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Religion and Society

Religion can play several roles in society:
–
a unifying role:

–
a conservative role:

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religion encourages society to resist change
a revolutionary role:

–
religion gives society a sense of unity, cohesiveness
religion encourages society to embrace change
a prophetic role:

religion serves as the conscience of society
Religion and Society

Examples of the roles religion plays in
society:
–
a unifying role:

–
a conservative role:

–
Islamic society: there is resistance to anything “western”
a revolutionary role:

–
Buddhist/Taoist society: we see a unity of belief and business
(shrines in shops, e.g.), belief and architecture (feng shui)
Catholicism in Poland: it played a big role in ending communist
rule
a prophetic role:

Christians in the U.K. (18th century): preachers spoke out
against slavery, and the nation changed its policy
Religion and Society

All religions have a “social dimension”:
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Buddhism:


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Islam:


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“I take refuge in the Buddha” (the ideal life)
“I take refuge in the Dharma” (teachings, doctrines)
“I take refuge in the Sangha” (the community of monks)
the hadj to Mecca
salat 5 times per day facing Mecca
Judaism:


the weekly celebration of the Shabat
the annual celebration of Pesach (Passover)
Religion and Society

Is it possible to be “religious” without being a
member of a “community of faith”?
–
–
–
Can one be a Christian, e.g., and never go to church, never
celebrate Christmas or Easter with others?
What are some of the advantages of being religious “on
your own”?
What are some of the disadvantages?
Religion and Society

The Christian and “Christian Society”
–
–
“Christianity is a religion of the most profound inwardness…the
crowd corrupts it!” (Kierkegaard)
There is some ambivalence here. Consider:
 the church did not exist in Jesus’ day, nor did he say much
about it
 there are only 3 accounts of Jesus inside a Jewish temple
–
–
as a boy, to argue with the rabbis and elders
at the beginning of his public life, to read a bit of Scripture (he left
immediately after)
– toward the end of his life, to throw out the “moneychangers” from
the temple in Jerusalem


but also: the first Christians lived together in community
and communal worship was for them a daily ritual
Religion and Society

Religion in American Society:
– do you see religion playing a large or small role in American
society?
– what are some examples of religion influencing American society?