2 - 2 THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD There are two obvious positions...

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Unformatted text preview: 2 THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD There are two obvious positions that yOu can take about re1i~ glon. Either you believe it or you don’t: in one case it is a su- preme Reality that transcends everything sociology is concerned with; in the other it is an irrational superstition about things that don’t exist. For the most part social thinkers have taken the second of these two attitudes. :Utilitarians and rational reformers in gen- eral tended to look on religion as an archaic, irrational force. It is the source of superstition, beliefs about an invisible worldmof ' spirits and ghosts. Legal reformers saw religion as an institution of Inquisitors and heresy—hunters, burning people at the stake for their beliefs or under the mistaken judgment that they were witches. Badioals saw religion as the upholder of the status quo a kind of agency of the ruling class that made peeple put up with. economic and political injustice in return for a promised life, in heaven after they die. Rational intellectuals, generally seeing no grounds for believing in theological dogma, regarded religion as a relic of the Dark Ages, something that would . eventually die away as societies became modernized. For a while, this prediction seemed to be coming true. Cora; " tainly religions lost most of the hold they had over people just a few centuries ago. Witch-burning no longer took place, and belief in malevolent spirits largely disappeared. Churches he‘- 80 ' THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD 31 came less dogmatic and more tolerant. Adherence to religion declined. People no longer attended daily mass or sat through protracted Sabbath-day sermons. Eventually we seemed to be reaching the point where not only were the stores open on Sunday morning, but peeple were just as likely to watch a foot- ball game or‘ play golf as go to church. The church lost its power to prohibit people from doing such things and seemed to be los- ing its power totmotivate other aspects of people’s lives as well. ‘Similar trends could be feund around the world. As traditional tribal and agricultural societies came into the modern orbit, their various religions also began to lose their power. One might have expected that religion would fade away entirely. ‘But this has not happened. Religion in the United States is far from dead. EVCn here, where science and technology has advanced to very high levels, and education is more widespread than anywhere else in the history of the world, the expectations of religion crumblingunder the advance of rationality has not panned out. Instead we see religious revivals of many sorts. There has been a new movement of vehemently furidamentalist Christianity, which takes the Bible as literally true made- nounces what it regards, as the moral failings of the "contempo- rary world. This religion has not merely defended itself‘pas- I sively but has taken the offensive and entered into I current" ' politics in an effort to win back the old compulsory poWers‘ of the _ i ‘ .. church. Simultaneously, Oriental religions have made a great'erp influx into Western societies than at any previous time."Fol~j_y lowers of Krishna, Hindu gurus, and Buddhist monks haVe ap-_ . ‘ peared in large numbers, while Islam has made its appeal espe- ‘ cially among the black populace. Astrology and the occult have Some of these same kinds of religious and occultistmovements- have appeared over and over again in modern times. Obviously. the prediction of a steady trend toward total Secularization and? A rationalism is incorrect. - ' ‘ , i What is most significant- about religion for a sociologist; Ver',.,js neither off‘the two obvious stances regarding _, {=- . fir . attracted widespread interest and permeate the mass median ' 32 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT favoring or opposing religion. There is a third alternative. Durk- heim Created a nonobvious theory of religion, in which the key to religion is not its beliefs but the social rituals that its mem-V hers perform. Religion is a key to social solidarity, and religious beliefs are important, not in their own right, but as symbols of social groups. Religion thus becomes sociologically‘ important as a prime example of a nonrational phenomenon playing a major role in social life. The analysis of religion, moreover, leads us to a Very'important general theory that enables us to under- stand‘social rituals and the way in which they create both moral feelings and symbolic ideas. This theory has applications far removed from the realm of religion itself. It helps us to explain politics and political ideologies, and the dynamics of solidarity that make conflicts possible among social groups. It even tells us something about the private secular realms of modern life. You do not harm to be either religious or politically active to ex- perience therelevance of social rituals. They permeate modern life, just as they did any other time in history. It is only the forms and arrangements of rituals that has changed. Thus I will trace out the varieties of social ritual, from Durkheim’s sociology of religion to Goflman’s seeiology of everyday life. It is no accident thatthesame theOry should tie together the bizarre practices ‘and‘beliefs of primitive religion with the taken- , for-granted behaviors of modern life. For if society is possible only‘on. a nomational'foundation, then even our self~consciously rational thoughtof must rest upon some nonrational pro- . _ is precisely what'the theory of social rituals helps explain. Unravelling thenature of the gods, sociologists have found, an explanation of the rituals and symbols without whic social groups of any kind would not be possible. ‘ THE COMMON BASIS‘ OFBELIGIONS Durkheim’s basipwflassum is that religion” represents something real. .Persofiwa “We H?i”s“t,“"’h”e"‘saw“iiSWreason to be- lieve that some transcende t ' upernatural God existed, let alone THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD - t 33 , the multiplicity of gods and goddesses,.angels, devils,l.den:10ns; I or spirits in which people of various rehgions have be level) a one time or another. Nevertheless, how could people have een "in error for such a long time, throughout most of hilsézory in tact? How can these sorts of beliefs continue to hothlsway among large sectors of the populace even today? Satin): 1113158:3d ‘which people have believed so strongly could har y be me- upon nothing but a mistake in reasoning. There mustthe so ea] thing that corresponds to these religious beliefs, somfethmg rds that people have symbolically seen in the guise o h tetgobe: Though the reality that the gods represent 15 not w a f1, 6- lievers claim it to be, it does have the symbolic force 0 'spmor thing very strong. People have always regarded the :puliision- the gods as more powerful than ordinary humans. Wha fre1 ghan represents, then, must be something much more powar u, L ' ' ' al. I the lihuld you go about proving what is that refigipaist ‘ g l. ‘ represent? The first step is to, compare. Whatas 1t, age at: 1:18 of I all religions have in common? Not any particular docKfihné “God—not Jehovah and Jesus, Allah and Mohamme g, a, ' Vishnu, Isis or Zeus. Not necessarily the concept that t ereth:m single god, for there haVe been many, religions wAfirhirmorzf one: the good and evil pair of Ahuramazda and Ipnan has ‘Zoroastrians, the pantheon of ancient Greek and domtléldfssés dwalling upon Mount Olympus,.the many gods an gphe of the ancient Hindus, and numerous others. Not even a réfi-g ,cOncept of any god: Buddhism, for example, is obvious y, me], I ,éion, but its basic concept of Enlightenment is (3)111th , [up atheistic. And in many tribal religions, there are no gobs,t 0mm . y‘ there are totem animals, plants, rocks, and so forth t a co ,y \ mm the object of the cult. " ' ‘ ‘ ther are two thing ,What all religions have 111 common, ra ., ' p p ‘ certain beliefs