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Civilizations and world religions 2. Lecture. The formal and sociological theory of the religions and civilizations The elements of evolutionary theory of religion 1. The interpretation of the origins of religion by the help of basic catherogies of evolution, (such as: inheritance, mutation, selection, adaptation, etc.) 2a. The interpretation of religion as a social, „gadgeteered” construction, as an adaptation, (a function that helps the survival). 2b. The presentation of such functions, which helps the individuals and the group to solve certain problems in the actual situation, or in the actual level of evolution. (So, due to which function it is an adaptation, and not a by-product or a „bug”). 3. The understanding of „why” is the unfolding of evolutionary story that lead to the present, („just so story”). In evolution the answer to a question is always a story. What is religion? In the prespective of evolutionary theory 1. Religion is a „cultural universal” – it could be found in every known present and past (after its material mementos known) societies. Concerning sociologists (Durkheim, Murdock, LéviStrauss, Donald Brown, etc.) a „cultural universal” is an element, pattern, trait, or institution that is common to all human cultures worldwide. Concept of religion „Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature”, (Wikipedia, Religion). Religion always implies a certain idea or conception of transcendence. Religion, as a cultural system, contains rites, rituals, festivals, which express in a peculiar manner the particular conception of transcendence of the religion in question. Religion implies the norms of both collective and individual praxis of living through the transcendence. In the sociological context of religion, a religious person – in the first instance – is a member of a religious community or society. Further definitions of religion „The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect”, (Wikipedia, Religion). That is to say: in sociological respect religion is not exclusively about personal or individual faith, but it implies also institutions, prescriptions and norms of how to practice your belief in a religious community, systematic order of religious doctrines and texts, which are kept sacred, and considered to have a peculiar relationship with transcendence. Anthropologists John Monoghan and Peter Just: „It seems apparent that one thing religion or belief helps us do is deal with problems of human life that are significant, persistent, and intolerable. One important way in which religious beliefs accomplish this is by providing a set of ideas about how and why the world is put together that allows people to accommodate anxieties and deal with misfortune ” Religion, culture, society „The development of religion has taken different forms in different cultures”, (Source: Wikipedia). „The development of religion describes the stages in the evolution of any particular religious system from the perspective of social sciences. It includes such considerations as the evolutionary origins of religions and the evolutionary psychology of religions; the history of religions, including Prehistoric and Paleolithic religion; and the development of new religions and world religions.” (Source: Wikipedia). The particular form of a concrete religion depends strongly on the particular sociological, historical and also geographical and other circumstances of the religion in question. The historical development of a religion is strongly determined by these factors, and also by more important events of the particular society, and by events of intercultural communication. Social and cultural functions of religion „Some religions place an emphasis on belief, while others emphasize practice. Some religions focus on the subjective experience of the religious individual, while others consider the activities of the religious community to be most important. Some religions claim to be universal, believing their laws and cosmology to be binding for everyone, while others are intended to be practiced only by a closely defined or localized group. In many places religion has been associated with public institutions such as education, hospitals, the family, government, and political hierarchies”, (Source: Wikipedia). These particular functions, as mentioned above, chiefly determined and grounded by the particular development and evolution of the concrete society. Religion as such has a provable evolutionary function: it increases the sociological cohesion of a society, it means a source of cultural identity, by virtue of which it improves the chances of survival for the particular society. It is an advantage in regard of group-selection. Current issues concerning religions Understanding the relationship between religion and society helps you a lot to conceive social trends and tendencies today. Spread of religious tolerance in contemporary western societies. Example No.1. During the presidential campaign (1961) of John Fitzgerald Kennedy there was a definite reluctance about his being a catholic in the protestant-dominated USA. But now (2012) a few has any aversion about the fact, that the republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a committed Mormon. Example No.2. A few days ago the Al-Kaida propagandist, extremist Islam leader, Abu Katada was set free in London – though he continuously makes preaches against the tolerant Western World and England in particular. Human rights protectors told that one has the right to follow the extremist ways of a religion too. What do you think about this question? The guideline of the course: Religious studies During the course we will try to analyze and discuss several current and relevant issues concerning the relationship of religion and modern society. But the main theoretical discipline we will keep in view is religious studies in general and comparative religions in particular. Theology and comparative religions „Religious studies is the academic field of multidisciplinary, secular study of religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. It describes, compares, interprets, and explains religion, emphasizing systematic, historically based, and cross-cultural perspectives.” „While theology attempts to understand the nature and intentions of supernatural forces (such as deities), religious studies tries to study religious behavior and belief from outside any particular religious viewpoint. Religious studies draws upon multiple disciplines and their methodologies including anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and history of religions.” „Methodological atheism” Methodological atheism is a key-concept to understand the difference between religious studies and theology. The concept was introduced by the contemporary sociologist of religions, Peter Ludwig Berger (1929-). The term refers to a necessarily methodological operation. Working as a scientist, the researcher must „bracket” her/his religious beliefs, she or he must abstract from her/his religious