Because the human race today is joining more and more into a civic, economic and social unity, it is that much the more necessary that priests, by combined effort and aid, under the leadership of the bishops and the Supreme Pontiff, wipe out every kind of separateness, so that the whole human race may be brought into the unity of the family of God. At a lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed "not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service.
It is the duty of the deacon, according as it shall have been assigned to him by competent authority, to administer baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the Sacred Scripture to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, to officiate at funeral and burial services. Dedicated to duties of charity and of administration, let deacons be mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: "Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all.
Since these duties, so very necessary to the life of the Church, can be fulfilled only with difficulty in many regions in accordance with the discipline of the Latin Church as it exists today, the diaconate can in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. It pertains to the competent territorial bodies of bishops, of one kind or another, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, to decide whether and where it is opportune for such deacons to be established for the care of souls. With the consent of the Roman Pontiff, this diaconate can, in the future, be conferred upon men of more mature age, even upon those living in the married state.
It may also be conferred upon suitable young men, for whom the law of celibacy must remain intact. Having set forth the functions of the hierarchy, the Sacred Council gladly turns its attention. Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission.
Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind.
For we must all "practice the truth in love, and so grow up in all things in Him who is head, Christ. For from Him the whole body, being closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system, according to the functioning in due measure of each single part, derives its increase to the building up of itself in love". The term laity is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church. These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.
What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. It is true that those in holy orders can at times be engaged in secular activities, and even have a secular profession. But they are by reason of their particular vocation especially and professedly ordained to the sacred ministry. Similarly, by their state in life, religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes. But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God.
They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.
In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer. By divine institution Holy Church is ordered and governed with a wonderful diversity.
There is, therefore, in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because "there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all 'one' in Christ Jesus". If therefore in the Church everyone does not proceed by the same path, nevertheless all are called to sanctity and have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of God. For the distinction which the Lord made between sacred ministers and the rest of the People of God bears within it a certain union, since pastors and the other faithful are bound to each other by a mutual need.
Pastors of the Church, following the example of the Lord, should minister to one another and to the other faithful. These in their turn should enthusiastically lend their joint assistance to their pastors and teachers.
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Thus in their diversity all bear witness to the wonderful unity in the Body of Christ. This very diversity of graces, ministries and works gathers the children of God into one, because "all these things are the work of one and the same Spirit". Therefore, from divine choice the laity have Christ for their brothers who though He is the Lord of all, came not to be served but to serve. Augustine puts this very beautifully when he says: "What I am for you terrifies me; what I am with you consoles me.
For you I am a bishop; but with you I am a Christian. The former is a duty; the latter a grace. The laity are gathered together in the People of God and make up the Body of Christ under one head. Whoever they are they are called upon, as living members, to expend all their energy for the growth of the Church and its continuous sanctification, since this very energy is a gift of the Creator and a blessing of the Redeemer. The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself.
Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, especially holy Eucharist, that charity toward God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished. Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself "according to the measure of Christ's bestowal". This was the way certain men and women assisted Paul the Apostle in the Gospel, laboring much in the Lord. Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land.
Consequently, may every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church. The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work. For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men.
For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ".
Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God. Christ, the great Prophet, who proclaimed the Kingdom of His Father both by the testimony of His life and the power of His words, continually fulfills His prophetic office until the complete manifestation of glory. He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith sensu fidei and an attractiveness in speech so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life.
They conduct themselves as children of the promise, and thus strong in faith and in hope they make the most of the present, and with patience await the glory that is to come. Just as the sacraments of the New Law, by which the life and the apostolate of the faithful are nourished, prefigure a new heaven and a new earth, so too the laity go forth as powerful proclaimers of a faith in things to be hoped for, when they courageously join to their profession of faith a life springing from faith. This evangelization, that is, this announcing of Christ by a living testimony as well as by the spoken word, takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world.
In connection with the prophetic function is that state of life which is sanctified by a special sacrament obviously of great importance, namely, married and family life. For where Christianity pervades the entire mode of family life, and gradually transforms it, one will find there both the practice and an excellent school of the lay apostolate.
In such a home husbands and wives find their proper vocation in being witnesses of the faith and love of Christ to one another and to their children. The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the Kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come. Thus by its example and its witness it accuses the world of sin and enlightens those who seek the truth.
Consequently, even when preoccupied with temporal cares, the laity can and must perform a work of great value for the evangelization of the world. For even if some of them have to fulfill their religious duties on their own, when there are no sacred ministers or in times of persecution; and even if many of them devote all their energies to apostolic work; still it remains for each one of them to cooperate in the external spread and the dynamic growth of the Kingdom of Christ in the world.
Therefore, let the laity devotedly strive to acquire a more profound grasp of revealed truth, and let them insistently beg of God the gift of wisdom. Christ, becoming obedient even unto death and because of this exalted by the Father, entered into the glory of His kingdom. To Him all things are made subject until He subjects Himself and all created things to the Father that God may be all in all. In this kingdom creation itself will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.
The faithful, therefore, must learn the deepest meaning and the value of all creation, as well as its role in the harmonious praise of God. They must assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations. In this way the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity and peace. The laity have the principal role in the overall fulfillment of this duty. Therefore, by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of His Word.
May the goods of this world be more equitably distributed among all men, and may they in their own way be conducive to universal progress in human and Christian freedom. In this manner, through the members of the Church, will Christ progressively illumine the whole of human society with His saving light. Moreover, let the laity also by their combined efforts remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it.
By so doing they will imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values; they will better prepare the field of the world for the seed of the Word of God; and at the same time they will open wider the doors of the Church by which the message of peace may enter the world. Because of the very economy of salvation the faithful should learn how to distinguish carefully between those rights and duties which are theirs as members of the Church, and those which they have as members of human society.
Let them strive to reconcile the two, remembering that in every temporal affair they must be guided by a Christian conscience, since even in secular business there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God's dominion. In our own time, however, it is most urgent that this distinction and also this harmony should shine forth more clearly than ever in the lives of the faithful, so that the mission of the Church may correspond more fully to the special conditions of the world today.
For it must be admitted that the temporal sphere is governed by its own principles, since it is rightly concerned with the interests of this world. They should openly reveal to them their needs and desires with that freedom and confidence which is fitting for children of God and brothers in Christ. When occasions arise, let this be done through the organs erected by the Church for this purpose. Let it always be done in truth, in courage and in prudence, with reverence and charity toward those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ.
The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. Let them follow the example of Christ, who by His obedience even unto death, opened to all men the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God.
Nor should they omit to pray for those placed over them, for they keep watch as having to render an account of their souls, so that they may do this with joy and not with grief. Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church.
Let them willingly employ their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action. Further, let them encourage lay people so that they may undertake tasks on their own initiative. Attentively in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity.
A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders.
The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill is mission for the life of the world. Each individual layman must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God. All the laity as a community and each one according to his ability must nourish the world with spiritual fruits.
The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this Sacred Synod, is believed to be indefectibly holy. He did this that He might sanctify her. Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification". The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and everyone of His disciples of every condition. He Himself stands as the author and consumator of this holiness of life: "Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect".
They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God's gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. They are warned by the Apostle to live "as becomes saints", and to put on "as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience", and to possess the fruit of the Spirit in holiness.
In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor.
In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history. The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one—that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth.
These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.
In the first place, the shepherds of Christ's flock must holily and eagerly, humbly and courageously carry out their ministry, in imitation of the eternal high Priest, the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. They ought to fulfill this duty in such a way that it will be the principal means also of their own sanctification. Those chosen for the fullness of the priesthood are granted the ability of exercising the perfect duty of pastoral charity by the grace of the sacrament of Orders.
By this same sacramental grace, they are given the courage necessary to lay down their lives for their sheep, and the ability of promoting greater holiness in the Church by their daily example, having become a pattern for their flock. Priests, who resemble bishops to a certain degree in their participation of the sacrament of Orders, form the spiritual crown of the bishops. They should preserve the bond of priestly communion, and they should abound in every spiritual good and thus present to all men a living witness to God. Their praise lives on in the Church of God.
By their very office of praying and offering sacrifice for their own people and the entire people of God, they should rise to greater holiness. They should ever nourish and strengthen their action from an abundance of contemplation, doing all this for the comfort of the entire Church of God. All priests, and especially those who are called "diocesan priests," due to the special title of their ordination, should keep continually before their minds the fact that their faithful loyalty toward and their generous cooperation with their bishop is of the greatest value in their growth in holiness.
