there is neither a steady one-way process of secularization nor a religious revitalization, but a growing diversity of belief systems and practices.

The practice of religion in Canada is ever changing and has recently become increasingly diverse. Religious diversity can be defined as a condition in which a multiplicity of religions and faiths co-exist in a given society Robinson, Because of religious diversity, many speculate that Canada is turning into a Post-Christian society , in the sense that Christianity has increasingly become just one among many religious beliefs, including the beliefs of a large number of people who claim no religion.

For those who report having a Christian heritage, only a minority can articulate the basic elements of Christian doctrine or read the bible on a regular basis. To an ever greater extent, Christianity no longer provides the basic moral foundation for Canadian values and practices. Canada appears to moving towards a much more religiously plural society. This is not without its problems however. Religious diversity in Canada has accelerated in the last twenty years due to globalization and immigration. There were only a handful of members from the other main world religions.

Other religions during this time such as Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus only made up a negligible percentage of the population. With the opening up of immigration to non-Europeans in the s, this began to change. In the 21st century, religion in Canada has become increasingly diverse. Including the various Protestant denominations Statistics Canada surveyed 80 different religious groups in Canada in Statistics Canada, Religious diversity does not only include the increased number of people who participate in non-Christian religions.

During its first appearance, approximately four percent of the population in Canada identified as religiously unaffiliated. By , that number had increased nearly a quarter, rising to about 24 percent Pew Research Center, Canadians have had varying responses to religious diversity. On an individual level, while many accept religious beliefs other than their own, others do not. Individuals are either open to embracing these differences or intolerant of the varying viewpoints surrounding them. Wuthnow describes three types of individual response to religious diversity.

Firstly there are those who fully embrace the religious practices of others, to the point of creating hybrid beliefs and practices. Christians might practice yoga or Eastern meditation techniques, for example. Secondly, there are those who tolerate other religions or accept the value of other religious beliefs while maintaining religious distinctions intact. This can manifest in the range of negative individual responses to Muslim women who wear a hijab or headscarf for example. On a societal level, there are three main types of social response to religious diversity: exclusion, assimilation and pluralism.

Exclusion occurs when the majority population does not accept varying or non-traditional beliefs, and therefore believe that other religions should be denied entry into their society. The exclusionary response tends to happen when a society that identifies with a previously homogeneous faith community is confronted with the spread of religious diversity. On the other hand, the Canadian policy towards Jews was exclusionary until relatively recently.

Universities like McGill and the University of Toronto had quota systems that restricted the number of Jewish students until the s. Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in the s were brutally turned away by Canadian officials. A step beyond exclusion is assimilation. An example of assimilation in Canada is the history of Aboriginal spiritual practices like the sun dance, spirit dance and sweat lodge ceremonies.

Between and midth century these practices were outlawed and suppressed by both the Canadian state and Church organizations. They were seen as counter to the project of assimilating First Nations people into Christian European society and a settled, agricultural way of life Waldram, Herring and Young, In and , first a pass system and then an outright ban on leaving reserves were imposed on Plains Indian people to prevent them from congregating for Sun Dances, where they sought to honour the Great Spirit and renew their communities.

The most accommodating response to religious diversity is pluralism. Pluralism is the idea that every religious practice is welcome in a society regardless of how divergent its beliefs or social norms are. This response leads to a society in which religious diversity is fully accepted Berry, Today pluralism is the official response to religious diversity in Canada and has been institutionalized through the establishment of Multicultural policy and the constitutional protections of religious freedoms. However, some thorny issues remain when the values of different religious groups clash with each other or with the secular laws of the criminal code.

The right to follow Sharia law for Muslims, the right to have several wives for Mormons, the right to carry ceremonial daggers to school for Sikhs, the right to refuse to marry homosexual couples for Christian Fundamentalists, are all issues that pit fundamental religious freedoms against a unified sovereign law that applies to all equally. The acceptance of religious diversity in the pluralistic model is not without its problems. For example, one pluralistic strategy for managing the diversity of beliefs has been to regard religious practice as a purely private matter.

In order to avoid privileging one religious belief system over another in the public sphere, e. All religious faiths and practices are equal, included and accommodated as long as they remain private. In the guise of implementing pluralism, the attempt to secularize the public sphere artificially restricts it Connelly, Religious freedom and diversity keeps the religious life of Canadians interesting.

