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BSOC-106: Sociology of Religion

BSOC-106: Sociology of Religion

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2021-22

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Assignment Code: BSOC-106/ASST/BSOC 106/ 2021-22

Course Code: BSOC-106

Assignment Name: Sociology Of Religion

Year: 2021-2022

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

Assignment I


Answer the following Descriptive Category Questions in about 500 words each. Each question carries 20 marks. 2 × 20 = 40


1. Discuss the factors influencing the relationship between religion and politics.

Ans) The factors influencing the relationship between religion and politics are:


A society is normally 'pluralist' in the sense that there are various kinds and levels of divisions-religious, economic, ethnic, tribal, and so on. But these divisions are more pronounced in certain societies than in others. It is in terms of these divisions that societies are described as ‘homogeneous’ and ‘heterogeneous. Divisions are sharper in a heterogeneous society. Religion, one of the primacy basis of individuals identity and group formation and 7 divisions accordingly. In homogeneous societies, the impact of religion on politics is less pronounced, while in heterogenous societies such impact in more perceptible. As R.R. Alford suggests the connection between religion and politics arises as a problem only in nations which are not religiously homogeneous.

Religious Groups and Other Divisions in Society

The second important factor in this relationship between religion and politics is the extent to which the religious groups coincide with other divisions in society, e.g., class, ethnicity, immigrants, and so on. Empirical studies have suggested such relationships/associations among various divisions. Ethnicity and migration relate to religion and class in a complex way The authors of the well-known account of the American culture, Beyond the Melting Pot found that 'A close examination of Catholic-Jewish relations will reveal some of the tendency of ethnic relations, in that they have a form of class relations as well'. Examples from the U.S. have been mentioned to illustrate the existence of the division coinciding with one another, even in a society that represented.

The Melting Pot, where race, religion nationality, class and all such cleavages are expected to the melted into a new race of men. The authors of this influential book had no hesitation in declaring that the next state of evolution of immigrant groups will involve a Catholic group in which distinctions between Irish, Italian, Polish, and German Catholic are steadily reduced. Among the Jewish group, in which _ the line between East European, German, and Near Eastern Jews would slowly become weak. The white Protestant groups, the Anglo-Saxon, Dutch, old-German and Scandinavian Protestants, as well as the white Protestant immigrants welcome together. The groups that have been mentioned above include grouping based on religious, racial, economic and immigrant consideration which coincide with one another.

Nature of Religion(s)

The third factor that is important is the nature of religion(s) and its attitude towards politics. R.R. Alford in his book Party and Society found a difference between the Anglo-American countries and the continental Eur-pean countries, about 'religious appeals' of political parties. Among different factors that R.R. Alford found important is the difference that the continental European countries are "predominantly, Protestant", while the Anglo-American English-speaking countries and "predominantly Catholic". Because of the history of the emergence of Protestantism, there is more emphasis upon Church and State. Max Weber's classic the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism relates the nature of religion with ‘secular’ forces of industrialisation. There are certain religions that believe in the 'subordination' of all social processes to religion-and find it difficult to separate ‘politics’ form ‘religion’.

Historical Process

The fourth factor, that is both important and complex; is the historical process, operating at two levels: The emergence of religion through various stages has followed different paths, providing a distinct character to them. The historical process of the relationship between religion and other social groups and processes, especially the political authority, has influenced the actual place of religion in society. These two historical forces are inextricably linked with one another, and the interaction is complex. The examples of the Anglo-American and the continental countries that has been mentioned earlier in the context of relationship between religion and politics, makes the-contrast interesting.

2. Discuss the social significance of myths and rituals

Ans) Myth and ritual are two central components of religious practice. Although myth and ritual are commonly united as parts of religion, the exact relationship between them has been a matter of controversy among scholars. One of the approaches to this problem is "the myth and ritual, or myth-ritualist, theory," held notably by the so-called Cambridge Ritualists, which holds that "myth does not stand by itself but is tied to ritual." This theory is still disputed; many scholars now believe that myth and ritual share common paradigms, but not that one developed from the other. Myth may be understood as a narrative held in common by a group of people. Among the tribes religious myth, belief, religious value, and religious action are not treated as something apart from other kinds of belief and behaviour, as followed in social, economic, and political contexts. Yet, the meaning of beliefs and behaviour of the tribals appears mysterious to the outsiders. This is precisely because theirs is a religion without explanation. However, tribal religion is no less complete than the highly developed form of complex religion to the extent that its implicit philosophy recognises the same universal truth.

Saraswathi’s exploration and analysis of the tribal myths of North-East India has led him to say that in the archaic vision, human, cosmos and the supernatural are not separate realities but are related and closely communicable to the extent that the Land of the Dead is the archetype of the Land of the Living. In support of his argument, he quotes the Apa Tani’s eschatological beliefs, as recorded by Furer-Haimendorf: “The Apa Tani believe that the souls, Yalo, of all those who die a natural death go to Neli, the place of the dead, which looks like an Apa Tani village with long rows of houses. As an Apa Tani lived on this earth so will he live in Neli; a rich man will find the cattle he has sacrificed during his lifetime. Every woman returns to her first husband, but those who died unmarried may there marry and beget children. Life in Neli is similar to life on earth: people cultivate and work, and ultimately, they die once more and go to another ‘Land of the Dead’.

