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Sociology of Religion
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Q. 1. Expalin the functional interpretation of religion.
Ans. There is a serious logical problem in functionalism that social scientists have debated for decades. Functionalism
seems to be a technology, an explanatory scheme that assumes some great intelligence exists that designs features of societies to serve large purposes. The more functionalists propose unobvious functions the more they emphasize what Robert
Merton (1957) termed latent functionsthe greater this logical problem becomes tough. As Pritirim Sorokin (1969-339),
once put it, functionalists would say, Birds have wings in order to fly rather than Birds have wings and therefore they can
fly. It is difficult to explain functions apart from conscious purpose and conscious purposes require intelligent beings with
purposes. Functionalism also tend to justify social arrangements as found at hand by showing some system maintaining
benefit they brought about. Many functionalists have in fact been humane thinkers who favoured conscious efforts at social
amelioration, so rather than defend the conservative aspect of older functionalist thought, they have revised the approach to
make it politically acceptable. Merton proposed paying attention to system disturbing consequences of social features
dysfunctions as opposed to eufunctions. Parsons added an emphasis on social change, with increasing levels of system
complexity and differentiation emerging over time. Merton again noted that abstracting institutions from their value ladden
traditions and assessing them in terms of hard headed system benefits can be a radical rather than conservative exercise.
Nevertheless, as Marie Augusta Neal (1979) noted functionalism fails to analyze important aspect of societies if it neglects
asking in whose interest system functions and who are the victims of social arrangements, and if it neglect issues of class and
power in non-governmental and non-economic institutions such as religion. There was also a problem of functionalism
dwelling too much on the largest possible system whole societies. Finally, there seemed to be some confusion over just what
kind of questions was actually a functionalist trying to explain, for example, the origin of religions, the reasons that religions
persisted or the reaons that societies that had religions survived.
The question of origins was a concern largely in nineteenth century anthropology, but late twentieth- century sociologists took to studying the emergence of new regions in the youth culture. The persistence of religion came to be studied in
term of some individuals in society being more religious than others, but this created problems for those who saw universal functional needs being served by religion, functionalists often defined religion broadly so that individuals would be
differently religious rather than more or less so.
Q. 2. Discuss the relationship between sascetic Protestantism and capitalism.
Ans. In this thesis, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Weber was less attracted to the idea of laws
by which society can be described and was less concerned with constructing an overall theoretical model of society and
its development. Rather, Weber was impressed by the complexity of society, and the difficulty of understanding society,
and the difficulty of understanding society as a whole. He uses many more concepts than did Marx and does not develop
these into a single, theoretical model. As a result, Webers concepts and methods are usually more specific and less
general than those of Marx, but are applicable to a broad range of social issues.
Weber analysed that the spirit of certain kind of ascetic Protestantism is consistent with an attitude towards economic



activity, which in turn is consistent with the spirit of capitalism. According to Weber, the four man types of ascetic
Protestantism are:
Baptist Sects
Other Worldly and Inner Worldly Asceticism
The two historical types of asceticism according to Weber are
The other worldly asceticism
The Inner worldly asceticism
Both the asceticism rejects the world. In the Other worldly asceticism, the path of salvation is achieved through
religious devotion and self-denial. The inner worldly asceticism, on the other hand focuses on the activities of the world.
The belief is that the world is an individuals responsibility and it is their obligation to transform it accordingly with an
ascetic ideal.
Relating the Concept of Calling to Capitalism
The concept of calling is related to calling for serving God and is called to a life task. According to protestants the
calling signifies the service to worldly rather than the other worldly services. The calling is considered as a thorough
worldly character. According to Protestant the calling of the individual is to fulfill the duties towards the God.
Q. 3. Explian the system of Okka with suitable examples.
Ans. The Okka: The Okka is a patrilineal and patrilocal joint family and is continued only by the male member or
son who has the roghts in the ancestral estate. Women became a member of their natal Okka, who uses only kitchen or
inner room to receive the guests whereas the outer verandah is used by men as their club.