held by figmflflltlilfints.defisflamrituals? H M cellectivElyperfonm' / It r, g L réd'I'he basic religious belief is that the worldis divididtint: ‘ r ‘ 1W0 categories: thegsdcred hnd their profane. Things a, 34 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT sacred can be anything: spirits, invisible gods, particular ani- mals or trees, altars, crosses, holy books, special words that only the initiated can speak or songs that only they can sing. The distinctive thing about the sacred is that it is dangerous and supremely important: you must approach it seriously, respect— ‘fully, and with due preparation. Profane things, on the other hand, constitute the rest of the world: all the other things that you can deal with matter-of—factly, with whatever mood you wish, and for whatever purpose you find useful or desirable. , This is the basic religious belief: the dualism of sacred and profane. Along with it goes the basic religious action, namely, ritual. Aritual is very different from ordinary behavior. An ordi- nary practicalaction, such as walking down the street, doing your work, shopping for something at the store, or whatever, can be done in a variety of ways. It makes no difference how you do it as long as you get the job dOne. ‘Ritual, on the other hand, is very strictly determined behavior. In rituals, it is the forms count, Saying prayers, singing a hymn, performing a primitive- sacrifice or-a dance, marching in a procession, kneel~ ' ing beforean idol or" making the sign of the cross-,—in these, the action must be done the right way. Rituals are not a means to an xulterior tend, the Way praciical actions are; you cannot say it;makesnozdiiference how you do it as IOng as the goal is at- tained, for the form-of the ritual is its own end. It is meaningful if it: is; done right and worthless if done wrong. ‘ Thurs, religions are made up of beliefs and rituals, and the twin are-connected. Rituals are procedures by which people must conduct themselves in'the presence of things that they believe to "besaoredg’l‘hecpposite of these two go together as well; ordinary, nonritual behavior is h0w you act in the presence of the profane. As we shall see, Durkheim gave priority to rituals oVer beliefs. In a certain -‘sense, the correct performance of the ritualis what gave riSe to the: belief in the sacred. I “The question now arises: how could people have ever in- ; r , wanted this distinction? has there been this near-universal [THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD 35. tendency to divide the world‘into the sacred and the profane? Nothing in nature suggests it. Animals do not make the disagg- ‘ tion. Everything in the physical world is on thesame level. ay ‘ should people imagine that it is filled with invisible spirits, go s, forces that demand certain kinds of arbitrary respect and that are dangerous if disobeyed? There are real dangers 1n th: world, to be sure, but people must have very quickly learne' = how to deal with them in practical ways. From a purely phy'st; t *' cal viewpoint, religion seems to have filled the world w1 ' ‘ tions. . héllblicilntahere is one reality that does have all the characteristics that people attribute to the divine. Itis not nature; nor is“: metaphysical. It is society itself. For society is a iorce grea It than any individual. It brought us to life, and it can us. . has tremendous power over us. Everyone depends upon it in innumerable ways. We use tools and skills We did not iliiivent, we speak a language passed on to us from others. Virtua your whole material and symbolic world is given to us from scorety. The institutions ‘we inhabit—our form of: family life, ecpfinyé __politics, whatever they may be—came from the .accumr, app ll [practices of others, in short,rfrom society. This is the fur: a. v p: , mental truth that religion expresses.,God is a symbolic)“ w; 1 Thus it is not an illusion to feel that something ex1sts outstdie of ourselves, something very poWerful, yet not part of the Cali; "nary physical reality that We see with our eyes. Morpovir,Xists semething—the feeling of our dependence upon sgc fry Lime simultaneously outside and inside ourselves. In rel 1gb ons d is always a connection between the sacred worl 1eyon SI ‘ and something sacred inside ourselves. God is sunu tang); is): I. without and within. In the advanced religions sucl:l 9:1, 1' l ltianity or Islam there is the concept. oi? the indiv1 fu is which belongs to God. \In the totemistic religion obpr the tribes there is a similar connection, for every mem erio, lkof tribe is also identified with the totem. If the sacred aging Is an Australian clan is the kangaroo, then every clan mem er, 2 36 . SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD 37]” that in some way they too are kangaroos. This belief, too, cor- responds to something real. We are parts of society: it only exists in the aggregate because of us. \ More than that, our inner selves are constructed out of parts that come to us from without. Our name, our self-identity, come from the ways we relate to other people, and from the way they relate to us. We usually think of ourselves by our own names, but we seldom created these names for ourselves. Even if you ‘ Were to change the name given by your parents, you may find that you are known by a nickname given by other people. And ‘ another vantage point, one that cuts across time and space. But this is what society does. Hence whenever we think, we do so by means of concepts that originated in social communication. Communicttm must always jump aboveeax 996 P¢!$,91!7§,,P3¥1. __ticu1ar viewpoint to a bridge of generality connecting one per« ‘ Vson’s reality with another’s. Social communication is what creates our basic repertoire of ideas, insofar as ideas are abstract concepts. Since we use these ideas to think with, our own minds are permeated by society. We cannot escape society, even when ‘we are alone. As long as we are conscious, society is implicitly / the deeper aspects of our self~image come even more powerfully there. fr‘l’fm our exPeneflces With Other People- Do You think Of Your“ Thus society is both outside us and within the very core of se as good-looking, plain, or downright hideous? Do y0u feel our conscimisness. This is what makesihasymbnlhmfiiflzflgion confident, controlled, spontaneous, anxious, or harried? Success— ful 0r unsuccessful? These feelings about yourself are for the most part formed by the way in which other people have treated - , youQ/Thiswdependence“of ewselfjimage upon other people is W,» y‘logy. We tend to see ourselves mthrcugh the-eyes of other people. To express this fact the so- diologist—eeharlesv"‘Horton.,Qooley coined the term “the looking- ' glass'self.” . U _j j‘i' Most ultimately of all, our very consciousness is social. We , "thin inwards, but we did not invent them. We could not think , stall; if, We did not have ideas, and we guide our behavior by certainideals. But neither ideas nor ideals could have been created by Ourselves. alcheflldeas and ideals must have some- thing/general they are concepts that transcend the par— ~ t” H to be an example , a , ” fings. But nature always presents itself to a as particulars, n r as'k‘generalitics. Observing nature could _ neverchave‘ suggestedageneral concepts to us. Each tree is ac~ ‘ finally unique; it is onlybecause We have the general idea of :qtree’,’ that we can see the resemblance among trees and thus ‘ t them as members of I , airfle class of things. ‘ $5.116 Only way we can, transcend the here-and—now of this [particular thing at this particular place is to put ourselves on §° Very Powerf‘fl’ it expresses the. e$§fintial.féigifingigufiihwwan «existence. That is why religious symbolism has incorporated “ideas of human identity as well as of social obligation, why there is the idea of a soul as well as of some kind of god or spiritual force that rules the universe. And since religion sym— ,, bolizes the major facts of society, it has always had to make room for sooial conflict in its system of symbols. Since societies are never totally unified, religion must always