Religion and the "Supernatural" - Lecture Flashcards Preview

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How may religion be regarded?

As beliefs and patterns of behaviour
- by which humans try to deal with what they view as important problems that cannot be solved with known technology or organizational techniques
- to overcome these limitations, people turn to the manipulation of supernatural beings and powers


What do religion help people to do?

- helps people to order their society and
- provides them with meaning, unity, peace of mind, and the degree of control over events they believe are possible


What does 'religion is universal' mean?

Universal means that it functions in some universal way from culture to culture.


What are 4 functions of religion?

1) reducing anxiety and increasing control
2) providing meaning
3) offering a framework for understanding the world
4) reinforcing or modifying social order


How have anthropologists shifted their focus with religion?

Anthropologists have stopped trying to define the religion from the question of an angle 'what.' 'What' it is. Now they focus on what it 'does.' What does religion 'do'?


What provides cosmology?



What is cosmology a set of principles or beliefs about? (5)

1) the nature of life and death
2) the creation of the universe
3) the origin of society
4) the relationship of individuals and groups to one another
5) the relation of humankind to nature.


What does cosmology provide?

people with a sense of personal identity, belonging, meaning


How does cosmology provide people with a sense of personal identity, belonging, and meaning (2)?

- defining the place of the individual in society
- through the establishment of moral codes


What is the Sky Woman in Indigenous cultures?

- Myth corresponds to reality of Iroquois lifestyle
- They were matrilineal society
- Connection between social order among Iroquois and how they play a female figure/spirit/deity at the beginning of the universe it is a female at the beginning of the universe.


How is Iroquois society divided?

- Divided into two large moieties as a society
- Everyone in group perceives himself as belonging to one large clan. Another segment of society belonging to another clan. Duality of who the Iroquois are.


What does the fact that the Iroquois are divided into two moieties represent?

- Duality
- Here we have the twins...the appearance of twins in the sky woman story is the explanation of how, or parallel development of, to how this society is itself was conceived.


What is the significance of the Big Bang Theory?

It is a scientific theory. Gives us another explanation of how the world began. Some argue that there is not a fundamental difference between scientific and religious explanations in terms of the purpose they serve inhuman life.


What can become the basis for personal and cultural survival?



How can religion become the basis for personal and cultural survival?

When people suffer a profound personal loss or when life loses meaning because of radically changed circumstances.


What are the following all examples of? :
- in suffering (Nazi concentration camps)
- facing death as in death penalty cases
- facing war
- facing deprivation (Canadian 'frontier' experiences)

Religion becoming the basis for personal and cultural survival.


Religion can also be a catalysts for social___.



What is religious fundamentalism?

Calls for 'return to the original values' and thus challenges the existing social order.r


How does religion result in political and military action?

In some cases, prophets call on their supporters to pursue their goals through political and military action.


What are the following examples of?:
- ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict
- the rise of the Taliban government in Afghanistan (1994/6 - 2001)
- The issue of ISIS
- Serbia-Kosovo Conflict (1998-1999)

political and military action influenced by religion


How many million Americans are estimated to partake in fundamental Christian religions?

~30 million


Where is religion and science often opposed?

in Western thought


In which two ways are religion and science similar?

- both are the means through which people seek to understand the world
- both provide organizing principles to guide that search


What is the domain of science a result of?



What are the key differences in religious and scientific understanding?

- Science explanations depend on empirical data based on observation and measurement
- Religious systems tend not to be open to empirical testing and are based on path.


Science is___
Religions is___

- descriptive
- prescriptive


True or False: science can only deal with certain types of questions.



True or False: Religion commonly sanctifies the domination of men over women.



How are women suppressed in religion?

Women are often denied access to priesthood and religious ritual s(trances for example)


How are women described in religious beliefs?

As impure, polluting temptresses


What did St. Augustine say of women?

Expressed doubts as to whether women have souls.


What are the 5 characteristics of religion (what religion involves)?

1) supernatural beings
2) sacred narratives and stories
3) rituals
4) supernatural practices
5) clerics


What are examples of supernatural beings?

gods, spirits, ghosts, and tricksters


What are clerics?

People who take leading roles in performing religious rituals for society (religious specialists)


What are supernatural beings?

deities; we know there is no clear line between what is supernatural beings and what is human reality; some cultures treat them as part of the human world...deceased ancestors


What are sacred narratives and stories?

explain the faith and traditions


What are rituals?

actions which we as humans involve and engage in


True or false: there is no clear line between rituals and supernatural practices as such



What are the 3 forms "supernatural" beings can take?

