Identify and briefly explain three ways in which women may be disadvantaged by religion today (9 marks) – Jan 13 One way in which women may be disadvantaged by religion in today’s society is the fact that some religious organisational hierarchies are still male dominated. Although there have been moves towards equality in many religions, for example the Church of England’s decision to ordain women as priests in 1992, many religions are still dominated by males who hold the top positions in the hierarchy. For example, in Islam, women are still no longer able to become an imam and hold a religious service. Therefore, in this sense, women are disadvantaged by religion today as they cannot hold office within organisational hierarchies. Secondly, women are disadvantaged by religion today as religious texts tend to reinforce patriarchy. Feminists would argue that religious texts are written from a male point of view, encouraging patriarchy and the subordination of women. Therefore, women are disadvantaged by religion as they are seen as subordinate to men. Lastly, women can be said to be disadvantaged by religion as some religions segregate men and women in terms of worship. For example, in Judaism, women are not permitted to fully take part in all religious ceremonies. Therefore, one can suggest that women are still unable to fully take part in all religions and thus, are at a disadvantage.
Identify and briefly explain three reasons why statistics on religious belief may not be accurate. (9 marks) – June 2012 One reason statistics on religious belief may not be accurate is because of the methodological issues that can arise. For example, there is no set way of counting how many people believe in a religion. Statistics tend to come from a wide range of sources; from opinion polls to census figures to individual churches. There is not one true way of measuring believers and therefore, one can suggest that these methods are not wholly reliable as they have a varying degrees of accuracy. Secondly, in today’s society, it is not uncommon for people not to attend places of religious practice e.g. the church. Many people favour private religious practice whereby worship and ceremonies take place within the home. Therefore, statistics relying on church attendance figures may not be an accurate measure of religious believers as some may choose to do it in private and thus, will not be included. Lastly, statistics may not be accurate as people may not always tell the truth about their religious belief. For example, people may lie to the researcher or on questionnaires in order to make them look more socially desirable. This means that they may answer in terms of what they think the researcher would want to hear instead of their actual belief. Therefore, statistics may not be accurate as people may lie about their religious belief.
Identify and briefly explain three reasons why members of minority ethnic groups may seem to be more religious than members of the majority population. (9 marks) – Jan 12 One reason members of ethnic minority groups may seem to be more religious than the rest of the population is because of the cultural transition they go through. Religion may act as a source of community solidarity following migration to an unfamiliar country and therefore serves to maintain their identity. This suggests that ethnic minority groups are more religious as it eases the cultural transition into another country. Secondly, ethnic minority groups may be more religious as they tend to be more economically and socially disadvantaged compared to the rest of the majority population. Religion may attract these groups as they provide explanations and justifications for their social position and offer hope of salvation in the afterlife. Therefore, ethnic minority groups are more religious as it helps them cope with their position in society. Lastly, they may be seen as more religious due to the changing habits of the majority population in terms of the way they practice their religion. For example, over time the majority population worship in private and thus, make their religious beliefs less visible. In turn, members of ethnic minority may look more religiously active.
Identify and briefly explain three characteristics of religious fundamentalism. (9 marks) – June 11 One characteristic of religious fundamentalism is the belief in literal truth of religious texts. Fundamentalists believe that whatever is written in their sacred text e.g. the bible, is literally true and should not be confused with being false. They believe in order to counter the diluting influence of liberalism, these texts should be interpreted literally and everybody should live by its rules. A second characteristic of religious fundamentalism is a deep opposition to secularisation and modernity. They prefer tradition rather than accommodation to the changing world. They believe modernity therefore undermines religion and leads to moral corruption. They are therefore resistant to change, wanting a return to the basics of their faith. Lastly, a third characteristic of religious fundamentalism is intolerance of other religions. They believe that by tolerating other religions in society, it waters down personal faith and thus, reject religious pluralism. Therefore, they believe that society should be led by the fundamentals of their faith.
Identify and briefly explain three characteristics of sects. (9 marks) – June 13 One characteristic of a sect is that it is usually led by a charismatic leader. Many sects form around one inspirational leader who has both a strong leadership and personality. This allows for them to attract a large number of people to the movement. One example of this is Jim Jones, leader of the sect the ‘People’s Temple’ who had the ability to encourage mass support through his charismatic personality. A second characteristic of a sect is the fact that they claim to hold monopoly of the truth. This means that only their sect alone knows the truth about the world and are therefore, intolerant of other beliefs and discarding other religions. Therefore, they claim that only they know the real ‘truth’. Lastly, sects are characterised by the fact that they only allow for very committed members. It is not unusual for members of sects to leave their old life and contact with the world in order to live only with other members of the sect. For example, Branch Davidians lived in a compound in Waco, Texas, showing they became unattached from the world and members had to become fully committed to the group, even leaving family members of behind. Therefore, sects advocated a strong, committed membership by all involved.