As I sat down to write this particular research paper, I deliberated which of the topics I felt as though I was most interested in, and I finally settled on Approach two: The Sociological School of thought. I choose this school of thought because it shows Religion as a social phenomenon, which I think is very accurate. Religion, for the most part, is used by specific societies. For example, the tribal religions of Africa do not have legions of followers around the world, they are contained in that little bubble. When you take a religion like Christianity, while it is spread out all around the world, it tends to be because of societies who promote that sort of lifestyle. Also the Christian missionaries who go and spread the Gospel are a part of that, but even that has a societal tie because those who are so tied into their faith and believe so deeply that every society need this in their lives. I intend to take my understanding of the sociological approach and tie it in to the three proposed points, especially the last one, which focuses on how religious practices cause divisions among the sexes, I wrote an essay on this for my class the Quran, and am looking forward to expanding to other religions in that area.
Considering Durkheim’s discussion of totemic divisions, I think that the divisions are reinforced by the fact that a totem is defined by Merriam-Webster is an object that serves as an emblem of a family or clan and reminds of its ancestry, meaning that when these totemic religions go through these deep bonding rituals, they bond with members of the family, rather than with the clan as a whole. The family worships something that is specifically tied into just their roots and ancestry, inherently causing a division within the religion. I also feel as though that within this totemic religion, it would be hard to just join the religion if you felt so called to do so, because it has such deep roots tied into family (blog.oup.com).
As for larger religions, I do think that there is some evidence connected to the fact that they have certain things that reinforce boundaries. For example, in Christianity there are lots of different denominations of Christianity. You could be Methodist, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventists, or one of the countless others, with these causing a boundary within the religion. In my small religious hometown, people who are baptist think they are better than the methodists, the Methodists think they are better than the baptists, and so on. This is causing a division in Christianity because instead of being a whole religion, everyone has their own sect that they find superior to the others, though this is not true.
When you consider solidarity rather than division, I think on the stance of morals those in religious societies take solidarity with each other to defend what they think is right. Like take the stance of Pro-Life for abortions. These people always use religion to back themselves up, and most christians will take that pro-life stance with them as a sign of solidarity. Same with issues of homosexuality within the church, people are bound to take this single unite front against people who identify as homosexual or anything on the LGBTQIA spectrum and tell them why it is wrong in the eyes of the lord.
To me, the evidence is quite simply that almost every society shares different but similar rites of passage. Such as marriage, marriage is a rite of passage that EVERY culture has a way of celebrating and bonding those two people together for life. Almost every culture has a sort of coming of age party, like a bat mitzvah or a quinceanera, that shows the passage from boy to man or woman to girl. Also some religions, like the catholics for example, have a ‘confirmation’ into your faith, a religious rite of passage that shows you are fully transitioning into a member of your church. I believe that going through the rite of passage helps to solidify your standings because you are following through with the traditions and customs that people have done for decades to centuries before you. It helps to unite you to your past in a way that can feel really special and cement you into your religion. I do not believe that the standards of membership are the same for all groups, and for this I will compare Christianity and Judaism.
Starting with Christianity, I was raised as a Baptist. For a baptist to be accepted into the church and religious community, you really don't have to do anything super elaborate. You simply profess your love and belief that Jesus Christ is your lord and savior, and then undergo a public profession of this through a baptism. For Baptists, it is even very easy to convert into the Baptist faith, you follow the same rules above that everyone else had to follow to become a member of said Baptist community. Even in Christianity, standards of membership are not the same… take Catholicism for example. In Catholicism you have to undergo a multitude of steps, and converting is also NOT an easy process. To be confirmed into the Catholic Church you first have to have been baptized, and with the strict requirements of the Catholic Church. Next you go through a lengthy ceremony in which the Bishop will come and confirm not only you, but your entire confirmation class (i.e. those who studied and got approved for confirmation alongside you.) To be an Adult who wants to confirm into the Catholic Church, you must go through an interview process, provide required documents, find a sponsor, and then undergo Baptism if they have not already and go through the entire confirmation process. This proves that standards of membership are not even the same across different denominations of the same religion (sacredhearthouston.org).
As for Judaism, some members of the church undergo a Confirmation ceremony, though it is rare. This would be done around ages 16-18, but most people stick to a bar and bat mitzvah. The bar mitzvah is done at age 13 for boys and the bat mitzvah is done at age 12 for girls, and does not require the party typically shown. This ceremony happens during Shabbat services, and the children are called up to read a blessing over the Torah (jewfaq.org). This is more than what I had to go through as a young baptist, where as long as a professed my life to Jesus I was good to go, and about equal to Catholicism in terms of the education and prep it takes to get to that point, but still helps to prove my point that many religions have different ways to show how you can maintain your membership, even by showing that lots of people are born in to Jewish families and are split into secular and non-secular jews, because some people have Jewish heritage but do not actively believe in God.
Considering Christianity first, I only know a handful of churches who allow women to take on large leadership roles. The ones I do know are methodists (go methodists!) and these women are in the Pastoral role of the church. In my experience, women are usually in the Choir or the secretary positions of the church, mainly considered the “womanly positions” of the church. As we get progressively more modern though in our society, more and more women have been able to step up and undertake roles that would previously not be given to them because they are women.
As far as saints go, I was pleasantly surprised to learn there are a number of female saints for women in religion to look up too, who received this honor for the same reason as the men, because they did great deeds and really helped to advance the Catholic church (catholic.org). As we continue to look at spiritual figures in religion, as for prophets I could not find any women prophets. Now, are there women in the bible? For sure but I could not find any evidence of female prophets, which goes to perpetuate the stereotype that women are beneath men, something that is actually taught in the bible, because wives are supposed to submit to there husband who is the provider of the family, while they help to the home tasks such as raise the children and clean house.
Women’s roles in religion have mostly remained the same, with men taking the jobs that are higher up and full of power, and women stuck doing the ‘lesser’ jobs (though still important). All around the world women are more religious than men, because it benefits them greater, but men are the one in control because those who strictly adhere to the morals of biblical times seem to be the most susceptible into getting trapped in the traditional, and some might say archaic way of thinking where women are not given powerful roles at all because they are not equipped to do so. As for variations, I found a society that is called Minangkabau, where the women still dominate the domestic world, but are also considered the head of the family (mentalfloss.com). This thought process is very intriguing to me, with women feeling very comfortable being in the domestic world because they have a very distinct separation between the two that works for them.
I firmly believe that the sociological school of thought just goes to show that every society has a different approach to the religion, even if they are the same religion. For example, some Jewish people undergo separate confirmation proceedings, while some Jewish people stick to the normal bar and bat mitzvahs. The Baptists stick to a simple route to membership, while the Catholics believe in a more ritualistic way to get accepted into the church. Every society has a different tie into religion to make it unique, which I think is what makes it so special to be apart of different societies. Those anthropologists who use the Sociological Approach realize just how much people affect the religion, and really put the time and effort into understanding the mentality behind why people believe certain things, which I find so very fascinating!
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