Goal: For students to gain an understanding of how religion impacts the lives of Caribbean people.
1. Define religion and explain the characteristic of religion. 2. Explain how religion integrates the Caribbean society. 3. Describe how religion acts as a medium of social control. 4. Examine the syncretism of religious forms in the Caribbean. 5. Examine the conflict and functionalist perspectives of religion.
6. Assess the impact of religion on Caribbean society and culture.
A system of beliefs, rituals and ceremonies. Focuses on sacred matters. Promotes community among followers. Provides a personal spiritual experience for its members. The social institution of religion is that realm of society where our beliefs about a supernatural power, an afterlife, and how these impact our lives exist. Specific religions as well as churches, mosques, temples and halls of worship are tangible outcomes or forms of social organisation that reflect the beliefs and values of religion.
CHARACTERISTICS OF RELIGION BELIEFS
Ideas, based upon faith, that people consider true. The sacred and profane
Sacred: that which has supernatural qualities.
Profane: that which is the ordinary. Rituals
Routines that reinforce the faith. Moral communities
People who share a religious belief. Personal experience
Grants meaning to life.
Religion, over the years, dating as far back as to communal societies, has experienced a great transformation. In communal societies, religion permeated all aspects of society because hunters/gatherers depended on their gods for a successful farming year, good weather, luck and fortune. However, in contemporary industrial society, the institution of religion has become separated from many social and economic activities.
Religion has the power to control and integrate people in any given society. Sociologist Emile Durkheim is of the view that religion is an integrative force, being that it: Gives meaning and purpose to people’s lives. Offers ultimate values and ends to hold in common. Serves to bind people together in times of crisis and confusion. Karl Marx, on the other hand, believes that the institution of religion is a medium of social control in any given society, since: People focus on otherworldly concerns. Religion drugs masses into submission by offering a consolation for their harsh lives on Earth. Religion’s promotion of social stability helps to perpetuate patterns of social inequality. Women have played fundamental role in religious socialization, but generally take subordinate role in religious leadership. Most religions are patriarchal and reinforce men’s dominance in secular and spiritual matters. Women compose 12.8 per cent of US clergy, but account for 51 per cent of theology students.
FUNCTIONALIST AND CONFLICT PERSPECTIVES OF RELIGION
Functionalist perspectives on religion Since social order is a cardinal value of the functionalist’s view of society, social institutions are explained in terms of how they can contribute to integration and harmony in society. One may find it strange that religion, which is concerned with supernatural powers and mysticism, should be thought of in this way, but functionalists see a fundamental link between religion and the maintenance of social stability. Commitment to certain beliefs, rituals and forms of worship are mechanisms that increase the levels of social solidarity among people. Religion tends to be conservative in nature, preaching obedience and perseverance through suffering, emphasising an ethic of care for one’s fellow man, as well as virtues such as truth, discipline and temperance. Functionalists, therefore, see religion as playing a major role in social cohesion. Religion provides a basis for social order because they are based on consensual values.
CONFLICT PERSPECTIVES ON RELIGION
Marxists regard religion as serving the needs of those groups dominant in the economy. Religion acts as a conservative force in the society by making legitimate the values that the capitalist machinery needs to continue to accumulate profits. While we understand the world view held on religion, Marxists challenge us to reflect on our orientation to religion and decide to what extent it is preserving the status quo or about personal salvation and empowerment.
THE CARIBBEAN REALITY
The Caribbean has a variety of religions with Christianity being the most dominant.
There are established churches: Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.
There are those churches that are syncretic in nature. These churches are a mix of European and African practices to create new forms of worship. Examples of these are the Shouter Baptists of Trinidad, New Testament Church of God, Revivalists, etc.
Syncretism of religious forms in the Caribbean displays elements of resistance, independence and a deep appreciation of the divine. Syncretic religions, therefore, help to comfort the worshipper and oppose mainstream values, thus seeking to undermine the status quo. However, these religions do not have a majority following yet. Their value systems are not dominant in the social institution of religion. Overall, the functionalist ideas of religion, and how it impacts our lives, tend to dominate. Many forms of syncretic religions in the Caribbean attest to the desire of Caribbean people to not only fashion beliefs and worship so that they can find solace and comfort but, in so doing, to resist traditional institutional values
Religion impacts our lives as a conservative force associated largely with positive values. Moreover, Christian religion is legitimized by the values in the social institution of religion more than any other form of worship. Christian worship, then, has historically been associated with preserving the social life per the norms and customs of European and Caribbean people who have accepted those values. Marxists, on the other hand, choose to disrupt the positive messages associated with religion. They believe religion has “hoodwinked” the masses into believing that they can find peace and comfort through worship. Syncretism of religious forms in the Caribbean displays elements of resistance, independence and a deep appreciation of the divine.