In the ethnographic description of diverse cultures given by scholars like Edward Tylor, James Frazer, Bronislaw Malinowski, Emile Durkheim and many others, the term ritual is used to denote two separate sets of activities.

  1. The first is strictly in the sphere of religious practice and refers to a wide range of religious activities viz. prayer, ceremonial worship, chanting, a range of gestures and movements, activities with sacred object, etc. all done with the specific intention of spiritual communication with a Supreme Being. Thus, the various religious activities and practices engaged in by the Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, etc. in their respective temples, mosques, churches and gurdwaras, etc. may be referred to as rituals. Besides, in their respective homes, practitioners of a faith also conduct 'religious activities that are referred to as rituals.

  2. A second set of human activities that are identified as rituals are those associated with individual life cycle as they move from one social setting to the next. In all societies, from birth to death an individual passes through several stages demarcating a transition from one stage of life to the next. Such transitions are often marked by activity which is ritualistic in character.

Assignment II


Answer the following Middle Category Questions in about 250 words each. Each question carries 10 marks. 3 × 10 = 30


3. Explain the difference between magic, science, and religion.

Ans) The differences between magic, science and religion are as follows:

The links between science and magic are pretty obvious. Science, basically, is magic that works. A lot of things that look pretty scientific to us were labelled ‘magic’ in the pre-modern period: chemistry, magnetism, even hydraulics – to say nothing of medicine. The only real difference is that modern science has a rigorous experimental basis. Arthur C. Clarke famously said that sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic. But to the novice, all science is indistinguishable from magic. You try showing a magnet to an astonished four-year-old and asking them how you did it. Of course, science and magic are supposed to be enemies nowadays. Scientists despise magic, but still read their children fairy tales. Modern pagans dislike ‘scientism’ but they love information technology.

Religion and magic have the same sort of ambiguous relationship. They’re obviously connected: both trying to bring humanity in touch with supernatural powers. And they hate each other: the Abrahamic religions, at least, have always seen magic as heretical if not diabolical, and the view the other way isn’t much more complimentary. But the line between the two is pretty fuzzy. The theory is that magic is about trying to manipulate supernatural powers (with the magician in charge of the process) while religion is about submitting to or petitioning those powers (with God in charge). In practice, that breaks down, as magicians seek transcendent experiences and priests promulgate infallible books or sacraments.

In Christianity, though, this kind of talk has a confessional edge to it. Protestants have always argued that their form of Christianity is less tainted by magic, while Catholicism is riddled with superstition, obscurantism, and priestcraft. Writing this book convinced me that this is nonsense. Yes, Catholicism is more ritualistic. But early Protestantism was up to its neck in magic too. How could it not be? The best minds of the sixteenth century all took magic immensely seriously. It’s true that Protestants were uneasy about the way astrology (say) was being used, but they found it easier to mock it than to prove it wrong. And when they do mock it, they sound crude, like flat-earthers denying the moon landings, or creationists using what Richard Dawkins calls ‘the argument from personal incredulity’ to deny evolution.


4. How do religious beliefs affect economic behaviour?

Ans) One of the most enduring debates in social science concerns the role of religion in society. This is reflected by concerns about how post-Cold War international relations might be marked by a ‘clash of civilizations’, early 20th century concerns about the compatibility of Catholicism and liberal democracy, and contemporary concerns about the compatibility of Islam and western culture, which have almost certainly played a role in the rise of right-wing populist parties in many western countries. For economists, however, it is the relationship between religion and economic performance that is of prime concern, and arguments have been made both for and against different religions and their negative or positive contribution to comparative economic development.

As a direct consequence of the austere life they promoted, Cistercian monasteries became rich and successful. Thus, a tribute to their contribution to the landscape was made by the famous poet William Wordsworth: “Whether they rise, the sylvan waste retires, And aery harvests crown the fertile lea”. The Cistercians made important advances in breeding and agriculture, perhaps most important by consolidating their land in ‘granges’ rather than the typical unenclosed village holdings of the time. Moreover, monasteries also made significant use of water power for a range of industrial activities. Importantly for our work, their teachings and practices spread beyond the walls of the monastery both to so-called lay brothers, illiterate peasants who followed a less demanding form of Cistercian life and worked the land, and to other secular labourers they employed, as well as to settled communities that formed around the monasteries.