describe the "existence of rival gods, heretics, evil spirits, or the devil. symbolism of religion’mirrors the socialwbfld. ‘ DO PEOPLE HAVE MORAL FEELINGS? ' ‘But religion is morethan an intellectual reality. Above all, it is a moral force. This, too, is preeminently social. Notions of right and wrong are intrinsically collective. Most of them, regu- ‘ late the relationships among people: prohibitions against killing, ying, and stealing, or positive injunctions to love or aid yOur eighbor. None of these rules make sense except in a social context. Even those moral rules that do not "r'5f6f"éi'plicm wmbehavior have an underlying social component. Respect r a ritual is right, and a violation of it is wrong, because the ‘ cup decrees it so. It is offensive to a believer for someonew‘to i we...eminmawmmmawweaw 2N 38 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT spit on the Bible, for exam 16, but onl because made the Bible into a sacred) object. y the group 'has The very idea of morality implies a force beyond any par- ticular individual, a force that makes demands and punishes transgressions. These demands and punishments are not ordi- ‘HMY‘OHCS. You are expected to followmamoral duty, regardless of or injurious to yourself. Utilitarian re- 'wards and punishments'onthe mundane plane, in the profane world, are irrelevant to whether something is right or wrong ' If you believe that stealing is wrong, then it is wrong eVen it you were to gain a great deal by stealing; it would continue to be wrong even if you were never caught. The punishment for a moral transgression, rather, is in another realm, just as the reward for moral behavior is in Heaven or in whatever the sacred realm is considered to be in that society. g . What is the-reality of Heaven and Hell and their equivalents in other religions? The only real force that can fill their part is _,so_ciet}/ itself. Moral righteousness is what makes you a member i ,good standing of the group; the secure sense of belonging : Constitutes its reWard. This is what Heaven symbolizes. Moral ‘ evil,j_is.:a transgression against the group, and its punishment on the strictly .moral plane is automatic: it is the exclusion from :bership. In the symbolism of Christian theology, Hell is h banishment of the _sinner from God. Moral punishment is concluded from thefeeling of belongirlgtosOCiety.“ ' " ‘ _ ‘ é’h’dfieréwtd"thefl‘precepts of morality? First of 11 because the group demands it. But also because individuals Wanttobelong». It is hard for people to avoid having some moral : tidings or other: ,becaUSe almost everyone is attached to some soeiale'grouplnsofaras: they want to belong to the group they tomatically attach themselves to its morality. It is socidl ties ‘ ” a what are.-.) '“ " some morality, ornthat e ’ r ‘5 “all intense 1' o 1 _ '53-”.0n the slant: q y m m feel omes from group member- 39 _ ' ‘ ship, then the fact that there are difl’erent sorts of groups in a ‘ Society, that gr0ups are in conflict with one another, and that 7 individuals may join or leave groups means that there will be a number of different moralities. Which group one wishes-to _ belong to will determine what kind of moral feelings they will "-7 have. If groups are in conflict, then their moralities will be in conflict too. This is true in the'secular realm as well as in the sphere of religion. People who belong to opposing political parties regard their own position as right, and their opponents’ policies as wrong, in much the same fashion as members of rival religions feel themselves to be righteous and the others to be “ .sinners. - , Whatever the group may be, though, if people want to be— long to it they will end up feeling some kind of moral obliga— tion. This sounds like the individual has to sacrifice something to become a member. The sacrifice is real enough, but there ‘ are compensations. ’ * ' » One of the main benefits of belonging to a group is so close to home that it tends to be overlooked. It is intangible, but 1- Completely real. This» is theemotional [energy thatone receives _ from taking part in intense social gatherings. It‘is because of emotional energy that people can do things in crowds” that I . d‘ they cannot or would not “do alone. The crowd makes them feel Strong because they are part of some thing that is muchastronger i, ' than they are as individuals. It also tends to make them feel" righteous because by participating in a common activity. ' are doing something more than merely acting on their own, indie ' \vidual self—interest. it is for these reasons that peopleaoting together in. iseonseiéaémonsahm y usually would bealone. r - We see this inma-wveryMcommon form at athletic events. The [Elindividual athlete is spurred on by a large and sympathetic \ “crowd, and athletes performing as part of a close~knlt teamrrcani‘t :: emetimes perform beyond limits they would ordinarily find iims ' ssible. The same kind of sentiments are played upon in ivory ; ngerous situations like military battles. Ordinarily peoplefs“ wmm§¥fl§x§yvg$jr \sa‘ ‘ It is the a“ _ _themotlementgthatfereatesf3 40 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT level of courage is not very high, especially when they are by themselves. But in warfare troops have frequently stood to- gether under very heavy fire and accepted almost certain death, the courage lasts as long as the group keeps together and feels that everyone is facing the same danger. ' The energy and moral force of an assembled group is thus both very powerful and potentially very dangerous. It is these group situations that bring individuals to the highest levels of altruism. They become capable of heroic actions and-personal [self-sacrifice. Individuals are capable of becoming martyrs, especially if it can be done in public and with a strong support- ing cast. At the same time, a crowd easily loses all sense of re straint. The moral energy can quickly become fanatical and can be turned in many different directions. From the excitement of ‘mass gatherings, crusades are born and revolutions are made. Smaller: groups are usually less excitable, but they too have an effect of picking up the energy level of the people who throw themselvas into them. ' _ So ‘one Very powerful way to gain confidence and energy is to participate in intense group situations. Politics and religion havea common root. Religious leaders or political craters, in l ‘ particular, tend to gain 3a high degree of personal energy from- , their socialrole. The leader who can focus the attention of the crowCl,‘ who can express an idea that the audience holds in common, becomes; filled'r’with‘ special energies. If the group is exdited enough, ,thergroup leader becomes inspired, more than juls‘taana'ordin‘ary person.- He or she can become charismatic, a, celebrityga hero, eves-a holy figure. The energy that produces this transformation does; not come from the leader. 'It is the energy of the group, revved up by passing around the assembled crowd; and brought'ito afoous by the leader who speaks to them and for themfiTlie leader isr-the channel for the collective energy, ~ and that-is what seems. to exalt him or her above the individuals-1 in the mass. But’the secret of the leader’s power is ice that creates the prophet; it is er‘ I . ‘ THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD ‘41 r The leader reaps the greatest rewards from participating in / ' the group. The political leader, speaking for the group s ideals, L becomes its most energetic member. The priest saying mass is the holiest person in the church because he‘ is the center of the ceremony that everyone else watches. But ordinary rank-and~ t" file group members can receive an emotional benefit too: They; do not get quite the‘same energy surge, the. same feeling 0 righteousness, as the leader, but they do gain personal force and confidence from participating in group gatherings: .The more enthusiastically they throw themselves into the spirit of the meeting, the more of a sense of exaltation they receive. By participating in their church, their political rally, or :whatever group they may attach themselves to, they gain an rmcrerlnen: of energy and Self—confidence that makes them feel capab e o achieving things they could not otherwise reach. . \ / » Group meetings, then, are a kind of socml machine‘for transl- for‘ming energies. By plugging into the group Situation, 1ndiv1 -.