Ministers of lesser rank are also sharers in the mission and grace of the Supreme Priest. They will accomplish this by their constancy in prayer, by their burning love, and by their unremitting recollection of whatever is true, just and of good repute. They will accomplish all this for the glory and honor of God.
Besides these already named, there are also laymen, chosen of God and called by the bishop. These laymen spend themselves completely in apostolic labors, working the Lord's field with much success. Furthermore, married couples and Christian parents should follow their own proper path to holiness by faithful love. They should sustain one another in grace throughout the entire length of their lives. They should embue their offspring, lovingly welcomed as God's gift, with Christian doctrine and the evangelical virtues.
In this manner, they offer all men the example of unwearying and generous love; in this way they build up the brotherhood of charity; in so doing, they stand as the witnesses and cooperators in the fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church; by such lives, they are a sign and a participation in that very love, with which Christ loved His Bride and for which He delivered Himself up for her. Finally, those who engage in labor—and frequently it is of a heavy nature—should better themselves by their human labors.
They should be of aid to their fellow citizens. They should raise all of society, and even creation itself, to a better mode of existence. Indeed, they should imitate by their lively charity, in their joyous hope and by their voluntary sharing of each others' burdens, the very Christ who plied His hands with carpenter's tools and Who in union with His Father, is continually working for the salvation of all men. In this, then, their daily work they should climb to the heights of holiness and apostolic activity. May all those who are weighed down with poverty, infirmity and sickness, as well as those who must bear various hardships or who suffer persecution for justice sake—may they all know they are united with the suffering Christ in a special way for the salvation of the world.
The Lord called them blessed in His Gospel and they are those whom "the God of all graces, who has called us unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself, after we have suffered a little while, perfect, strengthen and establish". Finally all Christ's faithful, whatever be the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives—and indeed through all these, will daily increase in holiness, if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father and if they cooperate with the divine will.
In this temporal service, they will manifest to all men the love with which God loved the world. Indeed, in order that love, as good seed may grow and bring forth fruit in the soul, each one of the faithful must willingly hear the Word of God and accept His Will, and must complete what God has begun by their own actions with the help of God's grace. These actions consist in the use of the sacraments and in a special way the Eucharist, frequent participation in the sacred action of the Liturgy, application of oneself to prayer, self-abnegation, lively fraternal service and the constant exercise of all the virtues.
For charity, as the bond of perfection and the fullness of the law, rules over all the means of attaining holiness and gives life to these same means. It is the love of God and the love of one's neighbor which points out the true disciple of Christ. Since Jesus, the Son of God, manifested His charity by laying down His life for us, so too no one has greater love than he who lays down his life for Christ and His brothers. The Church, then, considers martyrdom as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love. By martyrdom a disciple is transformed into an image of his Master by freely accepting death for the salvation of the world—as well as his conformity to Christ in the shedding of his blood.
Though few are presented such an opportunity, nevertheless all must be prepared to confess Christ before men. They must be prepared to make this profession of faith even in the midst of persecutions, which will never be lacking to the Church, in following the way of the cross. Likewise, the holiness of the Church is fostered in a special way by the observance of the counsels proposed in the Gospel by Our Lord to His disciples. The reason for this was and is that perfect continency for the love of God is an incentive to charity, and is certainly a particular source of spiritual fecundity in the world.
The Church continually keeps before it the warning of the Apostle which moved the faithful to charity, exhorting them to experience personally what Christ Jesus had known within Himself. This was the same Christ Jesus, who "emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave. There are some who, in their freedom as sons of God, renounce their own wills and take upon themselves the state of poverty. Still further, some become subject of their own accord to another man, in the matter of perfection for love of God.
This is beyond the measure of the commandments, but is done in order to become more fully like the obedient Christ. Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul. Let neither the use of the things of this world nor attachment to riches, which is against the spirit of evangelical poverty, hinder them in their quest for perfect love. Let them heed the admonition of the Apostle to those who use this world; let them not come to terms with this world; for this world, as we see it, is passing away.
The evangelical counsels of chastity dedicated to God, poverty and obedience are based upon the words and examples of the Lord. They were further commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church, as well as by the doctors and pastors of souls. The counsels are a divine gift, which the Church received from its Lord and which it always safeguards with the help of His grace. Church authority has the duty, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of interpreting these evangelical counsels, of regulating their practice and finally to build on them stable forms of living.
Thus it has come about, that, as if on a tree which has grown in the field of the Lord, various forms of solidarity and community life, as well as various religious families have branched out in a marvelous and multiple way from this divinely given seed. Such a multiple and miraculous growth augments both the progress of the members of these various religious families themselves and the welfare of the entire Body of Christ.
They further offer their members the support of fraternal association in the militia of Christ and of liberty strengthened by obedience. Thus these religious are able to tranquilly fulfill and faithfully observe their religious profession and so spiritually rejoicing make progress on the road of charity. From the point of view of the divine and hierarchical structure of the Church, the religious state of life is not an intermediate state between the clerical and lay states.
But, rather, the faithful of Christ are called by God from both these states of life so that they might enjoy this particular gift in the life of the Church and thus each in one's own way, may be of some advantage to the salvific mission of the Church. The faithful of Christ bind themselves to the three aforesaid counsels either by vows, or by other sacred bonds, which are like vows in their purpose.
By such a bond, a person is totally dedicated to God, loved beyond all things. In this way, that person is ordained to the honor and service of God under a new and special title. Indeed through Baptism a person dies to sin and is consecrated to God. However, in order that he may be capable of deriving more abundant fruit from this baptismal grace, he intends, by the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church, to free himself from those obstacles, which might draw him away from the fervor of charity and the perfection of divine worship.
By his profession of the evangelical counsels, then, he is more intimately consecrated to divine service. Since this is so, the spiritual life of these people should then be devoted to the welfare of the whole Church. From this arises their duty of working to implant and strengthen the Kingdom of Christ in souls and to extend that Kingdom to every clime. This duty is to be undertaken to the extent of their capacities and in keeping with the proper type of their own vocation. This can be realized through prayer or active works of the apostolate.
It is for this reason that the Church preserves and fosters the special character of her various religious institutes. The profession of the evangelical counsels, then, appears as a sign which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation. The people of God have no lasting city here below, but look forward to one that is to come. Since this is so, the religious state, whose purpose is to free its members from earthly cares, more fully manifests to all believers the presence of heavenly goods already possessed here below.
Furthermore, it not only witnesses to the fact of a new and eternal life acquired by the redemption of Christ, but it foretells the future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom. Christ proposed to His disciples this form of life, which He, as the Son of God, accepted in entering this world to do the will of the Father. This same state of life is accurately exemplified and perpetually made present in the Church.
The religious state clearly manifests that the Kingdom of God and its needs, in a very special way, are raised above all earthly considerations. Finally it clearly shows all men both the unsurpassed breadth of the strength of Christ the King and the infinite power of the Holy Spirit marvelously working in the Church. Thus, the state which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, though it is not the hierarchical structure of the Church, nevertheless, undeniably belongs to its life and holiness. It is the duty of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to regulate the practice of the evangelical counsels by law, since it is the duty of the same hierarchy to care for the People of God and to lead them to most fruitful pastures.
It also aids by its vigilant and safeguarding authority those institutes variously established for the building up of Christ's Body in order that these same institutes may grow and flourish according to the spirit of the founders. Any institute of perfection and its individual members may be removed from the jurisdiction of the local Ordinaries by the Supreme Pontiff and subjected to himself alone. This is done in virtue of his primacy over the entire Church in order to more fully provide for the necessities of the entire flock of the Lord and in consideration of the common good.
The members of these institutes, in fulfilling their obligation to the Church due to their particular form of life, ought to show reverence and obedience to bishops according to the sacred canons. The bishops are owed this respect because of their pastoral authority in their own churches and because of the need of unity and harmony in the apostolate. The Church not only raises the religious profession to the dignity of a canonical state by her approval, but even manifests that this profession is a state consecrated to God by the liturgical setting of that profession.