5. Discuss Turner’s classification of pilgrimages.

Ans) Most people understand pilgrimage as a journey to a holy place or shrine, either in the pilgrim's native land or abroad, the object of pilgrimage is to obtain some benefit-material, symbolic, moral, or spiritual - which the sanctity of the-chosen spot is believed to confer. A pilgrimage may' be undertaken because such a journey 'is considered meritorious. The idea of the acquisition of divine favour either directly or through a saint, is generally associated with such a journey. The benefits expected out of the labour or travail involved in the journey or expedition to the destination of pilgrimage, i.e., holy place, may range from the satisfaction of mundane interests to the ‘highest spiritual attainment. But the journey has a root in the religious beliefs of the person(s) undertaking it the journey to the sacred spot is always associated with some religious motive or motives which are, in one way, or another, religious ideas and beliefs.

From the above definitions two significant features which do recur in pilgrimages are:

  1. sacred places and

  2. the act of travelling or journeying itself

"Pilgrimages are sacred journeys extraordinary". True, pilgrimage as practised in India and elsewhere is guided by the highly diversified motives of the pilgrims. Pilgrimages are not mindless movements or migrations either. They are voluntary and individual, unlike the mindless collective migrations familiar in ancient and medieval times. Each is a personal act, following a personal decision, and resulting in a wide range of significant personal experience. Pilgrimage is thus a journey in quest of some ultimate value or some spiritual experience.



Assignment III


Answer the following Short Category Questions in about 100 words each. Each question carries 6 marks. 5 × 6 = 30


6. Explain Weber’s viewpoint on prophets?

Ans) The major difference between the priest and prophet is that the prophet regards his mission as a "personal call" and derives his authority from personal revelation and charisma or an exceptional quality. The core of the prophet's mission is to carry forward the commandment or doctrine he has received as revelation. Often the prophet may use magic to establish his authority. The prophet is -usually successful and respected till his ability to convince and prove his uniqueness of purpose is intact. Prophets also engage in healing and counselling. Weber points out that the prophet usually does not belong to an organisation and neither does he receive economic rewards for his ideas. He is not a professional and has a following of disciples or a laity because they believe in his or have faith in him. The prophet makes prophecies which often become the guiding principles of a religious sect or cult or even an entire religious movement. The prophet besides making prophecies, is a teacher of religious and philosophical wisdom.


7. Point out the similarities between the Bhakti and Sufi traditions.

Ans) The similarities between Bhakti and Sufi traditions are:

  1. The Bhakti and Sufi movements showed the people that the existence of God could be experienced under the guidance of a guru. Priests or lamas are not required to feel the presence of God. Thus, many people began to question the authority and domination of their religion by religious authorities.

  2. The Bhakti and the Sufi saints criticised the existence of rituals in the Indian society. Both Sufi and Bhakti movements emphasised on the feeling of universal brotherhood and  religious tolerance. As a result, an environment of mutual love and respect was created among different sections of society.

  3. The Bhakti and Sufi saints preached their teachings in the local language. This led to the development of the local and vernacular languages.

8. Briefly state the role of the Arya Samaj in emancipation of women.

Ans) Dayanand, the founder of Arya Samaj was among the pioneers of women's rights and equality in modern times. He advocated the equality of sexes. Dayanand encouraged women to study the Vedas - a revolutionary step at that time. They were allowed to recite "Gayatri" mantra while tradition did not permit them this privilege. Dayanand forcefully put forward the argument that women "rishis" account for 200 mantras in the Rig-Veda alone. He also carried on a crusade against child marriage. Dayanand ordained that no girl should be married till she was 16 and boys should marry at 25 or above. Thus, he confronted the so called ‘Shastric’ injunction that, if a girl had her menses in her father’s house, the father and brother would go to hell. This idea was ridiculed by Dayanand. His argument was why anyone should go to hell because of a natural function. Dayanand’s stand was that men or women should marry only once. For a young widow, his prescription’ was for 'Niyoga', rather than widow marriage.


9. What do you understand by Calvinism?

Ans) Calvinism, also called the Reformed tradition or Reformed Protestantism is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians. It emphasises the sovereignty of God and the authority of the Bible. Calvinists broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Calvinists differ from Lutherans (another major branch of the Reformation) on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, theories of worship, the purpose and meaning of baptism, and the use of God's law for believers, among other things. The term Calvinism can be misleading, because the religious tradition which it denotes has always been diverse, with a wide range of influences rather than a single founder; however almost all of them drew heavily from the writings of Augustine of Hippo twelve hundred years prior.

10. What is animism?

Ans) As the word anima (a Latin word meaning soul) shows, Sir Edward Tylor's theory of animism emphasis the notion of soul. This theory considers both the origin and 'development of religion. We can say that the ghost theory explains the origin of religion in the idea of ghosts while the soul theory says the same thing in terms of the idea of soul. Experiences of death, disease, visions, and dreams, according to Tylor, lead the primitives to think about the existence of immaterial power, i.e., the soul. This idea of soul is then projected on to creatures other than human and even to inanimate objects. The soul exists independent of its physical home the body, and therefore arises the idea of belief in spiritual beings. This is exactly what is contained in Tylor's minimum definition of religion: that religion originated from a belief in spiritual beings.

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