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12: Supernatural Belief Systems
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- 12.1: Introduction to Religion
- This section is not meant to provide an in-depth exploration of religion, but simply to introduce students to the anthropological approach to the study of religion.
- 12.2: Definitions of Religions
- There are various ways to define religion. One, the analytic definition stresses how religion manifests itself within a culture and identifies six dimensions of religion.
- 12.3: The Function of Religion
- 12.4: Aspects of Religion
- Religious systems have stories, or sacred narratives. Stories may be about many things, but there are some common themes: origins of earth and humans, what happens when we die, deeds of important people, and disasters. Anthropologists can study these stories, or myths, to learn more about the people. Myth in anthropology should not be interpreted as a falsehood. In anthropology, a myth is a truism for the people following that belief system.
- 12.5: Patterns of Belief
- Patterns of belief focused on one or more god of extrahuman origin is called a theism. The pattern may be a reflection of social organization, e.g., the more centralized and stratified the society, the fewer gods.
- 12.6: Religious Practitioners
- There are several types of religious practitioners or people who specialize in religious behaviors. These are individuals who specialize in the use of spiritual power to influence others. Examples include shamen, priests, sorcerers, witches and mediums.
- 12.7: Religious Change
- 12.8: Four Categories of Religion
- Anthropologist Anthony F.C. Wallace proposed four categories of religion, each subsequent category subsuming the previous. These are, however, synthetic categories and do not necessarily encompass all religions.
- 12.9: Rite of Passage
- Rite of passage is a celebration of the passage which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another. It involves a significant change of status in society. In cultural anthropology the term is the Anglicisation of rite de passage, a French term innovated by the ethnographer Arnold van Gennep in his work Les rites de passage, “The Rites of Passage.” The term is now fully adopted into anthropology as well as into the literature and popular cultures of many modern languages.
- 12.10: Vision Quest
- A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. It is usually only undertaken by young males entering adulthood. Individual indigenous cultures have their own names for their rites of passage. “Vision quest” is an English umbrella term, and may not always be accurate or used by the cultures in question.
- 12.11: Religious Demographics
- 12.12: Health and Illness