— i uals can make themselves stronger and more purposeful. This :is the hidden payoff that accounts for the continuous appeal of - ' ion and its secular e uivalents. " , rellahe duality of the sagred and the profane, that basic distinee tion that makes up the content of all religious beliefs, correw sponds to an alternation between two modes of social organizag ‘ ffion. Much of the time society is dispersed; peeple pursue their _y _ mundane tasks, making a living, eating, consummg, follownig _ {heir own practical interests and concerns. The level of collega tive energy is low, as people have only their own‘resources yo draw upon. But alternating with these tlmes of dispersion are p , times of assembly. These are the archetypalreligious Situatiolpsi . ‘It may be the meeting of a church or the celebration of a tri , rite. In either case, the gathering of the seeiety changes ,_inergy dynamics. The mood of the Australian clan comfigflto- L ' ether, for example, is a concentration and mutual stim Is on at ‘ passes among the assembled members like an harge. Common emotions-are built up. The world ofevery fane tasks is replacedlby another mood, one thatis more; 42 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT intense and directed toward a different aim. By means of its symbols, the groupvno longer focuses upon the individual tasks of the mundane world but upon its collective self. It is out of this that people derive the sense of a higher realm, which they call the divine. It is a realm of the spirit, precisely because it is a spirit within which the group participates. 4;? féENEHAL MODEL OF SOCIAL RITUALS If we look at the elements that go into producing a religious feeling, we arrive at a general model of social rituals. As indi- cated, this can be looked at as the formula for a machine for transforming social energies and also a machine for creating social ideals or symbols. What are the components of this machine? First of all,y_t_h,emgz:oup_must.be~assembled. It is the physical presence of other people that starts the energies flowing, build- ing up the contagious emotion. ‘ But this by itself is not enough. The individuals in the group must all come to feel the same emotion and become conscious that the others are sharing it. Thusmagtions must be ritualized. People must carry. out a pattern, coordinating gestures and voices. This maybe done in unison or by means of a script in; which each pers’On plays their expected part. Ritualized actions are regular and rhythmic, whether in the extreme form of singing, Chanting, or dancing together, or in the more loose- knit form ofan audience applauding the words of a leader. It is the common action; that enables the group to feel itself as a group. It is;pp;alongerma-.static..collecii9naOf individuals but a dynamic?” _ d I I , _7*"W’Fin‘al'ly“there‘islanemblemwd "1,.ggfqypfswddea ofggit‘s The power of the group is its energy and 'itsmoral ‘rce, but thisyis hard for people to understand directly. Participatingain it themselves, people cannot see it for what it is. They must represen 'tis reality under a concrete form. “ They reify itivtheyfeome to- ‘it is a real, almost physical, A ,,.,.ymbolimbiect that focuses {THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD ‘ 43 thing. Thus they conceive of the spirit that moves and unites \ them as a sacred object. It is the totem animal in whose name ,irthey assemble, or the God to whom they pray. In the modern political version, it is the nation, the party, or the political idea (e.g., democracy, or socialism, or revolution), which they feel they are fighting for. l ' The underlying reality of any, symbol is the.,grgup.._its§1£,-and more particularly the mood its members feel when theywassem- ble and carry out their rituals. This sense Of" group "identity be- comes attached to an idea, which is simultaneously an ideal-a - perfect or divine entity to which individuals must subordinate _ themselves, in return for which they receive security and emo- tional strength. ' The emotion attached to this idea is diffuse and contagious.' it has the quality cf transcending I , ', , essence cannot be completelyjgraspeaimittits}; has the quality cf spreading out and adhering to specific, concrete objects. Not only is the mythical totem or the almighty God divine, but so L also is the carved wooden emblem that represents the totem, or c‘h must be wwwmwmm, *Mmmwmwr ' are not only sacred ideas, but sacred objectflsLWw ted 'with respect. .. dimension, Since they inithem, even when thewg‘ttiup is not assembled. True enough, the feeling of exaltation and emotional strength that comes from group could not survive if the group did not reassemble h,ef0re too much time elapses. TheWerngtionrpggdiigigg“mgglgpp H ' in be- , stering arm which they believe and the feeling that it represents. nk up a mite, a sacred emblem can be used as a focal point- around ~ The existence of sacred things gives religions yet another , give a feeling of permanence. The spirit of the group lives on _ I: the altar or the cross by which God is worshipped. Jflihus..,ither.ea_i em The symbols group. to ,- aaggin. Once charged with emotiona “erg!” W which another performance of the ritual can be carried out. concrete emblems carry over at least a minimal feeling of "ongoing, existence cf such emblems'thatmthe continuity of the group’s identity depends. I r ‘ Thesame principle'applies to words as to physical objects, If a cross or a flag canbe a concrete symbol of the group, a par- ticular name or statement of belief can serve equally well. Thus the names of gods have always been sacred for their believers and so have the particular doctrines that believers hold about their religion. Just as in the case of physical emblems, these verbal symbols serve to reinvoke a feeling of membership when one is alone and to reassemble the group for new devotions. Particular names and doctrines take on emotional charges from the rituals in which they originate, andhence serve as the basis of social memory and as a rallying point for putting one new performance of the ritual. Since words can be carried around ' inpeople’s heads, the fact that they can serve as sacred sym~ ‘ bolsgives a great deal of flexibility to the “machinery” of social membership, Even Without physical emblems, people can re-fiinVOlce feelings of‘grcup solidarity just by remembering certain ’“phrases or calling a. particular name—Allah, Jesus, or whatever so Iprsation becomes transformed into an impromptu social ai.:' r - x - . his «last: point-Tia, particularly important because it gives ',eople- a clue about how to act toward one another. On the g , erhandyif, two people both respect the same sacred emblems afldfdie samehclytnames, and share the same doctrines, they _ knowithat theybelong to the same ritual community. They can _ identify with oneanother as members of a group that has feel- ingscf collective solidarityand strength. To put it differently, may both know how" to series parts of a particular emotion- nsfcrming'lmachine‘that lifts-them tQ-a higher level of security d‘energy. their 0 _ encounters,- even in a short con- sation, theyyca-nacarrya miniature ritual that gives 44 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT s iiyiiffaifi‘bfieraual celebration toanother. It is. upon the. ay‘bex‘lf'they do this together with other people, their very ' THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD 45 immediate emotional payoff. It also gives them a particular iden- _ ‘ tity, a way of defining themselves. In tribal Australia those'who ‘Wworship the same totem share a common name. All those who call themselves after the kangaroo, for example, regard them- selves as related, and feel bound to aid and not to hurt one another, just as they are bound not to kill the kangaroo. In Christianity