commitment. „Whereas the sociology of religion broadly differs from theology in assuming the invalidity of the supernatural, theorists tend to acknowledge socio-cultural reification of religious practise”. That means: religious ideas do have a sort of sociological effectivity. Origins of Religious Studies Religious studies originated in the nineteenth century, when scholarly and historical analysis of the Bible had flourished, and Hindu and Buddhist texts were first being translated into European languages. Early influential scholars included Friedrich Max Müller (German philologist and orientalist), in England, and Comelius P. Tiele (theologian), in the Netherlands. Religious studies also owes a lot to the historicalphilological analyses of Bible (David Strauß, „The life of Jesus”), and classical-philological investigations concerning the origins of Greek mythology, (Johann Jakob Bachofen, Walter F. Otto). Born of modern religious studies and comparative religions. Eliade „Today religious studies is practiced by scholars worldwide. In its early years, it was known as Comparative Religions or the Science of Religion and, in the USA, there are those who today also know the field as the History of religion (associated with methodological traditions traced to the University of Chicago in general, and in particular Mircea Eliade, from the late 1950s through to the late 1980s).” (Source: Wikipedia). Eliade is maybe the most important figure in founding the basics of modern religious studies and comparative religions. Eliade compared in both synchronic and diachronic manner over several dozens of different religious forms in order to find the most essential features of religion as such. He investigated primitive, small, tribal cults, modern and old sects, occultist and esoteric movements, major world-religions and minor, local religions, as well as embranchments of these major and minor religions, that is to say: heretic movements also. Most important subdisciplines of religious studies Science of Religion or Religious Studies is an interdisciplinary study of religious phenomena. It contains several subdisciplines, that could be pursued on their own right. Literary approaches (religion in literature) are also valuable and important sources to understand religious phenomena. Texts and documents of theological and historical selfunderstanding and self-interpretation of religious communities and people are also necessary sources. Major subdisciplines are: 1. cultural anthropology of religion, 2. economics of religion, 3. sociology of religion, 4. psychology of religion, 6. geography of religion, 7. philology of religious texts, 8. comparative religions, 9. philosphy of religions. Anthropology and cultural anthropology of religion Anthropology of religion is principally concerned with the common basic needs of man that religion fulfills. Modern anthropology assumes that every religion is created by the human community that worships it, a methodological approach that is called the projection idea. (Cf. Stewart Eliott Guthrie, 2000: 225, ff.). Cultural anthropology of religion is principally concerned with the cultural aspects of religion. Of primary concern to the cultural anthropologist of religions are rituals, beliefs, religious art, and practices of piety. Main figures: Fraser, Tylor, Claude LéviStrauss, Clifford Geertz. Economics of religion Economics of religion researches the economic attitudes and behaviour of religious groups. It has been observed that there is a strong relationship between economics and religion. Max Weber (1864-1920) was the first who devoted closer investigations to the interrelation of religion and economics. One of his main concerns was the economic behaviour of religious people and religious communities. Weber had the idea in mind that the protestant ethics served as an ideological engine to the evolvement and spread of modern Western capitalism, (The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism, Economic Ethics of the World Religions) Sociology of religion „The sociology of religion concerns the dialectical relationship between religion and society; the practices, historical backgrounds, developments, universal themes and roles of religion in society. There is particular emphasis on the recurring role of religion in all societies and throughout recorded history.” Sociology of religion began with the investigations of Émile Durkheim about the suicide rates in protestant and catholic communities (1897), and Max Weber’s comparative analyses concerning economic behavior in different religious communities. Psychology of religion „The psychology of religion is concerned with what psychological principles are operative in religious communities and practitioners. William James was one of the first academics to bridge the gap between the emerging science of psychology and the study of religion. A few issues of concern to the psychologist of religions are the psychological nature of religious conversion, the making of religious decisions, religion and happiness, and the psychological factors in evaluating religious claims”. The founding fathers of modern psychological approaches of religion were Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung. Freud put an emphasis on the instinctive, biological roots of religions, he highlighted the role of drives in religious behavior. Jung emphasized the cultural character of religions, he interpreted the origin and functioning of religions with his conception of collective unconsciousness. The birth of comparative religions. Mircea Eliade Comparative religions was founded by Mircea Eliade. It investigates on the one hand the particular history of a religion, and also it’s cultural, historical, social, etc. embedment, and on the other hand tries to fix the common and different features of religions. It is a central discipline for the whole of religious studies. According to Eliade there were some basic structures in religious experience which could be found in every known forms of religion. Such structures are for example.: 1. the differentiation of sacred and profane; 2. the experience of „Eternal Return” (that religious man during religious fests re-lives mythical events again and again), 3. „Coincidentia oppositorum”, the inner connection of fundamental oppositions. „Yahweh is both kind and wrathful; the God of the Christian mystics and theologians is terrible and gentle at once ” Neurological approaches Neurological approaches: „Recently there has been an interesting meeting between neurology and religion, especially Buddhism. Also of interest has been the temporal lobe, the "God center" of the brain. (Ramachandran, ch. 9) Although not a widely accepted discipline within religious studies, neurological findings in regard to religious experience may very well become of more widespread interest to scholars of religion. Scientific investigators have used a SPECT-scanner to analyze the brain activity of both Christian contemplatives and Buddhist meditators, finding them to be quite similar”, (Source: Wikipedia).