The full acceptance of religious differences may take some time, however studies show that Canadians are moving in this direction. The evidence is that as people become more exposed to religious diversity and interact with people of other religions more frequently, they become more accepting of beliefs and practices that diverge from their own Dawson and Thiessen, While veiling continues to be practiced by Muslim women, and is more often associated with Islam than with other religious traditions, the practice of veiling has been integral to all three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Christian and Jewish women wear headscarves as a cultural practice or commitment to modesty or piety, particularly in religious sects and cultural traditions like the Amish or Hutterites for example. Today, we know the hijab to be worn as a headscarf covering the whole head and neck, while leaving the face uncovered. The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear and is worn accompanying the hijab. The burka is a one-piece loose fitting garment that covers the head, the face and entire body, leaving a mesh screen to see through.

There is a popular belief among Muslims and non-Muslims alike that Islam dictates veiling upon Muslim women. Furthermore, there is a parallel belief among both Muslims and non-Muslims that the prescription of veiling is stated clearly in the Koran, the Holy Book of Islam. As to the question of whether or not it is obligatory for women to wear hijab, the Koran states that women should cover their bosoms and wear long clothing, but does not specifically say that they need to cover their faces or hair Koran, But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. The hijab as we know it today, is not mentioned specifically in the Koran.

The prophet Mohammed was once asked by a woman if it was okay for women to go to prayers without their veils. Critics of the veiling tradition argue that women do not wear the veil by choice, but are forced to cover their heads and bodies. Purdah is part of the Pushtunwali or customary law in which women are regarded as the property of men. It is significant that following the Iranian revolution in and the seizing of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban in , the new Islamist governments forced unveiled women to wear the hijab in Iran and the burqa in Afghanistan as one of the first policies enacted to signal the Islamization of cultural practices.

Muslim women who choose to wear coverings are seen as oppressed and without a voice. However, Muslim women choose to wear the hijab or other coverings for a variety of reasons. Many daughters of Muslim immigrants in the West contend that they choose to wear the veil as a symbol of devotion, piety, religious identity and self-expression. Zayzafoon, Through their interpretation of the Koran, they believe that God has instructed them to do so as a means of fulfilling His commandment for modesty, while others wear it as a fashion statement.

Furthermore, studies have shown that for some women, the hijab raises self-esteem and is used as form of autonomy. Some Muslim women do not perceive the hijab to be obligatory to their faith, while others wear the hijab as a means of visibly expressing their Muslim identity. Unfortunately this association has also occasionally resulted in the violent assaults of Muslim women wearing hijab.

By making assumptions about the reasons women have for veiling, the freedom of these women to wear what they feel is appropriate and comfortable is taken away. Most people view the hijab as cultural or religious, but for some, it carries political overtones. Muslim women who wear the hijab to communicate their political and social alliance with their birth country do so by challenging the prejudices of the Western world. Wearing hijab is also used as a tool to protest Western feminist movements which present hijab-wearing women as oppressed or silenced.

Although the principles of modesty are distinctly outlined in the Koran, some Muslim women perceive the wearing of the headscarf as a cultural interpretation of these scriptures, and choose to shift their focus internally to build a deeper spiritual relationship with God. While wearing hijab granted women in the past to engage outside the home without bringing attention to them, the headscarf in modern Western society has an adverse effect by attracting more attention to them which ultimately contradicts the hijabs original purpose.

Despite the assumptions of secularization theory and some of the early classical sociologists that religion is a static phenomenon associated with fixed or traditional beliefs and lifestyles, it is clear that the relationship of believers to their religions does change through time. We discussed the emergence of the New Religious Movements or cults above for example. Especially in the s and s, cults represented particularly intense forms of religious experimentation that spoke to widespread feelings of dissatisfaction with materialism, militarism and conventional religiosity.

They were essentially new religious social forms. Below we will examine the rise of fundamentalism as another new religious social form that responds to issues of globalization and social diversity. Sociologists note that the decline in conventional religious observance in Canada, Europe and elsewhere has not necessarily entailed a loss of religious or spiritual practices and beliefs per se Dawson and Thiessen, Secondly, the orientation to these beliefs and practices has also changed.