or Islam, co-religionists call themselves by the name oftheir sect and feel they are brethren in the faith. They iden— tify with each other’s triumph and troubles, and feel obligated to come to one another’s aid. The same bonds of common iden- tity and moral solidarity are found among the adherents of any other strong religious or political doctrineg‘o ' ‘ , But the same principle works in a mega 'vo sense, toon§acredi gymbols enable people toidentify those whom they cannot trust. For if the existence of sacred symbols indicates a common identity and moral ties among those who worship in the same cult, encountering someone who does not recognize these 'same _ I sacred objects indicates a boundary between groups. At the ‘ __ least, those who do not share the same symbols feel a lack of L, positive emotional ties ; they are strangers, mutual outsiders. V _ ‘ These feelings can easily devolop from more neutrality into W‘outright hostility. In fact, it is the existence ofsacred objects _ ‘y “sense of belonging and a shared morality that would not be _ there without the cult; any actions that violate the ritual or its calls forth an angry response. For someone to desecrate a holy f place, to burn a Bible or a totem emblem or a flag, to curse a holy name or utter a remark of political disloyalty, is to chal- ‘lenge the group that organizes itself around that symbol. The ‘»?same is true for disagreeing with a doctrine that the group takes as matter of common faith: it constitutes social heresy. ' “ that creates the opportunity for hostility. A ritual eultcreates a I 'i'l‘lsacred objects threaten the sense of group Security. Hem“ it ’ It is not surprising that any group that is strong enough will yerely punish the perpetrator of such symbolic offenses. It I kes no difference that little or no real physical harm may be .ey-‘by the offender. The violator has challenged something «terms» iv.xw»«xwmeqosrastaszammthinnerka mes-as, 46 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT far more emotion—laden than a piece of mundane property; hence the reaction is nqtpitistan eifort at restitution but a feeling of righteous outrage. Notice the righteous aspect of this reac- H'“'tiOfi’i"‘it""is"precisely because the group ritual creates feelings of morality that group punishments of ritual violations have this tone of moral anger. In terms of the metaphor used above, who- ever tffifiRMWiwme social-energy transforming machine runs the danger of receiving a high-intensity shock. We find in a theory of religion, then, explanations of a wide range of phenomena; It shows us that life involves two quite different sorts of experiences, .those in which individuals are reminded offltheir dependence upon the group and those in which theympursuemtheir own practical interests. It is from the ‘ farmer type of experience that we derive our general ideas and ideals, and‘our feelings of morality. _A theory of religion is also a_;_theory of rituals and symbols: rituals being the coordinated r . "actiOns of an assembled group that gives its members a special . _ emotiOnal energy; symbols being ideas, emblems, and doctrines represent the group experience. Symbols are felt to be sacred‘by those who use them to constitute their group; hence ' people who share common symbols feel a moral tie among _ “themselves and a righteous anger against outsiders who violate " I theresPcCt they feel/is due to their symbols. “We have, then,'an "explanation of what holds groups together j ‘a-ndf‘ot what keeps them apart. We have an explanation of ideas, of morality in both its positive and negative aspects. And all 'oi’this follow the‘injunction‘ of the preceding chapter, to show ‘theinOnrational foundations of rationality. There are "m’any‘Ways in which this theory can be applied. e have already seen that the theory extends beyond religion oper: there are political, rituals and ideas—we may call them Ogies—as well as religiousones. There is a good deal more olitics,yoi course, than the ritual aspects of assembled dsi'an'explanatOry theory'of politics must also deal with ests andres "urces, wi’thpower and conflict. Later chapters ys book wilitou " ' ' ese, issues again, showing where ‘ THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD 4-7 rituals fit in with property and force. Another possibility would be to take up the theme of ritual violations and the righteous anger they provoke, whichleads to a theory of crime and punish- ment. This, too, is reserved for a later chapter. For now, let us stick close to the phenomenon of religion. Examining it from the point of view of its variations and its historical changes, brings us eVen more evidence that religion is a social phenomenon. And by a strange evolution, it brings us to see our modern, secular society as full of rituals that carry ‘. on the older religious forces in a new guise. In some of the most common activities of everyday life, we find religion gone under- " ground. ' THE TYPE OF GOD CORRESPONDS‘ TO THE TYPE OF SOCIETY , If God represents society, then it should follow that diiferent types of societies should have different types of gods. There - should be a correspondence between the type of religionand, the structure of the social group. As the societies change, the ‘ religions should change as well. ‘ , . - 3 _ . , _ As it happens, this is precisely what we find when, we come '7‘ pore diiferent religions. I I. ‘ r, _ In tribal societies, there is a close connection between the religion and the social structure. Hunting-and—gathering 5001-. ‘ i-zeties,‘hke those Durkheim described in Australia, are small y‘ ‘ " groups, rarely exceeding a few hundred people whenfullyga; :_ ' ' -' Sombled. They have virtually no wealth and no hierarchyg, . the diiierent clans that make up the tribe are equal, as are», _' large, the people within them. Their religion shows I ame kind of structure. Corresponding to each clan, there is a] L ,. gamed totem (the black, cockatoo, the white cockatoonthe angaroo, etc.) that gives the clan its name and is the [center‘j‘ogf pecial rites and beliefs. All totems are religiously, equal. is special for itsown group; none stands. ont=‘gover.,_.t.}i? .48 . SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT others. This horizontal multiplicity of sacred objects corresponds to the horizontal Organization of the tribe. ‘ The only stratification found within Australian societies is that by age and sex. The older men dominate the women and the younger men. This feature, too, shows up in the religion. The women are excluded entirely from religious ceremonies and are not allowed even to see the sacred emblems. The young males are eventually allowed into the religious cult, but only by passing through painful initiation rites. 'When We mOVe on to tribal societies that practice crude agriculture (horticulture), we find thatboth the religion and the social structure have changed. Such societies are larger, more settled, and have some accumulated wealth. They are usually structured around elaborate kinship systems. There are complex rules as to who should marry whom; which marriages are prohibited; with whose family the bride, groom, and children should live; and what goods must be paid between the inter- marrying families. In such societies, the role of women tends to be quite important. Many of these tribes are matrilineal (the children inherit their name and their property from their mothers’rline) or matrilocal (husbands go to live, at least part' of the time, with theirlwives’ family), Women are also central to the: economy, doing most of the agricultural work, as well as crafts such as Weaving and pottery-making. Thus women pro- duce/mest of the propany. it should not Come‘as a surprise, in this case, that the reli~ - gions of-such‘societi'es» tend to have a heavily female emphasis. The main cults oftengcenter On fertility rites, which symbolically equate sexual intercourse and child-bearing with planting and harvesting crops; Women take an important part in religious ceremonies. The sacred doctrines frequently concern mythical females, and the sacred emblems of the