Religion: Crash Course Sociology #39

Religion might not seem like something a sociologist
can study. After all, religion is about personal beliefs,
right? So, sociology won’t give you any answers
about the existence of God, or how many angels
can dance on the head of a pin. But sociology can help you think about
religion as a social institution. In the same way that we might study the family
or the government, we can ask questions about
religion’s role in society. Like, how do different religions influence
social norms in a society? What’s the function of religion in a society? Does it improve social cohesiveness or
entrench inequalities? Before we try to answer those big questions,
let’s start with a simpler one: What is religion? [Theme Music] To understand how sociologists think about
religion, we need to go back to the work of our old
friend, French sociologist Emile Durkheim. Durkheim defined religion not in terms of
gods or supernatural phenomena, but in terms
of the sacred – things that are set apart from society as
extraordinary, inspiring awe, and deserving
of reverence. He claimed that in all societies, there’s a
difference between the sacred and the profane,
or the mundane, everyday parts of life. Religion, then, is a social institution that
involves a unified system of beliefs and
practices that recognizes the sacred. But this isn’t a set-up between good and evil. Sacred doesn’t mean good and profane doesn’t
mean bad. Instead, recognizing something as sacred is
about seeing a certain place, object, or experience
as special and creating markers that separate
it from your day to day life. It’s natural, then, to think about religion
from the perspective of Symbolic-Interactionism, which thinks about society in terms of the
symbols that humans construct. And all religions rely on the use of symbols
to create the Sacred. Rituals, for example, are a form of symbolic
practice that highlight faith. Many religions use certain actions during
prayer that symbolize deference to God, such as Catholics making the sign of the cross before
prayer, or Muslims supplicating themselves and facing
Mecca, the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed. Many religions also practice ritual ablution,
or washing certain parts of the body during
a religious ceremony. For example, in the religious practice of
baptism, water is a symbol of people’s belief
that faith cleanses the soul. Objects can also take on Sacred meaning. Symbols like the Cross or the Star of David
are considered totems, objects that we have
collectively defined as Sacred. Types of dress or grooming practices, such
as men’s beards in Islam or Orthodox Judaism, also become sacred indicators of faith because
they’re visible symbols of religious belief. In this way, Totems confer in-group membership
to those who wear or use these symbols, because they provide a way for people to demonstrate
their faith and recognize that faith in others. But the role of religion in society goes beyond
influencing our symbolic practices. In addition to defining the Sacred and the profane,
Emile Durkheim also looked at religion through the
lens of structural functionalism. And he identified three major functions of
religion that contribute to the operation of society. First, religion helps establish social cohesion, by uniting
people around shared symbols, norms, and values. Durkheim argued that religious thought promotes
norms like morality, fairness, charity, and justice. Churches act as gathering places, forming
the backbone of social life for many people. In fact, membership in a church is the most
common community association for Americans. Second, Durkheim said, societies use religion
as a form of social control. People behave well, not only out of fear of their
friends and families disapproving, but also out of
a desire to remain in their god’s good graces. Christianity and Judaism, for example, have the
Ten Commandments, a set of rules for behavior
that they believe were sent directly from God. But these commandments aren’t just rules
about how to worship – many of them match up with societal norms, like
respecting your parents or not committing adultery, or
with secular laws, which prohibit murder and theft. Third, in a functionalist perspective, religion
provides people with a sense of purpose in life. Sometimes it can feel like our lives are such
tiny blips in the grand scheme of the universe, it
can be hard to imagine why your actions matter. Religion gives people a reason to see their
lives as meaningful, by framing them within the
greater purpose of their god’s grand plan. But while Durkheim’s framing demonstrates the
many ways religions promote social unity, religion
can, of course, also be a force of division. Social Conflict Theory perspectives understand religion in terms of how it entrenches existing inequalities. Karl Marx saw religion as an agent of
social stratification, which served those in power by legitimizing
the status quo and framing existing inequality
as part of a divine plan. Rulers in many societies were believed to
be given their right to rule by divine right. Chinese emperors were believed to have a mandate
from heaven, and were given the title Son of Heaven
to indicate their divine authority to rule. In Europe, heads of state were often also the head of
the Church – in fact, to this day, the British monarchs
are the formal heads of the Church of England. And some Christian religions, such as
Calvinism, espouse predestination, or the belief that God pre-ordains everything that
comes to pass, including whether you get into heaven. So, by this logic, having wealth and power
was seen as an indication of God’s favor. So, for these reasons, Marx saw religion as
a huge barrier to revolutionary change, referring
to it as the ‘opiate of the masses.’ After all, it’s hard to convince people to rise up
against the elites if they believe that the elites have
the power of God behind them! In addition to entrenching political
and economic inequalities, Conflict Theory perspectives also explore how
religion contributes to gender and racial inequalities. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble to look at how feminist
theory and race conflict theory help us understand
religion’s effects on these kinds of inequality. If you walk around any major museum in the Western
world, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find some art
