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BSOC-106: Sociology of Religion

BSOC-106: Sociology of Religion

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2022-23

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Assignment Code: BSOC-106/TMA/2022-23

Course Code: BSOC-106

Assignment Name: Sociology of Religion

Year: 2022-2023

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 intellectualist theories of religion.

Ans) Ideas about the origin and development of religion were initially based on the reports of missionaries and adventures about the nature of religion among the primitives. For example, Depresses advanced a theory that religion had its origin in fetishism: The Portuguese sailors had 30 reported that the coastal Negro tribes of West Africa worshipped inanimate things and animals. Comte took up this theory and wrote that in due courses Fetishism was replaced by Polytheism. This theory was superseded by the ghost theory and the soul theory. These latter theories are known as intellectualist theories of religion because both assume that the primitives are rational being, although their efforts to explain natural phenomena are somewhat crude.


This belonged to the nature-myth school which had to be challenged before the ghost and soul theories could be popular.’ In terms of the chronology of ideas on religion, the nature-myth school came before the above-mentioned theories.


The Nature-Myth School

Nature-Myth school was a German School, dealing with Indo-European Religions. According to it, ancient Gods were universally personifications of natural phenomena. Max Muller, a German linguist, propounded this theory. In his opinion grand natural objects gave people a feeling of the infinite as well as acted as symbols of the infinite. The people thought of celestial bodies, such as, moon, start, dawn and their attributes in terms of metaphor and symbol.

With the passage of time, the symbolic representations came to have an independent identity and became separated from that which they represented. The attributes or the symbols became personified as deities.


The human beings and nature stand in a relationship of awe, wonder and terror etc. Early human beings were unable to understand or explain the world of nature. They ended up worshipping it out of fear and awe. According to Muller, the Religion of early man can be studied by looking into linguistic Etymological meaning of the name of Gods and legends associated with them.

The Ghost Theory


Unlike Max Muller, Herbert Spencer and Edward Tylor focused their attention on Religious behaviour of the primitives. In their opinion, primitive societies offered an evidence of the earliest forms of Religion. Spencer published his views in 1882, eleven years after Tylor had published his book Primitive Culture in 1871.


In his book, The Principles of Sociology, Spencer discuss primitive beliefs. He shows that the primitives were rational though with a limited quantum of knowledge. They made reasonable, though weak, inferences with regard to natural phenomena. They observed sun, moon, clouds and stars come and go, and got the notion of visible and invisible conditions. Likewise, they get the idea of a person’s duality from dreams. The dreams are real life-experiences by the primitives. The dream-self moves about at night while the shadow-self acts by the day. Sleep is temporary loss of sensibilities. The death is a longer period of insensibility. This idea of duality is extended by them to animals, plants and material object.


The Soul Theory or Animism

The word anima, a Latin word means Soul. Sir Edward Tylor’s theory of Animism considers both the origin and “development of Religion.” The Ghost theory explains the origin of Religion in the idea of Ghosts. The Animism or the Soul theory says the same thing in terms of the idea of Soul. According to Tylor, experiences of death, disease, visions and dreams lead the primitives to think about the existence of immaterial power, i.e., the Soul. Thereafter, this idea of Soul is projected on to creatures other than human and even to inanimate objects. The Soul exists independent of its physical home in the body.


2. Evaluate Max Weber’s studies on religion and economy.

Ans) By the term “religion” we mean a set of ideas and beliefs about the “supernatural” and its impact on the lives of human beings. Human beings have always been confronted with certain problems and crises which seem to defy logical explanation. Religious beliefs give meaning to life. They provide certain guidelines of behaviour, certain codes of conduct with individuals are expected to follow. Religion being a pervasive and universal institution is deeply rooted in human

beings. It is not just a strict institution but also exerts a tremendous influence upon

all other institutions.


In order that society may survive, certain basic physical needs have to be met. Food, clothing and shelter are essential for life. The economy or economic system refers to those arrangements made by society for the production, consumption and distribution of goods and services.

What Weber was concerned within the sociology of religion was not religion on everyday life, on political, administrative, economic and moral behaviour in different historical situations that he tried to understand and reduces to order. His study depicts that religion which is based on cultural needs of man has now added new dimensions to human life and human development.


Weber suggested that the protestant institution and its ethics have played an important role in the development of their economy. This idea has been depicted I his book “Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism.”


His study promulgates that how far a particular sect of religion can influence the economic behaviour of its followers. Weber’s major concern was to emphasize to the extent to which the religious conception of the world of existence have influenced the economic behaviour of various societies and specially the western society. Weber says that the Calvinist sect of protestant Christian religion has strongest influences on the development of Capitalism.


The theory also captures several significant socio-economic influences which distinguish western from the eastern characteristics.