The Church itself, by the authority given to it by God, accepts the vows of the newly professed. It begs aid and grace from God for them by its public prayer. It commends them to God, imparts a spiritual blessing on them and accompanies their self-offering by the Eucharistic sacrifice. Religious should carefully keep before their minds the fact that the Church presents Christ to believers and non-believers alike in a striking manner daily through them. The Church thus portrays Christ in contemplation on the mountain, in His proclamation of the kingdom of God to the multitudes, in His healing of the sick and maimed, in His work of converting sinners to a better life, in His solicitude for youth and His goodness to all men, always obedient to the will of the Father who sent Him.
All men should take note that the profession of the evangelical counsels, though entailing the renunciation of certain values which are to be undoubtedly esteemed, does not detract from a genuine development of the human persons, but rather by its very nature is most beneficial to that development.
Indeed the counsels, voluntarily undertaken according to each one's personal vocation, contribute a great deal to the purification of heart and spiritual liberty. They continually stir up the fervor of charity. But especially they are able to more fully mold the Christian man to that type of chaste and detached life, which Christ the Lord chose for Himself and which His Mother also embraced.
This is clearly proven by the example of so many holy founders. Let no one think that religious have become strangers to their fellowmen or useless citizens of this earthly city by their consecration. For even though it sometimes happens that religious do not directly mingle with their contemporaries, yet in a more profound sense these same religious are united with them in the heart of Christ and spiritually cooperate with them. In this way the building up of the earthly city may have its foundation in the Lord and may tend toward Him, lest perhaps those who build this city shall have labored in vain.
Therefore, this Sacred Synod encourages and praises the men and women, Brothers and Sisters, who in monasteries, or in schools and hospitals, or in the missions, adorn the Bride of Christ by their unswerving and humble faithfulness in their chosen consecration and render generous services of all kinds to mankind. Let each of the faithful called to the profession of the evangelical counsels, therefore, carefully see to it that he persevere and ever grow in that vocation God has given him.
Let him do this for the increased holiness of the Church, for the greater glory of the one and undivided Trinity, which in and through Christ is the fount and the source of all holiness. The Church, to which we are all called in Christ Jesus, and in which we acquire sanctity through the grace of God, will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven, when there will come the time of the restoration of all things. Christ, having been lifted up from the earth has drawn all to Himself. Sitting at the right hand of the Father, He is continually active in the world that He might lead men to the Church and through it join them to Himself and that He might make them partakers of His glorious life by nourishing them with His own Body and Blood.
Therefore the promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ, is carried forward in the mission of the Holy Spirit and through Him continues in the Church in which we learn the meaning of our terrestrial life through our faith, while we perform with hope in the future the work committed to us in this world by the Father, and thus work out our salvation. Already the final age of the world has come upon us and the renovation of the world is irrevocably decreed and is already anticipated in some kind of a real way; for the Church already on this earth is signed with a sanctity which is real although imperfect.
However, until there shall be new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church in her sacraments and institutions, which pertain to this present time, has the appearance of this world which is passing and she herself dwells among creatures who groan and travail in pain until now and await the revelation of the sons of God. Joined with Christ in the Church and signed with the Holy Spirit "who is the pledge of our inheritance", truly we are called and we are sons of God but we have not yet appeared with Christ in glory, in which we shall be like to God, since we shall see Him as He is.
The Church has always believed that the apostles and Christ's martyrs who had given the supreme witness of faith and charity by the shedding of their blood, are closely joined with us in Christ, and she has always venerated them with special devotion, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels. When we look at the lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ, we are inspired with a new reason for seeking the City that is to come and at the same time we are shown a most safe path by which among the vicissitudes of this world, in keeping with the state in life and condition proper to each of us, we will be able to arrive at perfect union with Christ, that is, perfect holiness.
Nor is it by the title of example only that we cherish the memory of those in heaven, but still more in order that the union of the whole Church may be strengthened in the Spirit by the practice of fraternal charity. Our union with the Church in heaven is put into effect in its noblest manner especially in the sacred Liturgy, wherein the power of the Holy Spirit acts upon us through sacramental signs.
Celebrating the Eucharistic sacrifice therefore, we are most closely united to the Church in heaven in communion with and venerating the memory first of all of the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, of Blessed Joseph and the blessed apostles and martyrs and of all the saints. Let them therefore teach the faithful that the authentic cult of the saints consists not so much in the multiplying of external acts, but rather in the greater intensity of our love, whereby, for our own greater good and that of the whole Church, we seek from the saints "example in their way of life, fellowship in their communion, and aid by their intercession.
For all of us, who are sons of God and constitute one family in Christ, as long as we remain in communion with one another in mutual charity and in one praise of the most holy Trinity, are corresponding with the intimate vocation of the Church and partaking in foretaste the liturgy of consummate glory.
Wishing in His supreme goodness and wisdom to effect the redemption of the world, "when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman Joined to Christ the Head and in the unity of fellowship with all His saints, the faithful must in the first place reverence the memory "of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ".
The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is "the mother of the members of Christ. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother. Wherefore this Holy Synod, in expounding the doctrine on the Church, in which the divine Redeemer works salvation, intends to describe with diligence both the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body, and the duties of redeemed mankind toward the Mother of God, who is mother of Christ and mother of men, particularly of the faithful.
It does not, however, have it in mind to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified. Those opinions therefore may be lawfully retained which are propounded in Catholic schools concerning her, who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.
The Sacred Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament, as well as ancient Tradition show the role of the Mother of the Saviour in the economy of salvation in an ever clearer light and draw attention to it. The books of the Old Testament describe the history of salvation, by which the coming of Christ into the world was slowly prepared.
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These earliest documents, as they are read in the Church and are understood in the light of a further and full revelation, bring the figure of the woman, Mother of the Redeemer, into a gradually clearer light. When it is looked at in this way, she is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise of victory over the serpent which was given to our first parents after their fall into sin. With her the exalted Daughter of Sion, and after a long expectation of the promise, the times are fulfilled and the new Economy established, when the Son of God took a human nature from her, that He might in the mysteries of His flesh free man from sin.
The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son, so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life. That is true in outstanding fashion of the mother of Jesus, who gave to the world Him who is Life itself and who renews all things, and who was enriched by God with the gifts which befit such a role. It is no wonder therefore that the usage prevailed among the Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.
Embracing God's salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption. Rightly therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she "being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.
This union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to His death it is shown first of all when Mary, arising in haste to go to visit Elizabeth, is greeted by her as blessed because of her belief in the promise of salvation and the precursor leaped with joy in the womb of his mother.
When she presented Him to the Lord in the temple, making the offering of the poor, she heard Simeon foretelling at the same time that her Son would be a sign of contradiction and that a sword would pierce the mother's soul, that out of many hearts thoughts might be revealed. His Mother indeed kept these things to be pondered over in her heart. In the public life of Jesus, Mary makes significant appearances. This is so even at the very beginning, when at the marriage feast of Cana, moved with pity, she brought about by her intercession the beginning of miracles of Jesus the Messiah.
Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to His disciple with these words: "Woman, behold thy son". But since it has pleased God not to manifest solemnly the mystery of the salvation of the human race before He would pour forth the Spirit promised by Christ, we see the apostles before the day of Pentecost "persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren", and Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation.
There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, "for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all". For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.
Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin was on this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Saviour in giving back supernatural life to souls.
Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace. This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.
For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.
The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. It knows it through unfailing experience of it and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more intimately adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer. By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church.
As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ. The Son whom she brought forth is He whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, namely the faithful, in whose birth and education she cooperates with a maternal love. The Church indeed, contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and faithfully fulfilling the Father's will, by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother.
By her preaching she brings forth to a new and immortal life the sons who are born to her in baptism, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God. She herself is a virgin, who keeps the faith given to her by her Spouse whole and entire. Imitating the mother of her Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, she keeps with virginal purity an entire faith, a firm hope and a sincere charity. But while in the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin.
Piously meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church with reverence enters more intimately into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her Spouse. For Mary, who since her entry into salvation history unites in herself and re-echoes the greatest teachings of the faith as she is proclaimed and venerated, calls the faithful to her Son and His sacrifice and to the love of the Father. Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her exalted Type, and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things.
Hence the Church, in her apostolic work also, justly looks to her, who, conceived of the Holy Spirit, brought forth Christ, who was born of the Virgin that through the Church He may be born and may increase in the hearts of the faithful also. The Virgin in her own life lived an example of that maternal love, by which it behooves that all should be animated who cooperate in the apostolic mission of the Church for the regeneration of men. Placed by the grace of God, as God's Mother, next to her Son, and exalted above all angels and men, Mary intervened in the mysteries of Christ and is justly honored by a special cult in the Church.
