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Commonality between religion and science:

Both belief systems.



Any proposition that is thought to be true, regardless of whether it is true or not.


Belief System

Belief system is a set of interrelated beliefs.


Examples of belief systems:

Examples of belief systems include religious doctrines, but also includes ideologies of political parties. Also, more controversially, science.


Does science operate on the same belief system as religion?

Science operates on different rules than a religious belief system.


What makes a belief system religious?

A belief system is religious if it contains supposedly “supernatural” elements, and the accuracy of those elements is not relevant.



- PERSONAL COMMITMENT. Strong social consequences because people are highly invested in them.
- LIFESPAN OF A BELIEF SYSTEM IS LONGER THAN THE LIFESPAN OF BELIEVERS. Christianity came before believers. Would exist without them.
- OFTEN CONCERNED WITH EXISTENCE OR NON-EXISTENCE OF CERTAIN CONCEPTUAL ENTITIES. For example, the existence of God. The Motherland, witches, assassination conspiracies.
- OFTEN INCLUDE REPRESENTATIONS OF ALTERNATIVE WORLDS. Differentiate a better world from the world that actually is. Are utopian.
- ANECDOTAL. Includes considerable material from personal experience, folklore, or propaganda.
- VARYING DEGREES OF CONFIDENCE OR CERTITUDE. Everyone picks and chooses what they most value. Can be passionately committed or apathetic.


What is the relationship between belief systems and deviance? 2 ways sociologists look at it:

- Deviant belief systems. Belief systems that are deviant in and of themselves.
- Belief systems that label others as deviant. Other ideas. Belief systems as labellers of deviance.


Deviant belief systems:

Belief systems that are deviant in and of themselves. Acts of deviance may occur within groups of people who adhere to particular belief systems. At times, entire belief systems may be viewed as deviant and subject to social control. For example, white nationalists.


Belief systems labelling deviance:

Belief systems as labellers of deviance. Christianity labelling premarital sex as deviant. Decide which things are labelled deviant, and what the consequences will be.


Typology used by social scientists to determine deviance in belief systems:

Ecclesia, churches, sects, and cults.



State religions. Anglican Church in England.



Extremely large and established religions. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.



Smaller, rigid offshoots of churches. Amish.



Even smaller, more rigid, and often oppositional to what mainstream is. Heaven’s Gate Cult.


Which of the typologies are viewed as normal? Which are viewed as deviant, and why?

Ecclesia and churches are both perceived as normal. Cults and sects are seen as deviant, as they exist in a state of tension with larger society. Magnitude, antagonism they have towards society, and the antagonism society has towards them can vary. Can be controversial.


Compare and contrast Seventh Day Adventists with Jehovah's Witnesses in general:

Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both operated on basis of apocalyptic visions. Both groups also faced extensive persecution early in their history. Since that time, Seventh Day Adventists have become more mainstream, compromising to fit in. Most people have positive experiences with them. Jehovah’s Witnesses have not become well integrated.


Compare and contrast the status of Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses:

Seventh Day Adventists are now considered a denominational sect. On the verge of becoming a denomination of a mainstream church. Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered an established sect. Remains stable in its segregation.


Heaven's Gate Cult

Heaven’s Gate is a UFO cult. Earth is about to be “recycled.” Thought their only means of escaping to leave earth was by way of suicide. Committed suicide, then believed their souls can travel to the spaceship.


What is the most important distinction for cults?

Group advocates for belief in something new, or something that has been lost or forgotten. New prophecies, lost scriptures, etc.


Cults are likely to be led by a ___ ___.

Charismatic leader.


Example of cult leader:

John de Ruiter.


True or false? Sects have greater level of tension with society than cults do.

False, cults have greater level of tension with society than sects do.


Stereotype of cults:

Mind control, sexual deviance, mass murder, mass suicide.


The Family, a.k.a. Children of God

Typical cult, rampant sexual abuse, violence within the court. Hippie movement promising free love. Emphasized intense Bible study, but David Berg started to place more emphasis on his writings (above the level of the Bible). Started initiating policies involving free sex among members. Also encouraged religious prostitution towards outsiders. Called this “flirty fishing.” Justified this as being two of the main ways you can demonstrate God’s love. Members claimed to have been motivated by their love for others and their love for God.