1) Anthropomorphic (or human in form)
2) Zoomorphic (or in the form of an animal)
3) Naturalistic (associated with parts of natural environment [rivers, mountains, with spirit, soul or other supernatural characteristics])


What is a god?

A named spirit who is believed to have created or to control some aspects of the world.


What is polytheism?

belief in many gods


What is monotheism?

belief in a single god


What is a trickster?

A supernatural entity that does not act in the best interests of humans


What is Nanabush (North American Plains cultures)?

A trickster


Are the Ju / 'hoansi more likely to be polytheistic or monotheistic? Why?

- Polytheistic
- We would expect them to understand the world around them as being dependent on certain spiritual powers that are closely related to animals and other aspects of they lives.


What is animism?

- A belief in spirit beings, other than ancestors, who are believed to animate all of nature.
- These spirit beings are closer to humans than good and goddesses and are concerned with human activities.


Where is animism?

Animism is typical of peoples who see themselves as a part of nature rather than superior to it.


What is animatism?

The belief that the world is animated by impersonal supernatural powers.


What is mana?

Religious power or energy that is concentrated in individuals or objects


Mana infuses___.



What is mana often associated with?

taboos (prohibitions)


What is believed to occupy the boundary zones (hair, gates, windows, etc.)



What are Orenda and Manitu examples of?

mana (animatism)


What is the common misconception of myths?

Commonsensical we think of myths as important satires of someone else. When we think of our own tests, we don't call them "myths." We use the words myths for the "others." We don't call our own sacred stories "myths."


What are sacred narratives?

Tell of presumed historical events, heroes, gods, spirits, and the origin of all things. Power symbolic means of communicating religious ideas.


Define rituals.

An organized performance of some actions intended to influence spiritual powers.


What are rituals characterized by?

The rigid structure and patterns of speech or movement, or definite sequences of events.


In which 4 ways do rituals differ?

1) Scope
(handshake v.v. annual pilgrimages such as the hajj to Mecca)
2) Who they serve
(individuals or groups)
3) Purpose
4) Regularity
(calendric v.v. crisis rituals)


What are Van Gennep's (1908) 4 types of rituals?

1) Rites of Passage
2) Rites of Separation
3) Of Transition and
4) of Incorporation


What is sorcery?

Sorcery is the performance of rites and spells intended to cause supernatural harm to others


What are the two kinds of magic?

1) Imitative magic (voodoo doll; does not need physical engagement with person)
2) Contangious magic (involves physical engagement with person, a touch or something like that)


What is witchcraft about?

Mainly about the use of psychic power alone to cause harm to others.


What is sorcery?

Sorcerer performs some rites to achieve th needed result.


How are witches and sorcery distinguished?

not female v.v. male, but ar distinguished by their acts and potentials.


What is an example of witchcraft?

- 1692 Salem Witches Trial, Massachusetts
- 200 accused and 20 publicly executed


What are Anthony Wallace's (1960) 5 varieties of religious organization?

1) Individualistic cults
2) Shamanistic cults
3) Communal cults
4) Ancestral cults
5) Totemism


What are individualistic cults?

Each individual has a personal relationship with one or more supranatural powers who serve as his or her guardians and protectors.


What are "vision quests" in Native North American cultures examples of?

Individualist cults


What are shamanistic cults?

- some individuals -- shamans -- are believed to have relationships with the supernatural that ordinary people lack.
- They use these powers primarily for socially valuable purposes, to help (especially cure) others in need
- They may also act on behalf of their band of village to cause supernatural harm to the group's enemies


What are communal cults?

- The members of a particular group gather periodically for the performance of rituals that are believed to benefit the group as a whole, or some individual in it.
- There are no full-time religious specialists, as is also true of individualist and shamanistic cults.


What are ecclesiastical cults?

- full-time religious practitioners who form a religious bureaucracy
- formally trained specialized officials -- priests -- who perform calendric rituals
- the priesthood usually materially supported by institutionalized governmental authorities through taxation or redistributive tribute


What are the following examples of:
- Mormonism
- Branch Dravidians
- Apocalyptic Orthodox Sect in Penza (Russia)

Revitalization Movements


What are revitalization movements?

- religious reactions to European expansion
- other movements aiming at 'revitalizing' the existing religion


What are revitalization movements related to?

The increase of anxiety in a society.