Clearly from earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, under whose protection the faithful took refuge in all their dangers and necessities. The various forms of piety toward the Mother of God, which the Church within the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine, according to the conditions of time and place, and the nature and ingenuity of the faithful has approved, bring it about that while the Mother is honored, the Son, through whom all things have their being and in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, is rightly known, loved and glorified and that all His commands are observed.
This most Holy Synod deliberately teaches this Catholic doctrine and at the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered, and the practices and exercises of piety, recommended by the magisterium of the Church toward her in the course of centuries be made of great moment, and those decrees, which have been given in the early days regarding the cult of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed.
Let them assiduously keep away from whatever, either by word or deed, could lead separated brethren or any other into error regarding the true doctrine of the Church. Let the faithful remember moreover that true devotion consists neither in sterile or transitory affection, nor in a certain vain credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to know the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to a filial love toward our mother and to the imitation of her virtues.
In the interim just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected is the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth. It gives great joy and comfort to this holy and general Synod that even among the separated brethren there are some who give due honor to the Mother of our Lord and Saviour, especially among the Orientals, who with devout mind and fervent impulse give honor to the Mother of God, ever virgin.
Each and all these items which are set forth in this dogmatic Constitution have met with the approval of the Council Fathers. And We by the apostolic power given Us by Christ together with the Venerable Fathers in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and establish it and command that what has thus been decided in the Council be promulgated for the glory of God.
A question has arisen regarding the precise theological note which should be attached to the doctrine that is set forth in the Schema de Ecclesia and is being put to a vote. The Theological Commission has given the following response regarding the Modi that have to do with Chapter III of the de Ecclesia Schema: "As is self-evident, the Council's text must always be interpreted in accordance with the general rules that are known to all.
On this occasion the Theological Commission makes reference to its Declaration of March 6, , the text of which we transcribe here:. The rest of the things which the sacred Council sets forth, inasmuch as they are the teaching of the Church's supreme magisterium, ought to be accepted and embraced by each and every one of Christ's faithful according to the mind of the sacred Council.
The mind of the Council becomes known either from the matter treated or from its manner of speaking, in accordance with the norms of theological interpretation. A preliminary note of explanation is being given to the Council Fathers from higher-authority, regarding the Modi bearing on Chapter III of the Schema de Ecclesia; the doctrine set forth in Chapter III ought to be explained and understood in accordance with the meaning and intent of this explanatory note.
The Commission has decided to preface the assessment of the Modi with the following general observations. For this reason, in reply to Modus 12 it is expressly said of the Twelve that the Lord set them up "as a college or stable group. For the same reason, the words "Ordo" or "Corpus" are used throughout with reference to the College of bishops. The parallel between Peter and the rest of the Apostles on the one hand, and between the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops on the other hand, does not imply the transmission of the Apostles' extraordinary power to their successors; nor does it imply, as is obvious, equality between the head of the College and its members, but only a proportionality between the first relationship Peter-Apostles and the second Pope-bishops.
Thus the Commission decided to write "pari ratione, " not "eadem ratione," in n. Modus A person becomes a member of the College by virtue of Episcopal consecration and by hierarchical communion with the head of the College and with its members. In his consecration a person is given an ontological participation in the sacred functions [munera]; this is absolutely clear from Tradition, liturgical tradition included. The word "functions [munera]" is used deliberately instead of the word "powers [potestates]," because the latter word could be understood as a power fully ready to act.
But for this power to be fully ready to act, there must be a further canonical or juridical determination through the hierarchical authority. This determination of power can consist in the granting of a particular office or in the allotment of subjects, and it is done according to the norms approved by the supreme authority. An additional norm of this sort is required by the very nature of the case, because it involves functions [munera] which must be exercised by many subjects cooperating in a hierarchical manner in accordance with Christ's will.
It is evident that this "communion" was applied in the Church's life according to the circumstances of the time, before it was codified as law. For this reason it is clearly stated that hierarchical communion with the head and members of the church is required. Communion is a notion which is held in high honor in the ancient Church and also today, especially in the East. However, it is not understood as some kind of vague disposition, but as an organic reality which requires a juridical form and is animated by charity.
Hence the Commission, almost unanimously, decided that this wording should be used: "in hierarchical communion. Modus 40 and the statements on canonical mission n. The documents of recent Pontiffs regarding the jurisdiction of bishops must be interpreted in terms of this necessary determination of powers. The College, which does not exist without the head, is said "to exist also as the subject of supreme and full power in the universal Church. For the College, always and of necessity, includes its head, because in the college he preserves unhindered his function as Christ's Vicar and as Pastor of the universal Church.
In other words, it is not a distinction between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops taken collectively, but a distinction between the Roman Pontiff taken separately and the Roman Pontiff together with the bishops. Since the Supreme Pontiff is head of the College, he alone is able to perform certain actions which are not at all within the competence of the bishops, e.
It is up to the judgment of the Supreme Pontiff, to whose care Christ's whole flock has been entrusted, to determine, according to the needs of the Church as they change over the course of centuries, the way in which this care may best be exercised—whether in a personal or a collegial way. The Roman Pontiff, taking account of the Church's welfare, proceeds according to his own discretion in arranging, promoting and approving the exercise of collegial activity.
As Supreme Pastor of the Church, the Supreme Pontiff can always exercise his power at will, as his very office demands. Though it is always in existence, the College is not as a result permanently engaged in strictly collegial activity; the Church's Tradition makes this clear. In other words, the College is not always "fully active [in actu pleno]"; rather, it acts as a college in the strict sense only from time to time and only with the consent of its head.
The phrase "with the consent of its head" is used to avoid the idea of dependence on some kind of outsider; the term "consent" suggests rather communion between the head and the members, and implies the need for an act which belongs properly to the competence of the head. This is explicitly affirmed in n.
The word "only" takes in all cases. It is evident from this that the norms approved by the supreme authority must always be observed. It is clear throughout that it is a question of the bishops acting in conjunction with their head, never of the bishops acting independently of the Pope. In the latter instance, without the action of the head, the bishops are not able to act as a College: this is clear from the concept of "College.
Without hierarchical communion the ontologico-sacramental function [munus], which is to be distinguished from the juridico-canonical aspect, cannot be exercised. However, the Commission has decided that it should not enter into question of liceity and validity.
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These questions are left to theologians to discuss—specifically the question of the power exercised de facto among the separated Eastern Churches, about which there are various explanations. Cyprianus, Epist. Hilarius Pict. Augustinus, passim. Why does it exist? For sociologists, it is key that religion guides people to act and behave in particular ways. How does it do so? Regardless if one personally believes in the fundamental values, beliefs, and doctrines that certain religions present, one does not have to look very far to recognize the significance that religion has in a variety of different social aspects around the world.
Religious activities and ideals are found in political platforms, business models, and constitutional laws, and have historically produced rationales for countless wars. Some people adhere to the messages of a religious text to a tee, while others pick and choose aspects of a religion that best fit their personal needs.
In other words, religion is present in a number of socially significant domains and can be expressed in a variety of different levels of commitment and fervour. Interestingly, each of them predicted that the processes of modern secularization would gradually erode the significance of religion in everyday life. More recent theorists like Peter Berger, Rodney Stark feminist , and John Caputo take account of contemporary experiences of religion, including what appears to be a period of religious revivalism.
Each of these theorists contribute uniquely important perspectives that describe the roles and functions that religion has served society over time. When taken altogether, sociologists recognize that religion is an entity that does not remain stagnant. It evolves and develops alongside new intellectual discoveries and expressions of societal, as well as individual, needs and desires.
A case in point would be the evolution of belief in the Catholic Church. However, in the 21st century, the Catholic Church appears to be adapting its attitudes towards modernization. Pope Francis has also addressed contemporary issues of climate change. At the U. We are at the limits. Throughout history, and in societies across the world, leaders have used religious narratives, symbols, and traditions in an attempt to give more meaning to life and to understand the universe. Some form of religion is found in every known culture, and it is usually practiced in a public way by a group.