At the time of festival, women watch the men singing and dancing. At the field, the low castle labourers perform most
of the work, while the higher caste supervises the cultivation of the land. The Coorg Okka are strongly and sharply
The structural distance in India is very high and therefore higher caste people do not come very close to a member of
lower caste person. Brahmins are considered ritually pure compared to other castes. Coorgs are not allowed to enter an
ancestral estate with sandals as it is considered a sacred place. Other sacred places include ancestor shrine and cobra
platform. Women are not allowed to go near these sacred places during her monthly periods. Also she stays in an out
house for three days during her period and performs the normal rituals on the fourth day after a bath.
In an ancestral house, some parts are considered more sacred than other parts. The Central Hall, South Western room
and the Kitchen are all concerned sacred. A Poleya or Meda is allowed to go only up to the pavement in front of the house
while a Brahmin priest can go to any place in the ancestral house.
A man performs all the ritual acts after taking bath and wearing pure cloths.
Some of the impure acts include bodily emissions, intercourse, call of nature, Spittle, nail and hair pairing and
touching of teeth Birth and death also results in impurity. While child birth results in a mild impurity which comes in a
mild impurity which comes to normal status after 7th or 12th day, death or Tike is an acute form of pollution.
Q. 4. Disucss the doctrine and practices of Jainism.
Ans. Doctrine of Jainism: Jainism believes in the complete purification and perfection of the soul. To achieve this,
the soul should not be attached with the corporeal bodies. In India, there are several Jain Monks, in categories like
Acharya, Upadhyaya and Muni. Trainee and Ascetics are known as Ailaka and Ksullaka in the Digamber tradition. There
are two categories of Ascetics, Sadhu (Monk) and Sadhvi (Nun). The Jainism believes in the following:
Five major vows (Mahavrata)
Non-violence (Ahimsa)
Truthfulness (Satya)
Non-Stealing (Astey)
Chastity ( Brahmacharya)
Non-possession (Aparigraha)
Three Restraints (Gupti)
Control of Mind (Managupti)
Control of Speech (Vacanagupti)



Control of body (Kayagupti)

Five Carefulness (Samiti)
Carefulness while walking (Irya Samiti)
Carefulness while communicating (Bhasha Samiti)
Carefulness while eating (Eshana Samiti)
Carefulness while handling their fly-whisks, water guards, etc. (Adana Nikashepana Samiti)
Carefulness while disposing of bodily waste matter (Pratishtha Pana Samiti)
According to Jainas, the universe is divided five parts. The lower world is Adhloka and the middle world is Madhyaloka,
the part where human beings live is Jambudvipa, celestial world is Urdhvaloka and Siddhasila which is at the apex of the
occupied universe.
The Jain reality is based om two types of substances i.e. Jiva (soul or living substance) and Ajiva (non-soul or
inanimate substance). All the Jivas believe in consciousness bliss and energy. Jainas also believe in the four elements
namely earth, fire, water and air which are also animated by souls. The bodies are also of five kinds, each performing
different functions. The two of them are Karmic and the Fiery. The Karmic is a result of previous actions and is
intimately attached to the Jiva. Bondage results from anterior intentions and volitions which is attracted to the soul. At the
end of the life, the Jiva, rejoins the other Siddhas and take rebirth which is determined by its Karman.
Thus broadly the bondage and the liberation of soul can be summarized as:
Influx of karmic matter into the Jiva
Stoppage of karmic influx (Samvara)
Expulsion (Nirjara) of previous karmic matters and
Total liberation
Religious Practices: The main goal of Jainism is to realize the souls true nature. In order to achieve this goal,
Jainism prescribes a path of non-violence. According to Jainism those who have attained Moksha are called Siddha i.e.
liberated souls and those attached to the world through their Karma are called samsarin i.e. mundane souls. In order to
achieve the liberation or Nirvana, every soul has to follow the path as explained by the Jinas (victors) and revived by
Jains believe in the following ethical principles or major vows in thought, speech and action. They are as follows:
Non-Violence (Ahimsa)
This is to cause no harm to living beings. This is a fundamental vow and other vows stem from it. Non-Violence is
not only not killing but it also includes not harming or insulting any living being directly or indirectly. It also includes
respecting each other views.
Truthfulness (Satya)
As the name indicates, this vow refers to speaking the truth in a harmless manner.
Non-Stealing (Asteya)
This refers to not taking anything that is not willingly given. It also refers to strictly adhering to ones own possessions,
without desire to take anothers.
