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Chapter 6: Religion and Culture

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Reading Assignment: Chapter 6: Religion and Culture

In this assignment you will learn about the difficulties that surround attempts to define religion in a way that is cross-culturally valid. You will become familiar with some of the diversity of human religious beliefs and will gain insight into the fact that religious beliefs may have adaptive benefits for their culture. You will learn about the role of feelings in religion and how feelings and beliefs are related to religious rituals. You will learn about the common types of religious specialists and about different ways that religious groups are organized.

Finally, you will learn about the psychological functions of religion and about the characteristics of religious thinking.

Assignment Overview

MCQ   ::  Matching   ::  True/False  ::   Short Essay

MCQ - Chapter 6: Religion and Culture

1. According to Tylor, the main function of religion was to help people.

a. answer perplexing questions, such as what causes unconsciousness, dreams, and death.
b. feel more secure by giving them comfort.
c. control their anxieties by providing rituals which distract them from their worries.
d. control their anxieties by providing rituals which given them a feeling of control.

2. According to Emile Durkheim, the basis of religious ideas is to fulfill the need to _______________.

a. explain natural features of the environment.
b. give symbolic expression to fears and anxieties.
c. create symbols that evoke feelings of respect, fear, and awe towards important social institutions and customs.
d. control important aspects of their environment.

3. Religious ideology is so extremely diverse in the cultures of the world because it:

a. has no practical considerations that limit variation in other aspects of culture.
b. is less influenced by the practical considerations that limit variation in other aspects of culture.
c. is an arbitrary creation of the human mind.
d. has no relationship to the real world.

4. According to research by Guy Swanson, monotheism is most likely to be found in those societies that:

a. depend on foraging for foods.
b. are isolated from other societies.
c. have no complex descent systems such as clans and lineages.
d. organize the sovereign decision-making groups into at least three levels.

5. Which of the following is NOT true of the Hindu belief in the sacredness of the zebu cow?

a. It was written into the Indian constitution.
b. It has been the cause of much hunger in India.
c. It is the source of the English phrase “sacred cow.”
d. Cows wander the streets without being molested or killed.

6. Which of the following is NOT part of Victor Turner’s concept of the period of communities?

a. the separation period
b. the liminal period
c. the “mystery of intimacy”
d. the importance of hierarchy

7. The two principles of magic wherever it is found are:

a. The law of mana and the law of taboo.
b. The law of contagion and the law of imitation.
c. The law of contagion and the law of taboo.
d. The law of imitation and the law of mana.

8. The belief that illness is caused by loss of one’s soul is most common where socialization stresses:

a. independence, assertiveness, and the use of power to gain high status.
b. passivity, helpfulness, and docility.
c. the importance of community.
d. the importance of family.

9. Which religious organization is the simplest and possibly the oldest?

a. shamanic religion
b. communal religion
c. ecclesiastical religion of the Olympian type
d. ecclesiastical religion of the monotheistic type

10. Syncretism is _______________.

a. a form of worship.
b. a magical ritual performed to bring groups into harmony.
c. the belief in gods who are uninterested in human affairs.
d. the borrowing of beliefs and rituals by one religion from another.

Matching Exercise - Chapter 6: Religion and Culture

1. religion
2. animatism
3. mana
4. animism
5. taboo
6. supernatural
7. anthropomorphism
8. sacred
9. ritual
10. secularization

11. sorcery
12. witchcraft
13. magic
14. Law of Similarity
15. Law of Contagion
16. divination
17. disease object
18. spirit possession
19. shaman
20. syncretism
21. revitalization movement



the innate ability to influence supernatural forces, usually to operate in ways that are harmful to others, without the necessity of using rituals



belief in supernatural power, symbolic expression of feelings, and rituals performed in order to influence the nonhuman realm



the principle that things that have been in contact remain supernaturally in contact or that contact between things can be used to transfer mana from one to the other



the learned use of rituals to magically control the supernatural realm to achieve human goals



a rule forbidding contact with sacred things, those containing mana



the borrowing of beliefs, practices, or organizational traits by one religion from another



the process by which nonreligious beliefs expand within an ideology at the expense of religious thought



a belief in supernatural beings such as the soul, ghosts, spirits, and gods and goddesses



behaviors, often performed in repetitive and stereotyped ways, that express people's anxieties by acting them out and that may be performed with the desire to influence supernatural beings or supernatural power to achieve greater control over the natural world.



the use of ritual to obtain answers to questions from supernatural sources



a trance in which individuals feel as if their behavior is under the control of one or more spirits that have entered their bodies



part-time religious practitioner who is believed to have access to supernatural power that may be used for the benefit of specific clients, as in healing or divining



supernatural power or force



the use of rituals that, when performed correctly, are believed to compel--as opposed to simply making requests of--the supernatural to bring about desired results



the belief in supernatural power or mana



that which transcends the natural, observable world



the quality of inspiring feelings of respect, awe, and reverence that is possessed by things set apart and forbidden



an object such as a barbed stick or stone that is magically cast into the body of a victim to cause illness



using human qualities to explain the nonhuman realm; interpreting or acting toward the nonhuman realm as if it were human, especially as if it were able to respond to symbolic communication



the principle that things that are similar to one another are spiritually identical and can be used in rituals to influence a desired outcome



religious change that results in the birth of a new religion

True/False - Chapter 6: Religion and Culture






1. The world’s religions have such highly varied beliefs and practices that it is difficult to define religion in a way that encompasses all its forms.



2. Marett believed that mana was the most ancient religious belief.



3. According to Anthony F. C. Wallace, ritual is the central element of religion.



4. Magic is fundamentally different from other forms of religious ritual in its basic principles.



5. One psychological function of religion is to reduce anxiety.



6. According to Guthrie, the basis of religion is a tendency to see human qualities in the nonhuman world.



7. Religion tends to be a conservative institution that inhibits social change.



8. Religious revitalization tends to occur during periods of prolonged social stability.



9. A civil religion may be shared by members of different religious denominations.



10. The Azande poison oracle is a person who answers questions while in a trance.

Short Essay Questions - Chapter 6: Religion and Culture

1. What three things must always be included in any comprehensive definition of religion?

2. Why did Robert Marett believe that a belief in mana was more ancient than a belief in gods or spirits.

3. Define. How are taboos related to the concept of mana?

4. What difficulties are avoided by using the concept of "anthropomorphic beliefs" instead of the concept of "supernatural beliefs" in a definition of religion?

5. Briefly summarize Harris' ideas about how the Hindu veneration of the potentially edible cow actually may be beneficial for Hindu society in spite of a historic problem of hunger in India.

6. What are the defining characteristics of rituals? According to Wallace, why are rituals so important in religion?

7. What is the difference between sorcery and witchcraft?

8. According to Forest Clements, what are the four common religious explanations for illness. What social conditions seem to make each more likely?

9.What are the four stages of a religious revitalization movement?

10. In Guthrie's view, what do concepts of gods, spirits, and mana all have in common?

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, January 04). Chapter 6: Religion and Culture. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License