Ritual and Belief

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					Ritual and Belief
  Clifford Geertz on Religion
a religion is: "(1) a system of symbols
which acts to (2) establish powerful,
pervasive, and long-lasting moods and
motivations in people by (3) formulating
conceptions of a general order of
existence and (4) clothing these
conceptions with such an aura of factuality
that (5) the moods and motivations seem
uniquely realistic." (Geertz:90)
What does religion do?
     functional, psychological
satisfy cognitive & affective/emotional
demands for a stable, comprehensible,
and coercible world for the individual
provides an orderly model of the universe
explains the unknown
reduces anxiety and fear
enabling the individual to maintain an inner
security in the face of natural contingency
social, structural explanations
sets precedents for appropriate behavior
sanctions conduct
a form of social control
justifies perpetuates a social order
maintains social solidarity
educates believers in social knowledge
provides a sense of control and a source of
– alleviation of grief
  i.e. witchcraft accusations
accusations provide a socially proscribed
way to deal with these problems
allows for public hearing
entire complex of social relationships
effects for the community of witchcraft
– evil outsider  community solidarity
– evil insider  necessary societal realignment
     religion and worldview
sacred symbols function to synthesize a
people's ethos
– the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral
  nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group,
– a basic congruence between a particular style
  of life and a specific metaphysic/cosmology
encompassing pictures of reality based on
a set of shared assumptions about how
the world works
       Religion and society
belief & ritual reinforce social ties between
religion (ritual & spirituality) represents one
form of collective consciousness
Durkheim: shared representations that
form the basis for religion
   Religion and social structure
Geertz: "the way in which the social structure of
a group is strengthened & perpetuated through
the ritualistic or mythic symbolization of the
underlying social values upon which it rests."
Ritual (Practice) and Belief: Geertz
 belief & practice - "a
 group's ethos is
 rendered intellectually
 reasonable by being
 shown to represent a
 way of life ...
 rendered emotionally
 convincing by being
 presented as an
 image of the actual
 state of affairs...”
ritual is a vital element in the processes
that make and remake social facts and
collective identities everywhere (Comaroff
& Comaroff)

the symbolic behavior through which
religion comes alive
ritual is repetitive, sequential,
non-ordinary, and “powerful”
repetitive: innovation not tolerated

sequential: amen is at the end

non-ordinary: marked in time or space

“powerful”: power to change the world
– by intervention of supernatural entities
– transformation of the participant
        Functions of ritual
Reinforce social bonds
Relieve social tension
Deal with life crises
Celebrate life cycle events
ritual is also a way a society remembers
– through habit
– through bodily practices
Types of ritual
          Rites of Passage
Van Gennep and Victor Turner

rites include three stages
– Separation
– marginality or liminality
    Communitas and anti-structure
– incorporation or re-aggregation
       Other Types of Ritual
Rites of intensification
– cyclical rituals that reinforce the solidarity of the group
ritual inversion
Divination rituals
– predict future & gain hidden info
Technological rituals
– designed to control nature for the purpose of human
Protective rites
– aimed at coping with uncertainty of nature, seas, floods,
  crop diseases
               More Types
therapy & anti-therapy rituals
– designed to control human health; curative, witchcraft,
ideological rituals
– intended to control the behavior, mood, sentiments &
  values of groups for the sake of community as a
salvation rituals
– aimed at repairing self esteem & other forms of
  impaired identity
  Violence as ritual practice?
Violence, its forms and controls, is fundamental to
human social existence and is central to theories
regarding the nature of society.
Violence as cultural expression and/or performance
– Scripted
From anthropology of identity (pol. org.) to
experience, emotive forces, bodily practices
A discursive practice with rituals and symbols
Violence as cultural practice
– Not just instrumental
A way of affirming and subverting “culture”
    Modernization and Religion
the Secularization Thesis
– Increased social differentiation, pluralism,
  societalization, and rationalization
– diminished social significance of religion
– Religion relegated to an increasingly smaller part of
  people's private lives
significant “resurgence” of many religions
the emergence of strong religious challenges to
the authority of nation-states (often in the guise
of “fundamentalism”)
the appearance of a few new theocratic states
 Modernization and Religion
not secularization, but pluralization
people, more and more, have some kind
of experience with religions – in the plural.
Religion no longer just something one
receives as a matter of course
– Options
– Becoming secular in some shape or form is
  one of these options -- not the only option.
  Religion and Politics/Rule
political importance – i.e. "liberation
theology," "fundamentalism," "solidarity,"
and "moral majority"
different relations between religion and
politics, on the one hand, and religion and
the state, on the other.
– "cultural power"