Celibsy (Brahmacharya)
Celibacy is to control the senses including mind from indulgence. The basic intent of this vow is to conquer passion
and to prevent the waste of energy. Under this vow Jain monks and nuns should practice complete abstinence from sex.
Non-Possession or Non-Materialisation (Aparigraha)
This is to detach from people, places and material things. Ownership of an object itself is not possessiveness, however
attachment to an object is possessiveness. In this vow, for monks and nuns, non-possession is complete renunciation of
property and relations including home and family.
The Jain community holds the above mentioned five major vows at the center of their lives. These vows cannot be
fully implemented without the acceptance of a philosophy of non-absolutism. Anekantavada (multiple points of view), is
a foundation of Jain philosophy which allows the Jains to accept the truth in other philosophies from their perspective and
thus inculcating a tolerance for other viewpoints. This search to view things from different angles, leads to understanding
and toleration of different and even conflicting views. When this happens prejudices subside and a tendency to accommodate
increases. The theory of Anekanta is therefore a unique experiment of non-violence at the root.



The two most important activities which are considered essential in Jainism are begging and fasting which are
conducted with great care and preceded with great care and preceded confession (Alocana) and repentance (Pratikramana).
The listeners, the servants and the lay believers all take the five vows mentioned before.
Jains are usually very welcoming and fiendly towards other faiths and often help with interfaith functions.
Q. 5. Discuss the contemporary debate on conversion.
Ans. Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the converts previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion (e.g., Christian Baptist to Methodist, Muslim Shia to
Sunni, etc) is usually described as reaffiliation rather thanconversion.
People convert to a different religion for various reasons, including: active conversion by free choice due to a change
in beliefs, secondary conversion, deathbed conversion, conversion for convenience and marital conversion, and forced
Christians consider that conversion requires internalization of the new belief system. It implies a new reference point
for the converts self-identity, and is a matter of belief and social structure-of both faith and affiliation. This typically
entails the sincere avowal of a new belief system, but may also present itself in other ways, such as adoption into an
identity group or spiritual lineage.
Conversion or reaffiliation for convenience is an insincere act, sometimes for relatively trivial reasons such as a
parent converting to enable a child to be admitted to a good school associated with a religion, or a person adopting a
religion more in keeping with the social class he or she aspires to. When people marry one spouse may convert to the
religion of the other.
Forced conversion is adoption under duress of a different religion. The convert may secretly retain the previous
beliefs and continue, covertly, with the practices of the original religion, while outwardly maintaining the forms of the
new religion. Over generations a family forced against their will to convert may wholeheartedly adopt the new religion.
A person who gets successfully converted feels confident. The decision of conversion is of utmost importance for the
family as the other family members fail to understand the conversion of a member from one faith to another. The conversion can be a disorientation as a person shifts from the entire set of concepts and ideologies of one religion to another. A
person has to recondition and reprogram himself in order to adapt to new religion ideologies and beliefs. But this reconditioning and reprogramming is not suitable for all the converts.
The Contemporary Debate on Conversion: Till now, we have studied focused on the various aspects of conversion, but as told earlier one more area of conversion is the controversy related to conversion. In India, also religious
conversion is a controversial process. The argument in support to the conversion to another religion is that it is the
solution for the poor or dalits of India. It is believed that this is only way which helps dalits to join the mainstream of
Indian nation.
Anti Conversion Laws: Some religion leaders are proposing the idea of scrapping the proposed anti-conversion
law. It is believed by Christian, Hindu and Muslim is a human rights issue. Some countries like Sri Lanka is very strict
about the idea of conversion of religion and does not provide any right to propagate a religion. In India, the Rajasthan
Government is against the idea of religious conversion. The religious conversion is considered to be serious issue as it
involves abandoning one religion and joining other. Parmeshwaran, a famous writer in India have pointed out that poor
and illiterate in India are being targeted to get converted to another religion.
Tribals in India: The tribal in India neither belongs to the category of Hindus nor of the Christians nor therefore
possess the right to choose their own religion, but the tribal population has been worshipping Hindu deities over a long
period. The people of north east India have successfully adopted Christianity as their religion and are so enthusiastic
about it that they want to convert others to their adopted religion.