depicting religious figures from Judaism or Christianity. And in these paintings, God is pretty much
exclusively an old white man with a beard. And in fact, divine figures and their prophets
in most religions are male. Virtually all of the world’s major religions are patriarchal,
with religious texts often explicitly describing men in the
image of God and women in subordinate roles to men. For example, in Christianity, the first man, Adam, was
created in God’s image whereas the first woman, Eve,
was created from Adam’s rib to serve and obey Adam. Many religions also position women as
immoral beings in need of male constraint. In the Bible, Eve committed the original sin
by tempting Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and
got both of them booted from paradise. Many religions ban women from
positions with the clergy, including Catholicism,
Orthodox Judaism, and Islam. Religion has also been used as a way to
control women’s behaviors, requiring them to dress modestly or not
allowing women to speak in church or be
alone with men outside their family. Religion has also been used to uphold another
type of social inequality: racial inequality. Slavery in the United States, for example,
was framed as morally justifiable based on
various texts from the Bible, most prominently the story of Cain and Abel,
in which God ‘marked’ Cain for murdering his brother, which was interpreted to mean marking
him as sinful with darker skin. But that’s not to say that religion is always
on the side of oppression. Quakers, a sect of Christianity, were leaders
in the abolition movement and in the women’s
suffrage movement of the 19th century. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was led
by many with ties to the Black religious community. Most notably the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization headed up by a
Baptist minister that you might have heard of
named Martin Luther King, Jr. Thanks Thought Bubble! So, we’ve talked a lot so far about religion
in theory – but how does religion work in
a practical sense? Understanding how different religions are organized
and how they integrate with the rest of society helps us understand which of these theories
make sense in different religious contexts. We only have to look at the US to see why
understanding the practical importance of
religion might be of interest to sociologists: In the United States, more than 70% of American
adults claim that religion is important in their lives, which is more than double the rate of adults in
other high income countries like Norway or Japan. National surveys show that about 50% of Americans
identify as Protestants, 20% identify as Catholics, 6% identify with a non-Christian faith, and
23% do not identify with a religion at all. Within the Protestant faith, there are a large number
of denominations, or subgroups of religious practice, including both mainstream denominations, such
as Presbyterians and Lutherans, and Evangelical
churches, such as Methodists and Baptists. Evangelical denominations are characterized
by more active attempts to proselytize, or spread
the faith to others outside the faith. But who identifies as what religion depends a lot
on who you are – in terms of where you live, in terms
of class, and in terms of race and ethnicity. More well-established religious faiths that
are well-integrated into society are what
sociologists call Churches. Most major religions are what we would call a
Church – for example, Christianity, Islam, Judaism,
Hinduism, and Buddhism are all ‘Churches’. Religious sects, meanwhile, are faiths with
belief systems that are less formal and less
integrated into society. And they tend to attract followers who are
more disadvantaged. Some examples include Jehovah’s Witnesses,
Pentecostals, or Unitarians. Not only does class matter when it comes to
your religion – where you live might, too. Catholicism is more common in Northeastern
and Southwestern states, whereas the South has high concentrations of Evangelical Protestants, such as Baptists, and the Midwest has higher concentrations of other
Protestant faiths, such as Methodists and Lutherans. Many of these regional differences stem from
which racial ethnic groups settled in these regions. The Midwest, for example, had high numbers
of German and Scandinavian immigrants settle there,
and these ethnic groups are often Lutherans. Irish and Italian Americans, who were more
likely to be Catholic, settled in New England
and the Mid-Atlantic. Black Americans – who are heavily
concentrated in Southern states – are somewhat more likely to be religious than
the US population as a whole, with 87% claiming
an affiliation with some faith. And the vast majority of Black Americans identify
with a Protestant faith, with evangelical churches
being the most common affiliation. There’s also a growing number of Black
Americans who identify as Muslim, with about 40% of all native-born Muslims in the
US identifying themselves as African American. Overall, however, the importance of religion in
the United States has been on the decline in recent
decades – a process known as secularization. Younger Americans are much more likely now
to report that they do not believe in any religion
compared to past generations. Nonetheless, the influence of religion on
society isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As we learned today – no matter which school
of sociological thought you subscribe to – religion has ties to the very rules and norms that
shape what our society and culture look like. Today, we looked at how symbolic interactionism
helps us understand religion’s dichotomy of
the Sacred vs. the Profane. Then, we compared the perspectives of Structural
Functionalists and Social Conflict Theorists on whether religion improves social cohesiveness
or increases social stratification. And we ended with a discussion of how religious
practice in the US differs across race and class lines. Crash Course Sociology is filmed in the Dr.
Cheryl C. Kinney Studio in Missoula, MT, and it’s
made with the help of all of these nice people. Our animation team is Thought Cafe and Crash
Course is made with Adobe Creative Cloud. If you’d like to keep Crash Course free for everyone,
forever, you can support the series at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows
you to support the content you love. Thank you to all of our patrons for making
Crash Course possible with their continued support.