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The practice of religion can include feasts and festivals, God or gods, marriage and funeral services, music and art, meditation or initiation, sacrifice or service, and other aspects of culture. There are three different ways of defining religion in sociology — substantial definitions, functional definitions, and family resemblance definitions — each of which has consequences for what counts as a religion, and each of which has limitations and strengths in its explanatory power Dawson and Thiessen, The problem of defining religion is not without real consequences, not least for questions of whether specific groups can obtain legal recognition as religions.
Guarantees of religious freedom under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms stem from whether practices or groups are regarded as legitimately religious or not. What definitions of religion do we use to decide these questions? It has to be imported from the Amazon where its ingredients are found. Importing and distributing it constitute trafficking and are subject to criminal charges. Other neo-Vegetalismo groups who use ayahuasca in traditional Amazonian healing ceremonies in Canada, but do not have affiliations with a formal church-like organization, are not recognized as official religions and, therefore, their use of ayahuasca remains criminalized and underground.
Substantial definitions attempt to delineate the crucial characteristics that define what a religion is and is not. These definitions are strong in that they identify the key characteristic — belief in the supernatural — that distinguishes religion from other types of potentially similar social practice like politics or art. They are also easily and simply applied across societies, no matter how exotic or different the societies are. However, the problem with substantial definitions is that they tend to be too narrow. On the other hand, functional definitions define religion by what it does or how it functions in society.
Is religion for example the only means by which social groups struggle with the ultimate problems of human life? The third type of definition is the family resemblance model in which religion is defined on the basis of a series of commonly shared attributes Dawson and Thiessen, The idea is that a family — even a real family — will hold a number of, say, physiological traits in common, which can be used to distinguish them from other families, even though each family member is unique and any particular family member might not have all them.
You can still tell that the member belongs to the family and not to another because of the traits he or she shares. It is also possible to define religion in terms of a cluster of attributes based on family resemblance. This cluster includes four attributes: particular types of belief, ritual, experience, and social form. This type of definition has the capacity to capture aspects of both the substantive and functional definitions.
It can be based on common sense notions of what religion is and is not, without the drawback of being overly exclusive. The incredible amount of variation between different religions makes it challenging to decide upon a concrete definition of religion that applies to all of them. The first dimension is one that comes to mind for most Canadians when they think of religion, some systematic form of beliefs. Religious beliefs are a generalized system of ideas and values that shape how members of a religious group come to understand the world around them see Table They define the cognitive aspect of religion.
These beliefs are taught to followers by religious authorities, such as priests, imams, or shamen, through formal creeds and doctrines as well as more informal lessons learned through stories, songs, and myths. Belief systems provide people with certain ways of thinking and knowing that help them cope with ultimate questions that cannot be explained in any other way. Weber argues that the problem of theodicy explains the prevalence of religion in our society.
In the absence of other plausible explanations of the contradictory nature of existence, religious theodicies construct the world as meaningful. The second dimension, ritual, functions to anchor religious beliefs. Rituals are the repeated physical gestures or activities, such as prayers and mantras, used to reinforce religious teachings, elicit spiritual feelings, and connect worshippers with a higher power.
They reinforce the division between the sacred and the profane by defining the intricate set of processes and attitudes with which the sacred dimension of life can be approached. Examples of rites of passage common in contemporary Canadian culture include baptisms, Bar Mitzvahs, and weddings. They sacralize the process of identity transformation. When these rites are religious in nature, they often also mark the spiritual dangers of transformation. The Sun Dance rituals of many Native American tribes are rites of renewal which can also act as initiation-into-manhood rites for young men.
They confer great prestige onto the pledgers who go through the ordeal, but there is also the possibility of failure. The sun dances last for several days, during which young men fast and dance around a pole to which they are connected by rawhide strips passed through the skin of the chest Hoebel, During their weakened state, the pledgers are neither the person they were, nor yet the person they are becoming.
In particular, they can access powers that both relieve or induce anxieties within a group depending on the circumstances. In relieving anxieties, religious rituals are often present at times when people face uncertainty or chance. In this sense they provide a basis of psychological stability.
When fishing in the sheltered coves of the islands very little ritual was involved. It was not until fishermen decided to venture into the much more dangerous open ocean in search of bigger and riskier catches that a rigorous set of religious rituals were invoked, which worked to subdue the fears of not only the fisherman but the rest of the villagers. In contrast, rituals can also be used to create anxieties that keep people in line with established norms.
In the case of taboos , the designation of certain objects or acts as prohibited or sacred creates an aura of fear or anxiety around them. The observance of rituals is used to either prevent the transgression of taboos or to return society to normal after taboos have been transgressed. This failure could only be resolved through further specific rituals Smith, In this example, sociologists would note that the taboo acts as a form of ritualized social control that encourages people to act in ways that benefit the wider society, such as the prevention of overhunting.
A third common dimension of various religions is the promise of access to some form of unique spiritual experience or feeling of immediate connection with a higher power. The pursuit of these indescribable experiences explains one set of motives behind the continued prevalence of religion in Canada and around the world.
From this point of view, religion is not so much about thinking a certain way i. These experiences can come in several forms: the incredible visions or revelations of the religious founders or prophets e. While being exposed to a higher power can be awe inspiring, it can also be intensely overwhelming for those experiencing it.
These experiences reveal a form of knowledge that is instantly transformative. The historical example of Saul of Tarsus later renamed St. Paul the Apostle in the Christian New Testament is an example. Saul was a Pharisee heavily involved in the persecution of Christians. While on the road to Damascus Jesus appeared to him in a life-changing vision. The experience of divine revelation overwhelmed Saul, blinded him for three days, and prompted his immediate conversion to Christianity. As a result he lived out his life spreading Christianity through the Roman Empire.
Are these types of experiences open to all members or just those spiritual elites like prophets, shamen, saints, monks, or nuns who hold a certain status? Are practitioners encouraged to seek these experiences or are the experiences suppressed? Is it a specific cultivated experience that is sought through disciplined practice, as in Zen Buddhism, or a more spontaneous experience of divine inspiration, like the experience of speaking in tongues in Evangelical congregations? Each religion has their own answers to these questions.
Finally, the forth common dimension of religion is the formation of specific forms of social organization or community. Dawson and Thiessen elaborate on this social dimension shared by all religions. First, the beliefs of a religion gain their credibility through being shared and agreed upon by a group. Second, religion provides an authority that deals specifically with social or moral issues such as determining the best way to live life. It provides a basis for ethics and proper behaviours, which establish the normative basis of the community.
Even as many Canadians move away from traditional forms of religion, many still draw their values and ideals from some form of shared beliefs that are religious in origin e. Third, religion also helps to shape different aspects of social life, by acting as a form of social control, and supporting the formation of self-control, that is vital to many aspects of a functional society.
Fourth, although it may be on the decline in Canada, places of religious worship function as social hubs within communities, providing a source of entertainment, socialization, and support. By looking at religions in terms of these four dimensions — belief, ritual, experience, and community — sociologists can identify the important characteristics they share while taking into consideration and allowing for the great diversity of the world religions.
These schools were created with the purpose of assimilating Aboriginal children into North American culture Woods, In the government legally mandated that all Aboriginal children between the ages of seven and fifteen attend these schools Blackburn, They took the children away from their families and communities to remove them from all influence of their Aboriginal identities that could inhibit their assimilation. Many families did not want their children to be taken away and would hide them, until it became illegal Neeganagwedgin, Under the Indian Act, they were also not allowed lawyers to fight government action, which added greatly to the systemic marginalization of these people.
The churches were responsible for daily religious teachings and daily activities, and the government was in charge of the curriculum, funding, and monitoring the schools Blackburn, There were as many as 80 residential schools in Canada by Woods, It was known early on in this system that there were flaws, but they still persisted until the last residential school was abolished in As we now know, the experience of residential schools for Aboriginal children was traumatic and dreadful.
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Within the walls of these schools, children were exposed to sexual and physical abuse, malnourishment, and disease. By , there were more than 8, lawsuits against the Churches and Canadian government for their role in the residential schools Woods, A lawsuit filed by former students of the Alberni Indian Residential School was one of the first to get to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the first to deem both the government and church equally responsible.
Apologies are still being made on behalf of the churches involved in the residential schools, but the effects it has had on the Indigenous peoples and their culture are perpetuating today. The Christian churches and mission groups have done good things for societies, but their role in these residential schools was immoral and unjust to the Aboriginal people. In every society there are different organizational forms that develop for the practice of religion.