New Age spirituality — the various forms and practices of spiritual inner-exploration that draw on non-Western traditions e. Dawson has characterized this new religious sensibility in terms of six key characteristics:. At the same time, the basic questions of fate, suffering, illness, transformation and meaning have not been satisfactorily answered by science or other secular institutions, which creates a continued demand for religious or spiritual solutions.

With the above stereotypes, it is easy to overlook the beliefs, rituals, and origins of Rastafarianism as a religion. Through the popularization of reggae music and artists like Bob Marley, the style of Rastafarianism has globalized though many do not know there is more to the movement than the outward appearance of its members. Today, most followers of Rastafarianism are in Jamaica, although smaller populations can be found in several countries including Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, Ethiopia and Israel.

He said that a King would soon be crowned to liberate black people from the oppression caused by slavery. This was an event with more than just political significance. Many black Jamaicans regarded the coronation of Ras Tafari Makonnen as the inauguration of a new era of spiritual redemption for dispossessed Africans after centuries of colonization, cruelty, oppression and slavery.

With the fall of Babylon, Rastas believed there would be a reversal in slavery-based social hierarchy. Black people would then take their place as spiritual and political leaders the way God Jah intended them too. One of the central religious beliefs of Rastafarians is that the Christian Bible describes the history of the African race Waters, In the prophecy of Zion, Rastas strive to return to Zion to leave the oppressive, exploitative, materialistic western world of Babylon where they will attain a life of heaven on earth, a place of unity, peace, and freedom.

DANCE: DANCE AND RELIGION

However, like many of the spiritual movements of late modernity, Rastafarianism does not emphasize doctrine, church attendance, or being a member of a congregation. There are several key sacraments or religious rituals that Rasta practice to achieve this direct experience. Groundation Day is celebrated on April 21st to remember the day that Haile Selassie 1 sacred Ethiopian emperor visited Jamaica. On this day Rastafarians chant, pray, feast, and create music as celebration.

Achieving higher consciousness through ritual means enables participants in reasoning sessions to re-evaluate their positions, overcome the confines of their false sense of self or ego , and reach higher truths through consensus. Smoking Cannabis Ganja also plays an important role in many Rastafarian rituals, although it is not mandatory. Cannabis use is considered sacred and is usually accompanied with biblical study and meditation.

The custom of wearing dreadlocks — long, uncombed locks of hair — also has religious significance to Rastafarians Stanton, Ramsamy, Seybolt, and Elliot, Dreadlocks dreads have political significance as a protest against Babylon because they symbolize the natural, non-industrial lifestyle of the Rastas Fisher, Dreadlocks also have several spiritual meanings. They conform to the style worn by traditional Ethiopian warriors and priests and thus represent the power of their African ancestors.

From a sociological point of view, Rastafarianism has to be understood as a New Religious Movement broadly defined in the context of the social and racial conditions of Jamaica in the 20th century. It is significant that it blends spiritual motifs of dread and redemption from the Christian bible with the anti-colonial, anti-racist politics of Third World activists like Marcus Garvey.

The belief system therefore provides a religious inflection to the material circumstances black Jamaicans face due to the history of colonial oppression. It is a claim to status as much as a path to spiritual transformation. Another extreme fundamentalist group, the Westboro Baptist Church, picket the funerals of fallen military personnel Hurdle, , of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings Linkins, , and even of the brutal greyhound bus stabbing in Winnipeg, Canada CBC News, The public demonstrations of the Ultra-Orthodox men and the Westboro Baptist Church provide a platform for these groups to disseminate their beliefs, mobilize supporters and recruit new followers.

However, the controversial protests also attack routine norms of civility — the right of 8 year old girls to walk to school unmolested by adult men; the solemnity of funeral rites and the mourning processes of the bereaved — and lead to communal disruption and resentment, as well as the alienation of these groups from broader society. One of the key emblems of the contemporary rise of religious fundamentalism is that conflicts, whether they are playground disagreements or extensive political confrontations, tend to become irreconcilable when fundamental beliefs are at the core of said disputes.

These types of issue are one of the defining features of the contemporary era. Unlike discussions relating to secular business or political interests, fundamentalist beliefs associated with religious ideology seem non-negotiable and therefore prone to violent conflict. The rise of fundamentalism also poses problems for the sociology of religion. For many decades theorists such as Berger , Wilson ; and Bruce argued that the modernization of societies, the privatization of religion, and the global spread of religious and cultural pluralism meant that societies would continue to secularize and levels of religiosity would steadily decline.