He was less concerned with the ethical doctrines as expounded by theologicians than with these doctrines in their popular form as they guide group behaviour. Superficially, religion and society seem poles apart. Religion concerns itself with the “beyond,” whereas economy deals with the practical business of working, producing and consuming.


Are these two seemingly diverse systems related? Weber thought so. According to him, it was the ideas, beliefs, values and world views of human societies that guided the way their members acted, even in the economic sphere. Religion prescribes certain guidelines of behaviour. It is in accordance with these guidelines the followers direct or orient their activities. These guidelines are incorporated in the body of religious ethics of each religious system.


Weber tries to establish relation between religious ethics on the one hand and the economic behaviour on the other. He tries to validate his ideas on this issue with the help of comparative studies of various world religions. He studies Confucianism in ancient China, Hinduism in ancient India and Judaism in ancient Palestine.


Neither of three religions have the conducive ethics for flourishing capitalism. Judaism could have achieved the development, but for historically the population had to scatter throughout the world. Weber has negative view for the scope of development of rational capitalism in India as he finds the religious ethos upheld a caste-based society. Ancient India was economically advanced and made valuable contribution towards development of science. Trade links were established in various parts of the world, but Hinduism did not provide a suitable ethic for the development of capitalism. The dictums of “dharma,” “karma” and “punarjanma” are major hindrances in the direction towards capitalist economy.


Assignment II


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


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

Ans) The relationship between politics and religion is influenced by a number of factors:


A society is typically "pluralist" in the sense that there are numerous types and degrees of divides, including those based on religion, the economy, race, ethnicity, and tribalism. But in some communities compared to others, these divisions are more obvious. Societies are classified as "homogeneous" and "heterogeneous" based on these divisions.


The degree to which religious groups align with other societal divisions, such as those related to class, ethnicity, immigration, and so forth, is the second crucial factor in the relationship between religion and politics. Such correlations or associations among different divisions have been suggested by empirical studies. Numerous investigations carried out around the United States revealed a concentration of particular religious groupings among the poorer classes.


The third key component is the nature of religion and its attitude toward politics. R.R. Alford discovered disparities between Anglo-American countries and continental European countries in terms of the "religious appeals" of political parties in his book Party and Society. The fact that Anglo-American English-speaking nations are "predominantly Catholic" whereas continental European nations are "predominantly Protestant" is one of the several aspects that R.R. Alford considered significant.


The historical process, which operates on two levels, is the fourth factor, which is both significant and difficult. The development of religion through many stages has taken numerous courses, giving them a unique character. The real position of religion in society has been shaped by the historical process of the interaction between it and other social groups and activities, particularly the political authority.


4. Discuss Malinowski’s perspective on ritual.

Ans) Malinowski was one of the founding fathers of anthropology, who lived as a participant-observer on the Trobriand Islands, in the South Pacific near New Guinea for four years between 1914 and 1918. He  developed his theory of religion based on his observations of the role of religion in this one small-scale society.


Malinowski argued that the main function of religion was to help individuals and society deal with the emotional stresses which occur during life crises such as birth, puberty, marriage and death.


Death, for example, is socially disruptive, because it not only removes an individual member from the fabric of society, which potentially creates tension, it is also stressful for those with close emotional ties to the deceased, who may not be able to function efficiently for a period of time. R religion deals with the problem of death through both belief and ritual: a belief in the afterlife common in many cultures denies the fact of death and comforts the bereaved, while the funeral ceremony offers a chance for other members of society to comfort the bereaved with their physical presence and it may also act as a form of catharsis.


Malinowski theorised that when people are in control of the situation or at least feel they are and can rely on their knowledge and skill to provide predictable results, there is no need for religion.


However, when there is uncertainly and unpredictability and danger, people engage in religious rituals to try to ensure a particular outcome: these were social events which served to reduce anxiety by providing confidence and a feeling of control over the situation. Unlike Durkheim, Malinowski did not see religion as reflecting society as a whole, nor did he see religious rituals as involving the ‘worshipping of society’ – he argued that religion had a more specific function: that of reinforcing solidarity during times of emotional stress that threaten to undermine the stability of society.


5. Explain the types of pilgrimage described by Turner.

Ans) Archaic Pilgrimage: Ancient pilgrimage customs have persisted since those times, yet little to nothing is known about their genesis. Archaic pilgrimages are ones that clearly display syncretistic elements with earlier religious doctrines and symbols. Glastonbury, Chalma in Mexico, Croagh Patrick in Ireland, and Pandharpur in India are mentioned by Turner & Turner. As a result of "the ambiguous deity Vithova Bhave may likely have Dravidian, pre-Indo European ties," Pandharpur falls under this heading.


Prototypical Pilgrimages: Prototypical pilgrimages are those started by the creator of a religion by his or her early followers or significant preachers of his faith. Rome and Jerusalem, Mount Kailas and Banaras, and Bodh Gaya and Saranath are a few examples.