Flirty Fishing

Also encouraged religious prostitution towards outsiders.


True or false? Scholars require a standard of evidence that is too high.

Criminal investigations mostly failed, so some scholars don’t recognize that this actually happened. Some civil suits were successful. Scholars require standard of evidence of evidence so high, that complaints about any group are likely to be dismissed. Could be why the Catholic Church was able to abuse children for so long.


Why would cults want to be recognized by social scientists?

The Family and other cults (Scientologist) wanted to be recognized by social scientists so they can be seen as legitimate.


How have social scientists made mistakes as far as cults like Scientology?

Social scientists supported Scientology’s claim. Suppressed higher-level information. Sociologists paid by religious groups.


How is the freedom of religion restricted?

- Public safety overrides this.
- These caveats enables government to socially control deviant regimes.


What are the 2 types of social control exhibited over cults?

- Anti-cult movement.
- Counter-cult movement.


Anti-Cult Movement

Former cult members, parents of cult members, mental health professionals, legal professionals, and academic researchers. Lobby the government, and provide services to people who have been affected by destructive cults.


Counter-Cult Movement

Are similar to anti-cult groups, except they have Christian foundations (usually). Concern is about groups that fail to use the correct interpretation of the Bible.


How does media control cults?

Media serves as a tool for these groups to spread their messages. Carry sensationalistic news stories about the relatively small number of cults that engage in extreme behaviours. Media overemphasizes the danger of cults sometimes.


How do cults fight back against opposition?

Scientology is known particularly as being litigious. Hire public relations firms to represent them. Sometimes they changes their practices so they are not seen as being deviant.


How does religion construct deviance at an individual level?

Each person’s beliefs provide a moral code on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.


How does religion construct deviance at a societal level?

Religious belief systems may influence political belief systems. This line can even be blurred sometimes. Example is residential schooling of Indigenous children in Canada.


What was the goal of the residential schools, and how was it put into practice?

Sacred call to spread the Christian faith. This translated into assault on the Aboriginal culture when put into practice.


Residential Schools

Crusade provided justification for undermining traditional spiritual leaders, who they treated as agents of the devil. Banned sacred cultural practices, and attempted to instil a new moral code. Cultural genocide.


Big difference between science and religion:

Big difference is that science acknowledges the fact that it will make mistakes, and consequentially arrives at truths that are provisional but testable.


Why are scientific belief systems granted greater legitimacy?

Has to do with scientific methodology.


Science and deviance are related in the same way religion is related to deviance.

Science and deviance refers to acts committed within science that are deviant, or entire field of science that are deviant. Science can also be the labeller of deviance.


Deviant acts within science are labelled...

“Scientific misconduct.”


Scientific Misconduct

Includes fabrication of data and ethical violations. Misconduct within natural sciences gets more press because the public is more interested in the natural sciences, and also the natural sciences get more funding. Consequences are more severe in natural sciences. Treatment for cancer, or sociological analysis of comic book fans?


Two theories to hypothesize how big misconduct is:

- Bad Apple Theory.
- Iceberg Theory.


Bad Apple Theory

Proposes that scientific misconduct is rare in the scientific community, but there are a few bad apples in the field. Occasional bad apples tarnish reputation of scientific community. Only those who are morally corrupt, economically desperate, or psychologically disturbed would commit misconduct. The solution is to take all scientific and legal tools to fix issue. Need to be encouraged to report misconduct, and revamp peer review.


Iceberg Theory

Proposes that these behaviours are far more frequent and common than people believe. Those that are caught are just the tip of the iceberg. Some think that the structure of science itself is conducive to misconduct. For example, the corporatization of science contributes to increasing scientific misconduct. Drug research conducted by for-profit institutions. Corporately-funded research is far more likely to find positive results than publicly-funded research.


What is wrong with all research, even publicly funded?

University psychology research. Psychology does not publish negative results. Doing 5-6 years of research on something that does not pan out is not an option.


What is wrong with the punishments administered to corporate-funded research?

Wealth of some of these companies are so great that punishments to corporate-funded research are a little more than a slap on the wrist.