  1. … I can't wait for the deluge of videos about this directed and politically charged prattle. Your balance is a sham, thinly veiled and too virtuous a lamp.

  2. The content of the video is quite impressive . Having said that, the examples you gave were concentrated to USA and can be hard to connect for people not from US.
    I will be more interested if you cover the world in General.

  3. Hey Nicole I just want to let you know these videos helped me study for my CLEP exam. This video was especially helpful, there were several questions related to religion on my test the answers to which you give in this video. Very lucky for me that you dropped it two days before my test.

  4. Could you do another video on totemic religion as the begining of religion as described by Durkheim. It would be really helpful.

  5. i missed how they used to put a slide of the key contributors to the theory while presenting the theory e.g. a slide of Karl Marx face while the presenter talks about their theories and observations.

  6. Jesus is all any society needs and no that is not religion that and he being the only way to Heaven.
    Is Heaven and hell part of a religion? No! its eternity for every soul. So choose Jesus and youll see Heaven dont and youll see hell.

  7. i had a tough time keeping my attention on all the religious statistics. perhaps some graphics would help keep attention when putting out so many numbers at once.

  8. Tell those fools to PROVE IT, make a time stamp, make an argument, open debate, fact vs. fiction. Burden of proof lies with those making a positive claim or arguing in favor of religion or ID or god(s), not the atheist. Get it right, morons… The idiocracy is UPON US!

  9. In genesis, Adam and Eve are equals and both are created in the image of God. If Eve wasn't, she would've been made in the same stage as when God created the fish and the cattle.

  10. If you focus on the skin colour of abel and kain, you are both seeing things that aren't there in the text, and missing the point of the story

  11. Did any one else think the editing of this video made it look a little choppy? It's like every breath & pause was taken out to fit in more words spoken by Ms. Sweeney. I know this is the typical editorial style, but it was a little overdone here, in my opintion.

  12. You forgot to mention that Eve was FASHIONED from Adam. Adam was made of dirt and ever was FASHIONED from Adam and made MORE beautiful if you interpret it like that.

  13. Could one example be the socioeconomic effects of the caste system in India which has spiritual justification in older vedic beliefs like Hinduism?

  14. Well you didn’t include how sacrifice and blood has always held meaning and sacredness in both modern and archaic cultures all over the world.

  15. Disappointed that when talking about how religions have helped social movements, Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement was not mentioned at all.

  16. You misquoted the Old Testament about Adam and Eve. Eve was created to 'help' Adam because he was alone (Genesis, Chapter 2 Verse 18), not to 'serve' him. Also, if Eve was created from Adam's body, then she too was in the image of God. Chapter 5 Verses 1-2 implies this by saying that Adam and Eve were one unit called 'Man'

  17. I always felt it was ironical that the accepted use of the words denomination and sect in the modern lexicon, generally mirrors existing positive and negative viewpoints about a given religion. Especially when one considers the evocative association which accompanies each designation and its corresponding religion. Generally positive viewpoints seem to earn that religion's subcategories a more benign descriptor, and vice versa. A bit o' bias maybe? Hmmm?

  18. I don't know if you're going to continue or expand on this topic but it would be interesting if you explored a little on 'civil religion' – displays of nationalism and patriotism acting in place of displays of traditional piety. I know of it in theory but a CrashCourse to touch on the finer points and implications would be great.

  19. Hi,
    I really like the way of this analysis and I did learn a lot from this series. I agree with most of the content expect for the inequality of man and woman in the bible. In modern theology and teaching in church, it is said that women makes man(or the creation of mankind) complete in the same way as man (or the creation of mankind) makes God's creation complete.
    Please refer to Genesis and "Systematic theology" by John Frame. Thank you.