religion often represent women with‘ exaggerated breasts and genitals. Men, however, - are not exactly subordinated in these societies, and play an im- portant role'es ecially in politics and war. These religions have male‘as Well as ' components. But it is a striking illustra- ‘THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD ' , 49 L "f *tion of the Durkheimian theory that the type of societies in which women are most prominent should also be those in which the religions are the most female-oriented. ' y The more productive the economy becomes in agricultural. societies, the more scope there is for large-scale social organiza~ I tion. Quite a variety of social‘types and intermixtures becomes possible. Particular groups may specialize in animal herding, fishing, or trade; towns and cities appear; armies are organized. If we look at all of these societies as a whole, we notice another religious pattern. We now can see a range of political organiza- tions, from religiously independent, egalitarian groups. up through local chiefdoms, military coalitions, and kingdoms united under a powerful throne. Parallel with this variety of , , political organization is a correspondingflsetmof, religions. _‘ 1 - ,mGenerally speaking, thevrnore levels of political organization/M infia society, the mere hierarchy “theré“rs“w1rh1n thewrealmnof “religion. If there is a multitiered political structure ,witharistm ‘ crats and oflicials at the top, dominating a lower rank on dam to a bottom rung of peasants and slaves, the gods arelikely _ to be thought of as arranged in a hierarchy as well, with full: fledged gods and goddesses at the top, minor spirits at the bottom. The more centralized the political organization, the V'more levels of hierarchy under an all-powerful king, the mar} likely the religion is to conceive of ahigh god presiding over . all the rest, like the Greeks’ Zeus presiding over ‘Mt. Olympus; As states conquer one another, the gods of the defeatedst'ates L are often incorporated into the pantheon; they become loWer religious forces subordinate to the god who represents the con-4 ,quering state. Such gods are usually represented as heavenly, ‘ :arriors, all-pOWerful masculine figures, a king of kingsin ky reflecting the king of kings upon the earth. Religion“ here at only reflects society but acts as part of the apparatus of omination, serving to make the upper class appear especially , . he'Werful and awe-inspiring. ‘ " ' , One more formjof religion appears along with "themrise,.ofm ‘ _ ft‘e, coysmbpclitanm _. nations. In. periods ancient. 50 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT Roman Empire, or contemporaneous periods in India, China, and Persia, the idea emerged that all the different names for the gods represent a single transcendent reality. The pantheons Christianity, Buddhism, Hindu mysticism, Taoism, Confucian- ism, Zoroastrianism, and later Islam—these are called the “world religions” because each one sees a single spiritual force in the entire world. Each declares that there is but a single God, a single state of Enlightenment, or a single Way; all. other gods are false or illusory. ' This type of religion, in short, aims to be universal. It cor- responds to a rationalized, literate society, one with such great political power that it can foster the idea of a universal state spanning the whole known world. Looking back Over the entire range of societies, from hunting-and-gathering tribes to the great world empires, we can see that the type of gods conceived of in each corresponds to the size and structure of the society. God represents society, notonly‘in a general 'sense, but in detail. Each particular type o‘f‘society has its owniparticular type of god. ‘ f A historical question then arises. What changes first, the religion-"Or the society? Does religion cause social change or viceyersaPNo on“ s attempted to prove the case one way or thenther for all the " es of societies we have reviewed above. But/Jan argument “ha: been made about one particular transition from one ‘type'to- another. Max Weber, writing at about the same time "as Durkheim, proposed that the rise of modern capi- talist, industrial soctlty, was due to a change in the sphere of" religion. In'his' early Writings he attributes this to the risa of a particular form of-Prot6stnfiti‘sm; in other writings, he describes the whole political andecon‘omic development of the modern I World" as growing out/“of th‘e"“:di‘stinctive forms of Christianity ancient‘Iudaism. ' " ' ‘ I have "reversed the causal hypothesis. ‘at‘ religiofi‘ re ideologies arising from the ‘ r -- : _e*“dominationr by the ruling class are reduced to a single God or a single mystical condition.“ I THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD , 51 . and the form of property upon which it is built. Yet a third position is taken by structuralists, such as Claude Levi-Strauss. For them, the structure of the sooiety and the structure of the religion (or of ideas and myths generally) make up a whole. _ They do not ask which comes first or which causes‘ which, but concentrate instead on describing the basic elements within these structures out of which the whole is constructed. I shall not pursue this issue any further here. Its ramifica- tions make up one of the key questions still being asked in so- ciology today, and throughout the social sciences and the sciences of culture. ‘ _ THE RISE OF THE INDIVIDUAL SELF The sociological theory of religion has been applied not only to the macrolevel questions of the structure of entire societies and their historical changes; it has also given rise to a good deal , of microanalysis. This concerns relatively small groups and brief _ :p‘ .‘interactions—in short, the rituals and symbols of everyday life. g . It may seem strange, in the light of the preceding argument, . '_:_.that any microlevel rituals would still exist in large~scalemod-. ern societies. ItwggglmgeprgseptsVflgggigty,nthenwaswsocietyesgets: , God becomes more unstained mm m ‘ t Moreover, as Durkheim himself pointed out, as Eight/Effie?” me ' more complex, thefiidea of God must become more abstract. society have more specialized life experiences and become in- -'creasingly diilerent from one another. Hence any symbol that represents all of society must have less and less specific content. God, moves away from being conceived as a concrete emblem, ike‘the Australian totem, and even beyond being conceived as ;,.person, like one of the Greek gods or goddesses. In the great World religions, God or Ultimate Reality is declared to be be- yond all worldly characterization and, thus, can only be. de- gihed negativelyfor in abstract superlatives—as unbounded, infinite, unending, omniscient, supremely good. It, becomes ‘With a complex ‘socihlmdiv’isioh of 15B‘6‘i;‘""iiiaivtaua"itineraries " 52 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT blasphemy to see God as limited to being merely a kind of super-person. There is even a further step in this development. As God becomes sufficiently abstract, eventually all the anthropomorphic elements disappear. In industrial societies, Durkheim argued, the scope of the division of labor becomes so great that eVen the very general idea of God tends to disappear into the air. It turns {13inengendelncngeption of humanity. The moral boundaries" of religion have been increasing With every transition to a more inclusive conception of God. Where the tribal religion sanctified moral actions among fellow members of the tribe but left mem- bers of other tribes as outsiders, the increasing scope of religious ideals successively widened the range of people toward whom a believer must act morally. At first, one is only prohibited from killing or stealing from fellow members of the totemic group; eventually, one is not supposed to 'kill or steal from anyone. With the idea of 'a universal religion, came the moral ideas of a family of humanity comprising the entire world. p 3‘, As it happened, none of the great world religions quite lived V, up. to-its promise. Christianity, and within it, its various sects, ,,Islam and its 'sects,’the diiierent forms of Buddhism, and so forth, each tendedt'o become identified with particular states or ; social groups, carry on persecutions and wars against one,another.