Sociologists are interested in understanding how these different types of organization affect spiritual beliefs and practices. They can be categorized according to their size and influence into churches ecclesia or denomination , sects, and cults. This allows sociologists to examine the different types of relationships religious organization has with the dominant religions in their societies and with society itself. A church is a large, bureaucratically organized religious organization that is closely integrated into the larger society.
Two types of church organizations exist. The first is the ecclesia , a church that has formal ties with the state. As such, the ecclesia forms the national or state religion. People ordinarily do not join an ecclesia, instead they automatically become members when they are born. In an ecclesiastic society there may be little separation of church and state, because the ecclesia and the state are so intertwined.
In some ecclesiastic societies, such as those in the Middle East, religious leaders rule the state as theocracies — systems of government in which ecclesiastical authorities rule on behalf of a divine authority — while in others, such as Sweden and England, they have little or no direct influence. In general, the close ties that ecclesiae have to the state help ensure they will support state policies and practices.
For this reason, ecclesiae often help the state solidify its control over the populace. The second type of church organization is the denomination, a religious organization that is closely integrated into the larger society but is not a formal part of the state. In modern religiously pluralistic nations, several denominations coexist. So historically, in Canada, denominationalism developed formally as a result of the Treaty of Paris in , which granted Roman Catholics the freedom to practice their religion and informally as a result of the immigration of people with different faiths during the expansion of settlement of Canada in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
These are both denominational and non-denominational, meaning not officially aligned with any specific established religious denomination. About one-third are nondenominational, and one-fifth are Southern Baptist, with the remainder primarily of other Protestant denominations. Several dozen have at least 10, worshippers and the largest U. Some even conduct market surveys to determine these needs and how best to address them. As might be expected, their buildings are huge by any standard, and they often feature bookstores, food courts, and sports and recreation facilities.
They also provide day care, psychological counseling, and youth outreach programs. Their services often feature electronic music and light shows. Despite their popularity, they have been criticized for being so big that members are unable to develop close bonds with each other and with members of the clergy that are characteristic of smaller houses of worship.
On the other hand, supporters say that mega churches bring many people into religious worship who would otherwise not be involved. A sect is a small religious body that forms after a group breaks away from a larger religious group, like a church or denomination. Sects are relatively small religious organizations that are not closely integrated into the larger society. They often conflict with at least some of its norms and values.
Their migration from Tyrol, Austria, due to persecution eventually lead to their immigration to the Dakotas in the 19th century and then to the Canadian prairies, as conscientious objectors following WWI. Typically, a sect breaks away from a larger denomination in an effort to restore what members of the sect regard as the original views of the religion. Because sects are relatively small, they usually lack the bureaucracy of denominations and ecclesiae, and often also lack clergy who have received official training.
Their worship services can be intensely emotional experiences, often more so than those typical of many denominations, where worship tends to be more formal and restrained. Members of many sects typically proselytize and try to recruit new members into the sect. If a sect succeeds in attracting many new members, it gradually grows, becomes more bureaucratic, and, ironically, eventually evolves into a denomination.
A cult or New Religious Movement is a small religious organization that is at great odds with the norms and values of the larger society. Cults are similar to sects but differ in at least three respects. First, they generally have not broken away from a larger denomination and instead originate outside the mainstream religious tradition. Second, they are often secretive and do not proselytize as much. Cults, more than other religious organizations, have been subject to contemporary moral panics about brainwashing, sexual deviance, and strange esoteric beliefs.
However, research challenges several popular beliefs about cults, including the ideas that they brainwash people into joining them and that their members are mentally ill. In a study of the Unification Church Moonies , Eileen Barker found no more signs of mental illness among people who joined the Moonies than in those who did not. She also found no evidence that people who joined the Moonies had been brainwashed into doing so.
Another source of moral panic about cults is that they are violent. In fact, most are not violent. Nevertheless, some cults have committed violence in the recent past. Two years earlier, the Branch Davidian cult engaged in an armed standoff with federal agents in Waco, Texas. A few cults have also committed mass suicide. Similarly, in Canada, on the morning of October 4th, , a blaze engulfed a complex of luxury condominiums in the resort town of Morin-Heights, Quebec. Firefighters found the bodies of a Swiss couple, Gerry and Collette Genoud, in its ruins.
At first it was thought that the fire was accidental, but then news arrived from Switzerland of another odd set of fires at homes owed by the same men who owned the Quebec condominiums. All the fires had been set with improvised incendiary devices, which made the police realize they were dealing with a rare incidence of mass murder suicide involving members of an esoteric religious group known as the Solar Temple.
From the recorded and written messages left behind by the group, it is clear that the leaders felt it was time to effect what they called a transit to another reality associated with Sirius. It is important to note that cults or new religious movements are very diverse. They offer spiritual options for people seeking purpose in the modern context of state secularism and religious pluralism. Members of new religions run the risk of being stigmatized and even prosecuted Dawson, Modern societies highly value freedom and individual choice, but not when exercised in a manner that defies expectations of what is normal.
Even at a young age he claimed to be in touch with supernatural beings Gorman, At its height it had over followers around the world, many of whom sent over large sums of money. The Aquarian Foundation was based on the teachings on the Theosophical Society, which was an organization formed in New York City in Theosophy had much in common with the beliefs of Buddhism and Hinduism, such as the belief in reincarnation. It was radically different than the dominant Christian belief of the time.
Theosophy also promoted the idea that there was a spiritual world beyond death inhabited by evolved spiritual beings, whose wisdom could be accessed through the occult reading of esoteric signs and the intervention of spiritual mediums Scott, These isolated areas provided a place to get away from the social pressures of the outside world. However, an insurrection took place when Brother XII announced to his followers that he was the reincarnation of the Egyptian God Osiris. Between and , a series of trials involving Brother XII occurred, which included allegations of misusing foundation funds and having extramarital affairs.
News reports claimed that he used black magic to cause witnesses and several members of the audience to faint Rutten, Wilson himself became increasingly authoritarian and used social pressure to convince members into performing gruelling physical labour that was virtually on the same level as slavery. He did this by telling them these activities were tests of fitness to advance their spirituality.
In , the group was finally dissolved and Wilson disappeared from the Nanaimo area along with hundreds of thousands of dollars of Foundation money and Mabel Skottowe one of the women with whom he was accused of having an extramarital affair. They reportedly left by tugboat and eventually made their way to Switzerland. The majority of reports say that he died in Switzerland in , though some that say he was seen in San Francisco with his lawyer after his alleged death. According to Cowan , because most people have little direct knowledge of cults and mainly get their information through sensationalist media reports, cults are easily presented as targets of moral panic for being immoral, extreme or dangerous.
The three main accusations that cults face are that they engage in brainwashing, acts of sexual deviance and social isolationism. Each of these accusations applied to the media reports on the Aquarian Foundation although their dominant theme centered on the claim that Brother XII was a fraud. While some people think of religion as something individual because religious beliefs can be highly personal , for sociologists religion is also a social institution. Social scientists recognize that religion exists as an organized and integrated set of beliefs, behaviours, and norms centred on basic social needs and values.
Moreover, religion is a cultural universal found in all social groups. For instance, in every culture, funeral rites are practiced in some way, although these customs vary between cultures and within religious affiliations. These universals, and the differences in how societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study. But why does religion exist in the first place? Despite the conflict that has accompanied religion over the centuries, it still continues to exist, and in some cases thrive.
How do we explain the origins and continued existence of religion? We will examine sociological theories below, but first we turn to evolutionary and psychological explanations. Many psychologists explain the rise and persistence of religion in terms of Darwinian evolutionary theory. Psychologist Roger Cloninger defines this core religious experience as the disposition towards self-transcendence.
It has three measurable components: self-forgetfulness absorption in tasks and the ability to lose oneself in concentration , transpersonal identification perception of spiritual union with the cosmos and the ability to reduce boundaries of self vs. The argument is that because this is a universal phenomenon, it must have a common physiological or genetic basis that is passed on between generations that enhances human survival. According to Charles Darwin all species are involved in a constant battle for survival, using adaptions as their primary weapon against an ever-changing, and hostile environment.