However, other theorists such as Hadden ; , Stark ; and Casanova ; have recently begun to reconsider the secularization thesis. They argue that religious diversity and pluralism have sparked new interpretations of religion and new revivals of religiosity. In other words, these new sociological interpretations of religion propose that rather than withering away, fundamentalist groups will continue to thrive because they offer individuals answers to ultimate questions and give meaning to a complicated world.

Interestingly enough, in his later works, Berger abandoned his original theory of secularization. The Pew Research Center has recently presented some interesting findings that can also provide a general sense of what the future for religious fundamentalism may hold. While it is not clear from this research how many Muslims hold fundamentalist beliefs per se eg. Wahhabi, Salifi, etc. How does the sociology of religion explain the rise of fundamentalist belief in an increasingly modern, global society then?

The answer that sociologists have proposed is that fundamentalism and religious revivalism are modern. These pamphlets were not a return to pre-modern traditionalism however. They were an explicit response to modern forms of rationality, including the trend towards historical and scientific explanations of religious certainties. A response, because of their defensively orientated motivation to challenge the modernist movement; and a product, because of their use of modern techniques of mass communication and commercial promotion to transmit a particular set of beliefs in a clear and concise manner to a mass audience.

To expand the concept of fundamentalism beyond this specific usage in the context of 20th century Christian Protestantism poses some analytical problems. However its use in popular culture today has expanded far beyond this narrow reference. In this expanded usage, fundamentalism loosely refers to the return to a core set of indisputable and literal principles derived from ancient holy, or at least unchallengeable, texts. However, even if we restrict the use of the term fundamentalism to a religious context, there are a number of problems of application. For example, the emphasis on the literalism of holy texts would not be able to distinguish between fundamentalist Islamic movements and mainstream Islam, because both regard the Koran to be the literal, and therefore indisputable word of God communicated to the prophet Mohamed by the Arch Angel Gabriel.

On the other hand, the fundamentalist movements of Hinduism do not have a single, authoritative, holy text like the Bible or Koran to take as the literal word of God or Brahman. In response to these problems, Ruthven proposes a family resemblance definition see Section In this respect, the common sociological feature that unites various religious fundamentalisms, is their very modern reinvention of traditions in response to the complexity of social change brought about by globalization and the diversification of human populations.

Globalization and late modernity introduce an anxiety-laden, plurality of life choices including religious choices where none existed before. If religious fundamentalist movements primarily serve and protect the interests and rights of men, why do women continue to support and practice these religions in larger numbers than men? This is a difficult question that has not been satisfactorily answered. Strict observance of the rules of ritual observance is choice women make to bring themselves closer to God.

Control over female sexuality is a primary focus of all fundamentalist movements. For example, in Islamic fundamentalism, it is seen as shameful and dishonourable for women to expose their bodies. Under the Pushtunwali customary law , Afghan women are regarded as the property of men and the practice of Purdah seclusion within the home and veiling when in public is required to protect the honour of the male lineage Moghadam, For example, in , the Indian parliament passed a bill that would disallow women to file for divorce.

There have also been many significant instances of violence against women physical and sexual perpetrated by men in order to maintain their social dominance and control Chhachhi, In Saudi Arabia, rape can only be proven in court if the perpetrator confesses or four witnesses provide testimony Doumato, One purpose of fundamentalist movements therefore is to advantage men and reinforce ideals of patriarchal power in a modern context in which women have successfully struggled to gain political, economic and legal powers historically denied them. The role of women in Muslim or Hindu traditions is so different from that in Western religions and culture that characterizing it as inferior or subservient in Western terms risks distorting the actual experience or the nature of the role within the actual fabric of life in these traditions Moaddel, In order to properly study women in Fundamentalist movements, it is imperative to gather the perspectives and ideas of the women in the movements themselves in order to eradicate the Orientalist stigma and bias towards non-Western religions and cultures.

After the Revolution in Iran, the law making veiling mandatory for all women emerged as one of the most important symbols of the new, collective Iranian national and religious identity.

Glorified by Myths, Mysticism, Symbolism, Rituals and Traditions.