“Withr-tlie rise of the cesmopolitan societies of mod- _, r icrn times, a reactionset in against this moral chauvinism. En- ‘ ' lightened people ot¢theeightcenth and nineteenth centuries , tod.isbelieve of the particular doctrines and symbols ofithe warring religions, and to put in their place a conception ofi‘morality that transcended all doctrinal prejudices, The very L idea of the3supematural,bnganrtowdisappear. But its fundamental .Tddfit’ent lived on- For if theibasic symbolism of religion repre— sents society, thenthis content can be found in doctrines that forms onjthe goodnof humanity and on schemes to preserve or *iinprcve society. Religicn, pushed to the extreme generalization dabst’ractiongtnrn ol‘iti ideal§§”‘”'lt‘hns"ntojdfé?f ‘ ,ad,,.899ia1iimf,g ‘ ‘ ' 7 THE SOCIOLOGY. OF con 53 4 I _ emerge out of the declining beliefin religionijhey also continue . 7: illits concerns in a new form. / We are still talking about the macrolevel of whole societies ' - and the doctrines that aim at serving them. But by an interesting r twist, this development of religion into more and more abstract - forms, and finally into political ideologies, has a counterpart on I; the microlevel. As societies have gotten larger and more com— plex, individuals within them have grown increasingly distinc- five from one another; In a tribal society, in which virtually everyone does the same thing as every0ne else, individual per- sonalities tend to resemble each other. In a complex industrial society, we are close to the opposite extreme.lEach individual personality tends to live in their own speciahzed world, the same social changes that make religionmore remote 351g“ng ‘"‘§i‘1‘lfici2;.a1,sc .makepecple,.m9raindividn§li§lil9 ' 7L. INTERACTION RITUALS IN EVERYDAY LIFE I ‘ 7' a One of the followers of Durkheim’s school of thought, yCoifman, has tied the two processes together rather neatly. ",‘religious rituals and beliefs that represent the whole society 77have become so general and remote inthe modern world as to virtually disappear from everyday life. The ceremonies, prayers, _ saying grace, and so forth, that used to mark :almosteverly I hour of the day have gone. In their place have appeared ritua s that are so common as to be taken. for granted. Gofima ails ninteraetioniititillér . . . _ Interaction rituals take place in ordinary conVersation. The tual often takes the form of what we ordinarily of as The ideal or sacredobject that is attached to it is the dividual self. * What can this mean? ’_ , ’ It means, first of all, that one’s self is not the same as ones g ('D In secial. Our name, our self-image, our consciousnessv-all of these, Durkheim has already described, come from our interactions edy. The body is part of the physical world, the Self part of the ‘ i g g i that other people hold about you, too. ‘ Thisimplies"'uiat‘p‘éafilé‘finder diEerent sorts of social inter- actions acquire diiferent kinds of selves. Corresponding to the comparison we have just run through of different sorts of so- cieties and their religions, we could make a comparison of the particular kinds of selves that people have in each of these so- cieties. Generally speaking, we would find that the conception of the self shifts across this continuum from being highly em- bedded in the group to being individualistic. In a tribal society, for example, individuals conceive of them- selves as part of the clan. Whatever special skills or energies they have are usually attributed to outside forces such as magic or the power of the totem-These spiritual forces are ways of representing a strong feeling of social influences pressing upon the person from outside. In more complex agrarian societies, these all-encompassing religious forces have retreated a bit, al- though unusual things that people do are still explained by the interVention of! God,_,;Fate, or some other spiritual force. In these societiesas well, there continue to be strong social pressures ‘ 'uponeach-individual. People tend to be extremely dependent L " upon their‘familiesand tied into rigid social rankings. There is little priVacy; peeplealive in conditions in which everyone’s life "‘isg‘epen "to.continuousuinspection by those around them. Not sur- Prli’mg‘ly" there is only a" limited, individual self.«People1lifdeitji‘e‘iitlidltd/flight;mpletely loyal to their families their superiors. They are given little choice in whom they - :sho‘uld'marry or where: they should work. The legal system gives little consideration tor‘persom; an entire family or Village could bei‘held responsible for thegcrimcs of one of its members, and violent punishments such as tortures and mutilations are con ' sideer entirely acceptable-People are not supposed to have individual opinionsyand conformity to prevailing doctrines is ‘i‘igi‘dly enforced. Indiyidual conscience does not matter; what 54 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT , with other peoplerYour self is an idea that you hold, and an idea _ ‘ « {lTHE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD 55 its conception of each individual as having an inner self. In the law, individualsare now held responsible for their own actions, . and the degree of guilt or innocence comes to hinge on Questions of subjective intention. Did someone knowingly and deliberately commit such and such an act? That is what decides court cases today. This criterion shows both that people are now conceived pf as having subjective selves, capable of thinking and decid- ing-La conception that most earlier societies lacked—and further. - more, that people are required to act according to such an” in- lidividually responsible self; The notion" of the innerfindii/"idual self is not only a prevailing image in the world today, but it is an ideal that today’s morality demands that each of us have. This sh0uld alert us to the way in which modern ism ‘isitself a kind,Vgrggiigisiiggfiiii"we"aié‘"fi6i""6fiiy allowed to lyl’be'lin‘dividuals,we are expected to be. Society does not give usa' choice in the matter. . How is this sense of individual, inner consciousness pro- duced then? We should expect that it is produced in the same u , way that any other moral ideals are produced, by a particular . / kind of ritual. This is the ritual that Goffman finds us follovsiijng I ’, our everyday encounters. _ - - f 1r: ,COnversations today, by and large, are carried out casually and informally. There seems to be little of the rigid ceremony , "that would remind us of old—fashioned rituals. But it istheflyey~ -' sualness that makes themappropriate.ascetic , I the individual self. ‘ ‘ " continually emphasize that we are givingour own opin-’ was, not acting out some external role. Joking and irony are Very popular ways of speaking today;‘these are ways of dem- onstrating that we can maintain a psychological detachment cm the pressures and social organizations around us. Com~ plaining and criticizing, other very popular conversational :ac« / vities, are yet more'ways of keeping ourselves independent. ofiman describes how these modes of aeting out one’s self " , uildup into friendlycr unfriendly contests, where people to:,“one~up”' each other» by joking at each other’s expense and - sorts‘of frontstages “and b 56 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT outdoing each other in irony. All this constitutes a kind of cult of the ultra-self, demonstrating that you can produce endless layers of inner detachment from everything that other people ‘ can throw at you. ‘ However, the main forms of self-creating interaction rituals are not competitive but cooperative. People cooperate in build- ing up each other’s self-image. Much of conversation involves what might be called “white lies.” People exaggerate, building up incidents in their daily lives‘to be more exciting than they really are, pretending to be smarter or cooler or richer or more successful than is actually the case, painting their adversaries in darker colors than fit the facts. By and large conversationalists getaway with these exaggerations. It'even seems to be expected of them-Each individual seems to give the other the tacit right to build up a somewhat false view of their own world in return for the right to do likewise when it is their turn to speak. ' " All this, trivial as it may be in any particular conversation, adds up to maintaining each person’s inner self. For the idea of oneself, like all “sacred” ideals, needs to be continuously rein- forced from outside.TConversation is a series of little rituals in which the cult of the ego is maintained. It is a peCuliarly social egotism became each individual depends upon their friends to g validate’their own egotistical world view. As Golfman puts it, social intera’ctiOn is a circular proceSS in which everyone gives another an ideal ‘self'and receives back in return their own self from other people. , Goi‘fman goes’ a good deal further into the methods by which secial selves are created.’He compares social life to a theater in which there are frontstages and backstages. 