High-period Pilgrimage: When a pilgrimage tradition was at its height, an elaborate shrine filled with symbols was built. The loss of pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages due to the rise of Muslim hegemony in the Mediterranean was made up for by the construction of shrines across Europe. Important examples are Chartres, Canterbury, Walsingham, Compostela, Loreto, Assissi, Czestochowa, etc. Routine and decay eventually took hold in many European centres, and significance was lost in the maze of symbolic rituals and items. As a result, many of them, including Walsingham, became targets of iconoclasts and were persecuted during the Reformation and Puritanism eras.


Modern Pilgrimages: In the past two centuries, a brand-new kind of pilgrimage has emerged all across the world, one that is distinguished by "a profoundly devotional tone and the ardent personal piety of their believers." This contemporary pilgrimage is "heavily influenced by scientific and mass technological culture." Traveling pilgrims use cars and planes. Newspapers and booklets are published by pilgrimage centres. Modern pilgrimages are primarily concentrated in large, thriving metropolitan industrial cities. The message is "still traditional, at odds with today's values," nonetheless. Both apparitional and saint-centred pilgrimage are extremely popular throughout Europe and other contemporary regions, such as Japan or Israel.

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 view on priest.

Ans) According to Weber, a priest is a functionary who carries out routine, ongoing, and planned tasks that have to do with the divine. He typically accomplishes this through worship, either on behalf of a specific person or society at large. The priest holds a hereditary position and is a member of a social organisation. He should be somewhat knowledgeable about texts and doctrines. Weber asserts that the priest would have gained high social and religious rank as a result of his hard education and his birth into a particular social group.


A set of moral principles serves as the foundation for the priesthood. They are affiliated with a site of worship, a social group, or a following of followers and devote their lives to the duty of interacting with the gods. They are also linked to the emergence of a "doctrine," which entails the formation of a logical framework for religious ideas and ethics.


7. What is Sufism?

Ans) Sufism may be best described as Islamic mysticism or asceticism, which through belief and practice helps Muslims attain nearness to Allah by way of direct personal experience of God. While there are other suggested origins of the term Sufi, the word is largely believed to stem from the Arabic word suf, which refers to the wool that was traditionally worn by mystics and ascetics.


Belief in pursuing a path that leads to closeness with God, ultimately through encountering the divine in the hereafter, is a fundamental component of Islamic belief. However, in Sufi thought this proximity can be realised in this life. Far from being a minority articulation, Sufi orders and Sufi-inspired organisations can be found throughout the Muslim world and beyond, from Marrakech to Manila, London to Lagos, and everywhere in-between.


8. What is the difference between belief and ritual?

Ans) In Religion a distinction is made between belief and Ritual. A belief is a mode of forming ideas while Ritual is mode of action Ritual, may be defined as a repeated act or a set of acts, usually ceremonial in nature, by means of which a community makes external its faith. Ritual is a kind of patterned activity that is oriented towards the control of human affairs.


Religious beliefs are made overt in Rituals. An example of Ritual is the funeral Ritual. A Ritual provides an occasion for group assembly and reaffirms social value. Wallace 1966 holds that the primary component of Religion is the use of Ritual to mobilize supernatural power.


9. What is the social significance of religious festivals?

Ans) A religious festival is a time of special importance marked by adherents to that religion. Religious festivals are commonly celebrated on recurring cycles in a calendar year. A large number of festivals being celebrated in India have a religious outlook. These festivals are being celebrated in commemoration of some saints, gurus and prophets, the gods and goddesses or events celebrating their victories. Religious ceremonies, enthusiasm paralleled with ample fun and celebration marks the Indian festivals. Festivals of India play a major role in spreading unity in diversity, with emphasis on communal harmony. Some famous religious festivals mark the advent of the seasons and some mark the celebration of cultural events. Famous festivals in India are joyously celebrated all over the country.


10. What are the three phases of rites of passage outlined by Van Gennep?

Ans) In the first phase, people withdraw from their current status and prepare to move from one place or status to another. "The first phase comprises symbolic behaviour signifying the detachment of the individual or group ... from an earlier fixed point in the social structure." There is often a detachment or "cutting away" from the former self in this phase, which is signified in symbolic actions and rituals.


The transition phase is the period between stages, during which one has left one place or state but has not yet entered or joined the next. "The attributes of liminality or of liminal personae are necessarily ambiguous."


In the third phase the passage is consummated the ritual subject. "Having completed the rite and assumed their "new" identity, one re-enters society with one's new status. Re-incorporation is characterized by elaborate rituals and ceremonies, like debutant balls and college graduation, and by outward symbols of new ties: thus "in rites of incorporation there is widespread use of the 'sacred bond', the 'sacred cord', the knot, and of analogous forms such as the belt, the ring, the bracelet and the crown."

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