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10.6: End of Chapter Discussion

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    1. This chapter describes theories about religion developed by Durkheim, Marx, and Freud. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each theory? Which theory would be the most useful if you were attempting to learn about the religious beliefs of another culture?
    2. Rites of passage and rites of intensification are an important part of many religious traditions, but these same rituals also exist in secular (non-religious) contexts. What are some examples of these rituals in your own community? What role do these rituals play in bringing people together?
    3. Durkheim argued that a distinction between the sacred and the profane was a key characteristic of religion. Thinking about your own culture, what are some examples of ideas or objects that are considered “sacred”? What are the rules concerning how these objects or ideas should be treated? What are the penalties for people who do not follow these rules?


    Animatism: a religious system organized around a belief in an impersonal supernatural force.

    Animism: a religious system organized around a belief that plants, animals, inanimate objects, or natural phenomena have a spiritual or supernatural element.

    Anthropomorphic: an object or being that has human characteristics.

    Cargo cult: a term sometimes used to describe rituals that seek to attract material prosperity. The term is generally not preferred by anthropologists.

    Collective effervescence: the passion or energy that arises when groups of people share the same thoughts and emotions.

    Communitas: An intense spirit of unity, solidarity, and togetherness that encourages people to see themselves as members of a community.

    Cosmology: an explanation for the origin or history of the world.

    Cultural appropriation: the act of copying an idea from another culture and in the process distorting its meaning.

    Filial piety: a tradition requiring that the young provide care for the elderly and in some cases ancestral spirits.

    Incorporation: the third stage of a rite of passage in which the individual returns to society in their new status and role.

    Liminality: the second stage of a rite of passage in which the individual is in a marginal or in-between phase, which often includes a time of testing and trials.

    Magic: practices intended to bring supernatural forces under one’s personal control.

    Monotheistic: religious systems that recognize a single supreme God.

    Polytheistic: religious systems that recognize several gods.

    Priests: full-time religious practitioners.

    Profane: objects or ideas are ordinary and can be treated with disregard or contempt.

    Prophet: a person who claims to have direct communication with the supernatural realm and who can communicate divine messages to others.

    Religion: the extension of human society and culture to include the supernatural.

    Rite of intensification: actions designed to bring a community together, often following a period of crisis.

    Rite of passage: a ceremony designed to transition individuals between life stages.

    Rites of revitalization: attempts to resolve serious problems, such as war, famine or poverty through spiritual or supernatural intervention.

    Ritual: a behaviors or practices that are formal, stylized, and repetitive performed as a social act.

    Sacred: objects or ideas are set apart from the ordinary and treated with great respect or care.

    Separation: The first stage of a rite of passage in which the individual withdraws, or is removed from, ordinary society.

    Shaman: a part time religious practitioner who carries out religious rituals when needed, but also participates in the normal work of the community.

    Sorcerer: an individual who seeks to use magic for his or her own purposes.

    Supernatural: describes entities or forces not governed by natural laws.

    Zoomorphic: an object or being that has animal characteristics.

    Adapted From

    "Religion" by Sashur Henninger-Rener, Pasadena City College. In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology, 2nd Edition, Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges, 2020, under CC BY-NC 4.0.

    10.6: End of Chapter Discussion is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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