  20. This is the problem of the myopic way conflict theory reduces human experiences. It feels almost nauseating and violating how this prism of interpreting texts like Genesis reduces the message to such a crude understanding. For example, the meaning of why Eve was created from Adam’s is to indicate that woman and men are made for each other as the rib was understood as being closest to the “heart”. This in a day when the heart was scene as panting an even more fundamental role than we understand today because blood was seen as the life of a being. Just think of all those little heart symbols we see when folks fall in love (not that, as symbols, they share some aetiology in the bible). Also, original sin wasn’t that of Eve but of Adam (in Christianity) though it was Eve that first picked the apple. The focus is not of a generic structural inequality but of a functional difference between gender roles that ought not be about inequality in dignity.

    Look, conflict theory is so flawed as it essentially bases it self in the error of interpreting reality with a tyrannical school of suspicion which leaves no space for a hermeneutic of trust and faith that seeks to explain the meaning inside our symbols instead of an incessant unjustified conflict. It’s simplistic and ultimately pseudo-anthropology as it it throws the the baby with the bathwater and is unjustifiable.

  21. Please, Crash Course, consult a Christian to explain the stories of the bible. You have to present the Bible on its own terms, not the ones you create. It assumes God is good, so you must present it that way. Otherwise, you will continue to propagate an incorrect view of Christianity that is already rampent in our culture. We are not teaching chauvinism, we are not teaching judgementalness. We are sinners who trust that Jesus will give us life after we die. Please, just talk to a Christian first.

  22. Marx sees religion as a mean of control and it is mostly true since most functions in the society serve for self-interest. However, human still needs a God, a sense of meaning and purpose that help humanity fights against nihilism and fear. This is the reason religion exists in the first place.

  23. I can see the bias around minuet 11. The narrator makes the claim "Religion also positions women as immoral beings in need of male constraint. In the Bible, Eve committed the original sin by tempting Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and got both of them booted from paradise."
    This is so wrong. 1st. it is the book of Genesis that illuminates the matter. Genesis is in the Torah as well as the Bible. Why does the religious bigot only mention the Bible. Next, eating the fruit was not the original sin. Disobeying GOD was the sin. Next, Adam could have said no when offered the fruit. Adam chose to disobey GOD. It is very easy to see the closed-mindedness, intolerance and bigotry from the video makers.
    Then there is the fact that Adam nor GOD said Eve was immoral. I have never read anywhere in scripture that Eve was called immoral. People may abuse Scripture to their own uses, but that is not the fault of religion.
    The only religion that has not helped humanity is the religion of hate, atheism.

  24. I am currently taking a sociology class, but i am also taking a religious studies class. 
    Its truly fascinating how much overlap there is between the two subjects.

  25. So the conclusion is that God is the answer for the questions which logic and science can't explain and religion is a set of rules and regulations made by some smart human to control human action and spread their view point.

  26. I love your videos, though every now and then I disagree with something said. However, those are always minor things, and I don't fault you for them. What you said about Eve in this video though… It's wrong. Eve wasn't made to serve and obey Adam–otherwise she would have been made from his foot. Instead, she is made from his rib–his side–because she is equal to him, and they are meant to serve and love one another.

  27. What about esoteric and new age sects? A lot of their followers seem to be well-educated and sometimes even wealthy.
    And what about Tom Cruise….

  28. Star of David is NOT a totum.
    Jews do not consider it sacred. It is much more a national symbol. In fact, King David himself is, in Judaism, an icon of the necissary profain required for the protection of the holy within – thus in hebrew it is called the SHIELD of David. If the myth of King David can be summed up as briefly as possible it would be like this: "King David was a brave protector and conquror who layed the groundwork and parameters within which the holy nation could conduct it's sacred duties. However, as a sinful warrior with blood on his hands, he could not be the one to conduct the holy work, and so the temple was built by a peacetime king – his son solomon". Thus the star of David is a sign of national protection, not religious sanctity (albiet within the context of a nation that ascribes its very nationhood attributes of sanctity). As you might see, although religion and nation are always intertwined in Judaism there is a distinction, and the star of David itself is, if anything, the symbol of the national, not the religious. When a building dons a star of David on it's exterior, the star itself is not a symbol for "behold the holy", but a sign saying "in this place the people of Israel can safely congragate" and that may or may not include prayer. On the arc itself, where the holy scrolls are kept, very rarely will a star of David be seen, but more often an actual totem and symbol of sanctity – the Menorah.
    This is, in fact, the reason it is acceptable in the minds of most Jews, for the secular state of Israel to don the star (shield) on it's flag, without the pretense of being a holy entity.

  29. "…To serve and obey Adam?" Your show is great and seems to be mostly non-bias however, this is an ignorant statement. Might I suggest that your show research this further to get an accurate definition of the creation of man and the original marriage relationship.