It was a means of demonstrating resistance against Western values and served symbolically to mark a difference from the pre-revolutionary program of modernization that had been instituted by the deposed Shah. Many women demonstrated against this law and against other legal discrimination against women in the new post-revolutionary juridical system.

However, this dissent did not last long. As Patricia Higgins stresses, these demonstrations were not supported by the majority of Iranian women. The number of supporters of the demonstrations also decreased when Ayatollah Khomeini—the religious leader of Islamic revolution — mentioned his support of compulsory veiling for women. So it appears that the majority of Iranian women accepted the new rules or at least did not oppose them.

In the prerevolutionary regime of the Shah, there had been a state-lead attempt to change the juridical system and the public sphere to promote the rights of Iranian women in a manner similar to their western peers. Nevertheless, the majority of Iranian women, especially in the rural areas and margins of the cities, still wore their traditional and religious clothing. Veiling was part of the traditional or customary dress of Iranian women.

However, an equally important fact, which is always less stressed in the dominant narrative about the Iranian revolution is that this transformation of veiling from traditional custom to political symbol first occurred in s, when King Reza Pahlavi banned veiling for all women in the public sphere. To be clear, veiling was a custom or fashion in clothing for women, but not mandatory in law. Nevertheless, 40 years before the revolution, King Reza Pahlavi made unveiling mandatory in law for all women in Iran.

What were the main reasons beneath this radical change which was imposed on Iranian society by the King Reza government? Reza Pahlavi can be recognized as the founder of new modern state in Iran. To a certain extent he was successful, especially in building the main transportation and new economic and bureaucratic structure. In this vein, the veiling of women was recognized as one of the most important symbols of Iranian traditional culture which needed to be removed, even violently, if modernization was to succeed.

But did the significance of veiling arise from its place in religious texts and the strict customs of traditional ways of life or did it arise only as the outcome of the modern reading of these religious and traditional rules? It has been argued that fundamentalist movements represent a claim for recognition by beleaguered religious communities.

However, in the case of the Hijab or veiling in contemporary Iran, the irony is that from the beginning it was not the religious scholars, traditional leaders or Olama who emphasized veiling as central to the distinction between traditional, religious Iranian culture and western culture. Rather, the equation of traditional Iranian religious society and veiling originated with secular intellectuals and politicians. Reza Shah, the modern leader who identified these symbolic qualities of religious identity, could never be regarded as a religious fundamentalist.

However, he was the first head of state to recognize and highlight veiling as an important symbol of the traditional religious way of life, albeit in a negative way. The second irony is that, apart from upper middle class urban women who embraced the active role of unveiled women in the public sphere, this process of cultural modernization and unveiling was not noticeably successful.

The majority of Iranian women were subject to traditional and religious restrictions whose authority rested with the family and religious leaders, not state laws Higgins, However, during the Iranian revolution, the political process of Islamization was not monolithically conservative or fundamentalist. At the moment of revolution the dominant Islamic discourse included accepting and internalizing some parts of modern and western identity, while criticizing other parts. It was argued that veiled woman should participate in society equally , even if motherhood should be their priority.

At this point in time, veiling was not seen so much as a return to traditional conservative gender roles, but as a means of neutralizing sexual differences in the public sphere. If they complied with wearing the veil, as noted above, most Iranian women already did wear veils voluntarily , women could leave their confinement within the patriarchal family and participate in public social activities, even without permission of their father or husband.

At this specific historical moment, the religious authorities treated women as free, independent individuals, whereas previously they had been under the strict authority of their families. Veiling, within the political narrative of the revolution, was seen as the feminine expression of the resurgence of pure Islam, a flag of the critique of western values by Iranian society. After the revolution consolidated into the Iranian Islamic state, this modern, leftist version of Islam was displaced by a more fundamentalist conservative narrative.

Even so, at its inception the meaning of compulsory veiling, as a symbol of traditional religious values, was not the product of the traditional values of religious society itself but a product of the way religious society was represented by secular scholars and politicians. Modern secularization was the process that established the symbolic significance of the veil for fundamentalism in Iran.

One of the most internationally publicized and controversial instances of sati was that of Roop Kanwar on September 4, It occurred in the small town of Deorala in the state of Rajasthan. Roop Kanwar was a well-educated eighteen year old Rajput woman who had married twenty-four year old Mal Singh just eight months before. Her husband died unexpectedly of gastroenteritis, although some speculate it was actually a suicide by poisoning Hawley, a.