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Adaptions are genetic, or behavioral traits that are shaped by environmental pressures, and genetic variation. By dissecting religion to a core set of purposes, it can be categorized as an adaption that increases the chances of human survival. All adaptions successfully passed on to future generations aided at one point either in reproduction or survival because the genes that selected for them were passed on. This is the rule of natural selection Darwin, Much of evolutionary psychology aims at explaining the possible environments in which certain adaptions were selected.
Although religion has the potential to cause unwanted side effects, such as wars, it still provides much greater benefits, by responding to numerous survival problems through collective religious processes. A very specific benefit, for example, is disease prevention.
Many historic religions placed an emphasis on cleanliness, comparing it to spiritual purity. Consequently there is also an evolutionary benefit to this religious virtue. During a time period where disease was a constant threat to survival, idealizing cleanliness helped minimize communicable diseases from food, animals, and even humans. Although disease prevention has been an important byproduct of religious practices around the world, evolutionary psychologists argue that the main benefit religion has provided to human survival is the mutual support provided by fellow members.
More specifically, religion creates a framework for social cohesion and solidarity, even during times of loss, and grief, which has been a crucial competitive strategy of the human species. Dean Hamer for example describes a specific gene that correlates with the capacity for self-transcendence. After his research team isolated an association between the VMAT2 gene sequence and populations who scored high on psychological scales for self-transcendence, Hamer noted these genes were connected to the production of neurotransmitters known as monoamines. The effects of monoamines on the meso-limbic systems in the human body were similar to many stimulant drugs: feelings of euphoria and positive well-being.
What is striking about this evidence is the implication that evolution has favoured genes that are often displayed in religious populations. Hamer extends the evolutionary argument to suggest that religion, grounded genetically in a neuro-chemical capacity for self-transcendence, provides competitive advantages for the human species in the forms of community well-being higher rates of reciprocity and social welfare and longevity reduction of maladaptive behaviours and increased cleanliness. Many similar effects can be observed in the present environment.
Strawbridge, Sherna, Cohen, and Kaplan, conducted a year longitudinal study on religious attendance and survival. Although they found that weekly religious attendance more often assisted in targeting and reducing maladaptive behaviors such as smoking, it also aided in maintaining social relations, and marriage Strawbridge et al. Evolutionary psychology argues that these modern tendencies to feel happiness during a church congregation to reduce maladaptive behaviours are innate, sculpted by centuries of exposure to religion.
Evolutionist Richard Dawkins hypothesized a similar reason why religion has created such a lasting impact on society. Comparable to genes, memes are bits of information that can be imitated and transferred across cultures and generations Dawkins, As a vocal proponent of atheism, Dawkins believes the idea of God is a meme, working in the human mind the same way as a placebo effect.
The God meme contains tangible benefits to human society such as answers to questions about human transcendence and superficial comfort for daily difficulties, but the idea of God itself is a product of the human imagination Dawkins, Although a human creation, the God meme is incredibly appealing, and as a result, has continually been passed on through cultural transfusion. The logic of evolutionary psychology suggests that it is possible for religion to be replaced by another mechanism that is more beneficial to human survival. Just as Dawkins hypothesized that religious memes colonized societies around the world, this process could also be applied to secular memes.
The secularization thesis predicts that as societies become modern, religious authority will be replaced with public institutions. As Canada, and other countries develop, perhaps evolution will continue to favour secularization, demoting religion from its central place in social life, and religious conflicts to history textbooks and motel night tables.
Where psychological theories of religion focus on the aspects of religion that can be described as products of individual subjective experience — the disposition towards self-transcendence, for example — sociological theories focus on the underlying social mechanisms religion sustains or serves. They tend to suspend questions about whether religious world views are true or not — e. Is enlightenment achievable through meditation? Marx, Durkheim, Weber and other early sociologists lived in a time when the validity of religion had been put into question.
Traditional societies had been thoroughly religious societies, whereas modern society corresponded to the declining presence and influence of religious symbols and institutions. Nationalism and class replaced religion as a source of identity. Religion became increasingly a private, personal matter with the separation of church and state. However, modern societies seemed inevitably to be on the path towards secularization in which people would no longer define religion as real.
The question these sociologist grappled with was whether societies could work without the presence of a common religion. Instead religion was the product of a projection. Humans projected an image of themselves onto a supernatural reality, which they then turned around and submitted to in the form of a superhuman God. Religious belief was a kind of narcotic fantasy or illusion that prevented people from perceiving their true conditions of existence, firstly as the creators of God, and secondly as beings whose lives were defined by historical, economic and class relations.
Their suffering was real, but their explanation of it was false. However, Marx was not under the illusion that the mystifications of religion belief would simply disappear, vanquished by the superior knowledge of science and political-economic analysis. The problem of religion was in fact the central problem facing all critical analysis: the attachment to explanations that compensate for real social problems but do not allow them to be addressed.
They would continue to live under conditions of social inequality and grasp at the illusions of religion in order to cope. The critical sociological approach he proposed would be to thoroughly disillusion people about the rewards of the afterlife and bring them back to earth where real rewards could be obtained through collective action.
Emile Durkheim explained the existence of religion in terms of the functions it performs in society. Unlike Marx, however, he argued that religion fulfills real needs in each society, namely to reinforce certain mental states, sustain social solidarity, establish basic rules or norms, and concentrate collective energies. These can be seen as the universal social functions of religion that underlie the unique natures of different religious systems all around the world, past and present Sachs, He was particularly concerned about the capacity of religion to continue to perform these functions as societies entered the modern era in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The key defining feature of religion for Durkheim was its ability to distinguish sacred things from profane things. Sacred objects are things said to have been touched by divine presence. They are set apart through ritual practices and viewed as forbidden to ordinary, everyday contact and use. Profane objects on the other hand are items integrated into ordinary everyday living. They have no religious significance. This basic dichotomy creates two distinct aspects of life, that of the ordinary and that of the sacred, that exist in mutual exclusion and in opposition to each other.
This is the basis of numerous codes of behavior and spiritual practices. Durkheim argues that all religions, in any form and of any culture, share this trait. Therefore, a belief system, whether or not it encourages faith in a supernatural power, is identified as a religion of it outlines this divide and creates ritual actions and a code of conduct of how to interact with and around these sacred objects. Durkheim examined the social functions of the division of the world into sacrd and profane by studying a group of Australian Aboriginals that practiced totemism.
Totemic societies are divided into clans based on the different totemic creatures each clan revered. In line with his argument that religious practice needs to be understood in sociological terms rather than supernatural terms, he noted that totemism existed to serve some very specific social functions. For example, the sanctity of the objects venerated as totems infuse the clan with a sense of social solidarity because they bring people together and focus their attention on the shared practice of ritual worship.
They function to divide the sacred from the profane thereby establishing a ritually reinforced structure of social rules and norms, they enforce the social cohesion of the clans through the shared belief in a transcendent power, and they protect members of the society from each other since they all become sacred as participants in the religion. They create a collective consciousness and a focus for collective effervescence in society. In a religious context, this feeling is interpreted as a connection with divine presence, as being filled with the spirit of supernatural forces, but Durkheim argues that in reality it is the material force of society itself, which emerges whenever people come together and focus on a single object.
As individuals actively engage in communal activities, their belief system gains plausibility and the cycle intensifies. The fundamental principles that explain the most basic and ancient religions like totemism, also explain the persistence of religion in society as societies grow in scale and complexity. However, in modern societies where other institutions often provide the basic for social solidarity, social norms, collective representations, and collective effervescence, will religious belief and ritual persist?
In his structural-functional analysis of religion, Durkheim outlined three functions that religion still serves in society, which help to explain its ongoing existence in modern societies. First, religion ensures social cohesion through the creation of a shared consciousness form participation in rituals and belief systems.
Second, it formally enforces social norms and expectations of behavior, which serve to ensure predictability and control of human action. As long as the needs remain unsatisfied by other institutions in modern social systems, religion will exist to fill that void. He abandoned the idea of a religious or rabbinical career, however, and became very secular in his outlook.
Religion performs the key function of providing social solidarity in a society. This type of analysis became the basis of the functionalist perspective in sociology. He explained the existence and persistence of religion on the basis of the necessary function it performed in unifying society. His approach was to determine the meaning of religion in the conduct of life for members of society. Three key themes concerning religion emerge from his work: the concept of theodicy, the disenchantment of the world, and the Protestant Ethic.