  30. I'm surprised to see Unitarians mentioned as a sect followed by a statement saying that they usually attract the disadvantaged considering that over half of UUs have incomes over $50k

  31. I love this channel but I have to call bs.
    You repeatedly say most religions blah blah Christianity yada yada, most religions blah blah monotheistic yada yada. Can you even refer to a non monotheistic religion that does any two if the things that most religions do?

  32. I've brought this up before of this channel but, I will do it again mostly good info here! But when you get it wrong you get it really wrong. I want to thank you for the content.

  33. I'm a Christian and theologian (pre-doc now) and this video was pretty interesting (in some cases a bit biased), nonetheless helpful! Thanks a lot! 🙂 But where is Weber? (Or did I miss it?)
    God bless (Yes I do believe in the 'invisible guy' please let's not be childish here <3

  34. Faith is the pinnacle of arrogance, rooted in the cowardice of denying one's ignorance when confronted by mystery. Faith is the deadliness of all vices, a kind of brain death elevated to the status of virtue; and worse even than war, because with faith there can be no reasoning, no negotiating, no compromise, no peace.

    "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe." ~Albert Einstein

  35. Have to tell you that the picture presented at 4:30 when talking about Chinese emperor is more likely from the Indian culture and have no connection with Chinese emperor.

  36. Loved your videos, densely packed with relevant information.
    For those who are heated, she is just sharing some ideas of the anthropologist.

  37. This is such a deep misrepresentation of orthodox, general Christianity and its interpretation of Scripture. Just like in the video on gender, which states that Adam is thought to be made in God's image while Eve is not. Genesis 1-3 clearly state that both male and female are made in God's image. Also, I've been deeply entrenched in multiple denominations of Christianity throughout my entire life and have never heard or known someone to interpret the passage of Cain and Abel as Cain being marked with "blackness" or whatever this video said. Such an extreme misrepresentation of the faith is NOT intellectually honest.

  38. I'm sorry but UNITARIANS are "more disadvantaged"??? Not in MY experience. They tend to be more highly educated, thus upper middle class. Though they would thus tend to be amongst a minority of the general American population.
    That aside, as a college educator in religion, I have to say this is a GREAT overview of Religion & Society and I am adding it to resources for my students.

  39. Come on, Eve was NOT created by God to be Adam's servant. The word used in Hebrew to describe her was actually used in other places in the Bible to describe allies in war and more!

  40. As an Agnostic I love learning about different religions. Thanks for this informative video from an open-minded perspective! 🙂

  41. 5:26 true you can find that the image of God as santa clause but not in Islam. Allah is one there nothing in this whole world like our God Allah.

  42. great stuff! difficult to do a brief overview of such a complex topic, and you nailed it! thank you for these great videos.

  43. The bias against women is significantly stronger in Judeo christian religions. Older pagan religions tend to be less patriarchal even though there were still norms for each sex. For example, there were a number of female pharaohs and priestesses in ancient Egypt. In Norse mythology women were the only socially acceptable practitioners of Seidr magic as well as being respected as volvas, or seers in the religion. The reason the current big 3 religions are patriarchal is because they are grounded in the Judaic and Arabic cultures which are very misogynistic.

  44. drawn divisions, logic isn't singular, No "quartzindeyard", your sense_____common as a Stranger walking in an area quickly for a reason.
    – Remember..ask a relevancy question Markers

  45. Any recommendations on religious topics that have good video quality and hosts? I am partial to those that aren't just someone talking on screen only, which is what I see a lot do. It can be liberal or conservative views. I do like how crash courses video style mixes up the visuals.

  46. Religion is just a fancy word for tribalism.

    Seriously, we are in the 21st Century. How are people still believing in a dude with magic powers?

  47. Religion, once needed, should now be placed on the shelf of fiction. Some religions are worse than others.

  48. Why are societies always changing for the worst…..

    Being a man used to be standing for what's right…. helping those in need….

    Now ….😔😒

    Being a man is all about poking others …..

    The monkey evolution…

  49. I love your sociology videos, since you take on topics from different perspectives and theories, hence producing a more logical argument, instead of following the trend or finding faults in everything. Great educational videos.

  50. In my graduate work, I approach religion as a social technology that acts as a facilitator of moral support to individual families. The family is the fundamental social unit, and religious practice is the number one indicator of the success or failure of the family. Religious practice contributes to more pro social outcomes than any other structure.

    So I don’t focus on whether religion is “true” or whether god exists, I look at it mostly sociologically, which it turns out to be one of the most powerful and effective technologies that humans have invented.

    How can anyone be against socially progressive and prosocial technologies?

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