The next day, Roop Kanwar stepped onto the funeral pyre with her deceased husband, put his head in her hands as is the custom, and burned alive with his body. This illegal event was witnessed by a few hundred people but there were conflicting reports as to what had actually happened. Pro-sati supporters said that Roop Kanwar had voluntarily decided to become sati and underwent the process with purpose and calm.

Those who opposed sati argued that she had not acted of her own free will and was instead drugged into submission by her in-laws who had economic motives for her death. Some reported that she had tried to jump off the pyre, but was pushed back onto it Hawley, b. The practice of Sati offers another look at the complicated relationship between fundamentalism and women.

Sati is a Hindu ritual in which a widow sacrifices herself by being burned alive on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband. It is a religious funeral rite practiced or endorsed primarily by Hindu groups rooted in the aristocratic Rajput caste in the Rajasthan state of India. Sati is therefore not central to Hinduism, but is practiced by a portion of the population, both men and women, who can be seen as Hindu fundamentalists. While the Western and English understanding of the word sati is as the practice of widow burning, in the Hindi language it refers to the woman herself.

A woman who is sati is a good, virtuous woman who is devoted to her husband Hawley, a. The Rajput belief is that a woman who freely chooses to become sati is protecting her husband in his journey after death. The power of her self-sacrifice cancels out any bad karma that he may have accrued during his lifetime. She also provides blessings to all those who witness the event Hawley, b.

After her father humiliates Shiva by excluding him from a sacrifice, Sati kills herself in front of him as an act loyalty to her husband. Supporters see the modern version of sati as a manifestation of this same sacrificial power used by the goddess Sati Hawley, a. However, while sati is seen as a traditional practice, most of the early Hindu religious texts do not recognize sati at all, and it is only mentioned occasionally in later texts.

In a manner consistent with other forms of fundamentalism, certain verses have been cited as scriptural justification of the practice by supporters, but their interpretation and translation have been contested by scholars and there is no definitive, unambiguous endorsement of sati Yang, Although this Hindu practice has never been widespread, it happened with enough frequency to catch the attention and revulsion of the British in the nineteenth century while India was under British rule.

In British officials made the practice illegal and a punishable offence for anyone involved Yang, The practice has continued to occur very infrequently since then, but the worship and glorification of sati is still a major aspect of the religious belief system of some Rajput Hindus Harlan, The criminalization of sati has also become a rallying point for Hindu fundamentalists in their larger battle against the secular state.

Its persecution is seen as an infringement by the state into the domain of religion causing the fight for sati to become a fight for religious freedom Hawley, a. Twelve days after her death by immolation, a chunari celebration was held at the funeral site to honor and praise her sacrifice. Further gatherings and sati endorsement by both religious and political organizations continued in the months that followed and eclipsed smaller protests held by opponents of sati.

The sati of Roop Kanwar triggered a number of larger social debates regarding the intertwining threads of religion, gender, and the state. For them, the religious significance given to sati is nothing more than a guise to aid the oppression of women. Sati also became a battleground in the struggle between the religious freedom of Hindus and the secular Indian State. First is the reactionary nature of this Hindu movement against the perceived threat to traditional religious beliefs and values.

Demonstrations by sati supporters signified a resistance to the modernization, secularization, and liberalization of India, particularly in regards to the place of women. By becoming sati, a woman is performing the ultimate act of devotion to her husband and is sacrificing herself for the betterment of her family and the wider community.

Hawley, b. For most of history every aspect of life in society revolved around some form of religious practice. In many cultures, prior to contact with the Western world, religion was so ingrained into every part of life that there was no specific word for it. It was the means by which life was regulated and made purposeful. The modern shift towards secularization and the scientific worldview is a recent phenomenon. Explanations for events of everyday life were no longer based on the notion of mysterious or supernatural powers. Everything, in principle, could be reduced to calculation. However, the transition from a world based on religion to one that gives the ultimate authority to scientific discovery has not been without its issues.

Contemporary creationists reject Darwinian evolutionary theory because they believe everything came into being as a result of divine creation, as described by religious texts such as the Bible. One historic example of such a conflict is that between the astronomer Copernicus and the Catholic Church Russel, When Copernicus proposed a heliocentric model of the solar system based on his empirical astronomic observations, i. This claim, originally made in , did not immediately attract the attention of the Church. However, almost a century later, in , when Galileo confirmed its validity based on evidence he had collected using a telescope, he was tried for heresy.