They give meaning to why good or innocent people experience misfortune and suffering. Therefore believers must accept that there is a higher divine reason for their suffering and continue to strive to be good. Individuals must struggle in this life to rectify the evils accumulated from previous lives. In particular, he was interested in the development of the modern worldview which he equated with the widespread processes of rationalization : the general tendency of modern institutions and most areas of life to be transformed by the application of technical reason, precise calculation, and rational organization.
Again, central to his interpretivist framework, how people interpreted and saw the world provided the basis for an explanation of the types of social organization they created. In this regard, one of his central questions was to determine why rationalization emerged in the West and not the East. Eastern societies in China, India, and Persia had been in many respects more advanced culturally, scientifically and organizationally than Europe for most of world history, but had not taken the next step towards developing thoroughly modern, rationalized forms of organization and knowledge.
The relationship to religion formed a key part of his answer. One component of rationalization was the process Weber described as the disenchantment of the world , which refers to the elimination of a superstitious or magical relationship to nature and life. Weber noted that many societies prevented processes of rationalization from occurring because of religious interdictions and restrictions against certain types of development. A contemporary example might be the beliefs concerning the sacredness of human life, which serve to restrict experimenting with human stem cells or genetic manipulation of the human genome.
For Weber, disenchantment was one source for the rapid development and power of Western society, but also a source of irretrievable loss. A second component of rationalization, particularly as it applies to the rise of capitalism as a highly rationalized economic system, was the formation of the Protestant Ethic.
This will be discussed more fully below. The key point to note here is that Weber makes the argument that a specific ethic or way of life that developed among a few Protestant sects on the basis of religious doctrine or belief, i. The restrictions that religions had imposed on economic activities and that had prevented them from being pursued in a purely rational, calculative manner, were challenged or subverted by the emergence and spread of new, equally religious, forms of belief and practice.
He noted that in modern industrial societies, business leaders and owners of capital, the higher grades of skilled labour, and the most technically and commercially trained personnel were overwhelmingly Protestant. He also noted the uneven development of capitalism in Europe, and in particular how capitalism developed first in those areas dominated by Protestant sects.
As opposed to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church in which poverty was a virtue and labour simply a means for maintaining the individual and community, the Protestant sects began to see hard, continuous labour as a spiritual end in itself. Hard labour was firstly an ascetic technique of worldly renunciation and a defense against temptations and distractions: the unclean life, sexual temptations, and religious doubts.
Weber argued that the ethic , or way of life, that developed around these beliefs was a key factor in creating the conditions for both the accumulation of capital, as the goal of economic activity, and for the creation of an industrious and disciplined labour force. It is an element of cultural belief that leads to social change rather than the concrete organization and class struggles of the economic structure. As the impediments toward rationalization were removed, organizations and institutions were restructured on the principle of maximum efficiency and specialization, while older, traditional i.
The irony of the Protestant Ethic as one stage in this process is that the rationalization of capitalist business practices and organization of labour eventually dispensed with the religious goals of the ethic. Phenomenology seeks to describe the way in which all phenomena, including religion, arise as perceptions within the immediate sensorial experience and awareness of individual subjects. Phenomenologists study the ways in which the world, and ourselves within it, first come to presence in experience and only later become separate objects, social structures or selves.
Religion is only secondarily a structure, institution, practice, or set of beliefs. How do humans go from the flux of immediate perception to a religious worldview? For Berger, religion is a particular type of culture Berger In order for humans to survive, the world must be culturally prepared as a world in which things and people have stable meanings. Culture, Berger argues, exists therefore as an artifice that mediates between humans and nature and provides needed stability and predictability in human life.
From the phenomenological point of view, culture enables both the ongoing creation of the world as a stable, objective social reality outside the subject and the simultaneous creation, or interiorization, of social roles and social expectations within the subject. Religion develops because the stability of culture is inherently fragile.
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Just as the immediate experience of the individual is subject to flux and change, so is the foundation of the ordered, meaningful world of culture. Cultural meanings tend to be fixed and rigid through time, whereas the underlying reality they describe is not. Events occur that are not explainable. They fall outside the categories and threaten to put the whole cultural framework or nomos into question. Religion comes into existence as a solution to this problem. Religion is able to resolve the threat of instability and terror of anomie by postulating a supernatural agency or cosmological view of the world, which are unaffected by everyday inconstancy and uncertainty.
In a religious cosmology the order described by culture is the natural order, that is, it is the way the gods have decided things must be. Things that occur that cannot be explained in human terms are explained as the products of divine will. Religion is therefore a source of ultimate legitimation because it provides the social order with an unquestionable foundation of legitimacy: the way things are is the will of the gods.
From a phenomenological point of view however, the price of this religious solution is a mode of forgetfulness and alienation. For the legitimation effect of religion to work and be plausible, humans must forget that they themselves have created religion. They must forget that religion is a human accomplishment. In The Sacred Canopy, Berger argued that the processes of secularization will eventually erode the plausibility of religious belief.
For religion to function as a sacred canopy and ultimate legitimation, it must provide the foundation for a shared belief system. In modern societies however, other types of knowledge and expert systems like science assume greater authority to describe the nature of the world and our role within it. As we will see below in Section Despite the dominant expectation that modern societies were becoming ever more secular, Stark believed that religion was, and would continue to be, an important and influential factor for individuals and society.
Stark notes that church membership and new religious movements have actually increased in the United States as the country modernized. In Europe, where religious participation is relatively low, levels of individual belief nevertheless remain high and participation has not undergone a long-term decline Stark, b.
What explanation can be provided for the persistence of religion? Stark begins with the stipulation that the importance of the supernatural must be recognized when studying religion. Belief in a higher force or power is the feature that distinguishes religions from non-religious beliefs and organizations.
Any theory of religion must take this into account. Stark attempts to answer this question by proposing a number of basic, general rules about humans and their behavior. Rational choice theory states that the most basic human motive is individual self-interest, and that all social activities are a product of rational decision making in which individuals continuously weigh the benefits of choices against their costs Scott, A person who has a choice between two jobs, for example, would weigh the rewards of each one such as higher pay or better benefits against the possible costs of longer work hours or further commutes.
Individuals will on balance choose the course of action that maximizes their rewards and minimizes their costs. In this sense, even seemingly irrational decisions or beliefs can be understood as rational choices from the point of view of the individual decision maker Stark, a. Religious belief in the supernatural may seem irrational from an outside perspective because it involves an orientation to invisible, supernatural powers that affect the everyday material world through unobservable mechanisms.
However, for the religious believer whose worldview is shaped by this assumption, it is completely rational that they would choose to worship and make offerings to these supernatural powers in the hopes of gaining rewards and avoiding wrath or misfortune. Moreover, by participating in religious practice, people also surround themselves with other believers who make the rationality of supernatural choices even more plausible.
According to Stark, the rewards people desire most intensely are often scarce or not available at all, such as an end to suffering or eternal life. Consequently, when such rewards cannot be attained through direct means, humans will create and exchange compensators. These are promises or IOUs of a reward at an unspecified future date, along with an explanation of how they can be acquired. Stark argues that rewards such as these are so monumental and scarce that they can only be provided through a supernatural source. This is why religious belief persists. In other words, a person must believe that a supernatural power exists which is capable of providing this reward in order to rationally believe that it is attainable.
In this sense, religious belief and practice are rational choices humans make to get the most coveted rewards regarding human existence. Religious organizations function to provide compensators for these rewards by claiming to provide access to supernatural powers or deities. For Stark, this is the root of why religion continues to exist in the modern world, and why it will continue to persist. By using a positivist approach, Stark creates a theory where every proposition, including this one, can in principle be tested.
The proposition above could be verified by examining the number of gods and their powers in the religions of small, traditional societies and comparing that to the number of gods worshipped in more established, modern ones. In reality however, many of the propositions are difficult to test because the concepts he uses are hard to measure or compare between religions. How does one empirically quantify the scope of a certain god and compare it to that of an unrelated god from a different religion?
His theory has also been critiqued for having an inherent bias towards monotheistic and particularly Protestant Christian measures of religion Carroll, In other words, he places higher value on measures of religiosity that fit the Protestant model, such as belief and adherence to doctrine, over those that better describe other religions, such as the ritual aspects of Hinduism or Catholicism.