Because his model was in direct contradiction with Holy Scripture he was forced to denounce his support of heliocentric theory. He lived out the rest of his life under house arrest, although the ideas he championed were later proven to be scientifically correct. What is the underlying source of the conflict between science and religion and what are the implications? Berman argues that the Scientific Revolution created a division between the worlds of fact and the worlds of value. This was the basis for a profound shift in worldview.

Humans went from being part of a rich and meaningful natural order to being the alienated observers of a mechanistic and empty object-world. Questions concerning the value of things or why things were, which had been addressed by religion, were replaced with questions about what things are and how things work. Modes of knowledge that had been relied on to produce a sense of purpose and meaning for people for centuries were incapable of producing the new knowledge needed to effectively manipulate nature to satisfy human material needs for food, shelter, health, profit, etc.

Holtzman, It was a threat to the hierarchical power of religion whose authority was based on its claim to have unique access to sacred truths. These questions would be answered by other sources, but without any authoritative means of distinguishing which was correct. In particular, it is unlikely that those who practice different religions will come to answer the ultimate questions in the same way. The different sets of values of modern society cannot be reconciled into a singular, cohesive system to guide society.

Nevertheless, while science and religion may differ at the most fundamental level, disagreement between the two is not as common as many may think. A recent study found that there was no difference in the likelihood of religious or non-religious people to seek out scientific knowledge, even though many Protestants and conservative Catholics will side with religious explanations when there is a conflict. The debates over evolution and the history of the universe are a case in point Evans, What this suggests firstly is that conflicts do not arise because religion completely rejects everything scientific or vice versa , but that conflict arises only if competing claims are made, as seen in the case of Galileo above.

Secondly, conflicts arise when the morality of science is being questioned by religion. For example embryonic stem cell research is rejected by some religious leaders for moral reasons. For the most part, science is broadly accepted, as many religions adapt to the challenges of modernity. It is only in a few cases that there are major disputes between religion and science.

This debate pits American Protestant fundamentalists against the field of natural science McCalla, , p. Specifically, this debate has caused extensive issues when it comes to education in the middle school and high school years, as creationists lobby for an education that does not acknowledge evolutionary theory Bleifeld, After many decades of education taught from the perspective of the field of objective natural sciences, the recent rise of Protestant fundamentalism has lead to conflict over the lack of emphasis in schools on creationist theory.

The debate however involves people from both sides arguing at cross-purposes over very different things. It is therefore necessary to clarify the beliefs and arguments stemming from both creationists and evolutionary theorists. This is Darwinian evolutionary theory. This presented a cosmology that certain Christian sects found to be fundamentally at odds with the notion of human divinity found in the bible. As a result creationism began to gain momentum in the 19th century as a struggle against new science-based evidence of evolutionary theories.

It found its support in the turn to literal or inerrant readings of the bible. The Protestant fundamentalists argued that to be Christian, everything in the Bible had to be held as completely true in a factual sense. Evolutionary theory therefore caused problems for many Christians because in the Bible the narratives in Genesis highlighted that God created the universe in 6 days and that later the Great Flood destroyed all life except for the occupants of the Ark McCalla, , p.

The earth and everything in it was created by God as is, not through a process of evolution, and to dispute this goes against everything the Bible stands for Ayala, This fundamental difference in cosmology has pitted creationists and evolutionists against one another. Biblical criticism recognized that the Bible was not a suprahuman text that transcends history. Using contemporary techniques of textual analysis, they demonstrated that the bible was a historical document composed by multiple human beings at different times and various places McCalla, , p.

Liberal-minded Christians and Biblical theologians were able to except the higher criticism while continuing to hold the Bible as a source of moral and spiritual guidance. Liberal Christians were able to assimilate the findings of natural science into their religious practice because they had already accepted that Genesis was a mythic story with symbolic truth, not literal truth.

Fundamentalist Protestants had a harder time agreeing to any of this McCalla, , p. Ultimately this led into the field of creation science. The creation-evolution controversy has led to many disagreements on what should and should not be allowed in required educational curriculum Allgaier, Specifically, where this debate and controversy takes place heavily is in the more southern regions of the United States.