0n the “frontstage,” peeple put on an idealizedpicture of themselves, wearing the proper clothes, making the right facial expressions, and using the right words and gestures. In the “backstage,” people prepare their roles. befOrehand, and then afterwards relax and recover from the efforts of being “onstage.” There are many different oial, 'social. 0 ay, sta es: political, occupational, mm H I conceive of backstages behind " "THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD 57 , hackstages, as one moves to successively more intimate settings. Psychotherapy, or. extremely personal conversations, are some i " of the extreme backstages of today, where things that cannot be ' revealed on other backstages become the objects of attention, A modern self, then, can become quite complicated. Goffman shows that there can be quite a variety of layers within layers, different forms of socially shared pretenses each of which takes a certain amount of social effort to be carried off successfully. In one of his later metaphors, he describes this as being like a set of picture frames, where another frame can always be put around the frames that already exist. The question naturally arises: is there a final self behind all. these layers? It might seem that if we go on stripping away all these different kinds of performances, we might arrive at the kernel of individual consciousness, the puppeteer who pullsthe strings of all the puppets. But Goffman does not think so. None of the types of social self he describes can be created without _ _ Icooperative social interaction. In fact, we each can have all these ‘ inner laminations only because of the complicated social world I we now inhabit. It is because we can move among a, variety of“ p L‘ ‘ roup situations, and because we areenoouraged to prewar: an ideal ser in each one, that all this inner complexity emerges“ I _ . In short, we could presumably go on adding an infinite truth; ‘ her of inner layers, without ever reaching the center. The layers . er added from the outside, which then get reflected ,on-ithe side in our consciousness. Each new level of individual is crie- ' ed by a new way of relating to other people. There is no pre- . i ' Social self. The lonely, individual self has only come into exis- nce with a complex form of society. v . _ _ This conclusion should not be surprising. After all, We have an that religion is created by society and that individualism is " distinctively modern form that religion takes. It is the struc- ture cf modern society that allows us the “backstage” of privacy that other societies lacked and that creates the possibility of realizing our behavior toward some peeplc when we converse th them. The idea of the individual with a unique, inner self 53 SOCIOLOGICAL INSIGHT is One that emerges from these distinctively modern patterns of interaction. Like any other sacred object created by social rituals, the modern self is something of a myth. It is nowhere near as au— tonomous and individualistic as it makes itself out to be. Again, this is not surprising for beneath every mythical symbol, there is the same reality: society. If society now symbolizes itself in the idea of the subjective self, it is because this is the one thing that a complex division of labor still allows us to have in common. THE WORLD OF SOCIAL RITUALS The theory of social rituals, then, may be based on religion, but it expands far into every corner of social life. This becomes r clear when; we'recall the‘fundamental point that social groups *ofany type areirnot based simply upon rational choice but upon subrational feelings of solidarity. Small, isolated, and homoge- news groups put aver strong pressure upon the individual, and this is what generates thefeelings expressed in religious beliefs about the omnipresence of supernatural spirits. For those in- '-d.iViduals in'mode’m‘r society whose social experiences consist of ‘ a great; varietyof' different encounters in the large-scale net- workséof acquai’utanceship, the rituals of interaction take quite a different formtThey remain rituals, nevertheless, and produce idistinctiVely modern type of “secular religion,” the cult of in— dividualiSm. 'Yet'theacult of the individual is not the same thing as the completely isolated, self—directed person imagined by the " commonsense idea of-thefrational choice—maker. As Goflman points out, one is not Only {allowed to be an individual, one is actually required tobe so When our social interactions take this form, we can’t avcid hav {legal responsibility thrust upon us. And the samesocialch " us also produce the expectation that nic, detached, and all the rest of the ‘ ‘ "gythe Self. The modern ideal of the dividual is not a reaction against ocial ideals are molded in today. H THE SOCIOLOGY OF GOD 59' , It is also true, though, that even in today’s society we are not totally exposed to a shifting marketplace of relationships. We are not always faced with a kaleidescopic variety of different people and diiferent social situations. Some of our experiences—- during our childhood years, say, or perhaps inside certain tightly knit groups and organizations—are more like those high-density experiences that Durkheim described as the basis of primitive religion. Modern society is all manner of things, and along with the busy social marketplace that produces individualism there are also little modern “tribes,” It is precisely in these places—in small towns or in the experiences of children confined to the same home, school, and neighborhood—that we continue to find little tribal rites of solidarity. The corresponding beliefs may take the form of revivals of traditional religions, or they may be modern cults like those of athletic teams or school fraternities. There are political, occupational, and intellectual cults as well, which generate strong emotional commitments and support sym~ bolic beliefs sacred to each particular group. All these operate quite strongly in the modern scene as long as the group man- ; Ir ages to keep assembling and carrying out its own rituals. I As wehave seen, rituals are a kind of social technology _ ' can be put to a variety of uses. The machine can be adjustedto g, f rd _ Various settings, so that the same mechanism can produce many ‘ , different outcomes. On one setting—the high-density end-of the I / spectrum—we get the rather fanatical and superstitious beliefs of * primitive tribes. At another setting, the result is ‘Goffman’s world of ironic individualism. Still other pulls on the social levers result : the ideological sentiments of mass politics or the intensity of _ social movements. There are rituals of harmony as well as those of conflict. Sometimes people consciously manipulate rituals to ,. ‘ bolster their own domination over others. At other times rituals spontaneously because of the way peeple happen to be together in face-to-face situations. ' :The theory of rituals can take us a long through the Varieties of social life. In succeeding chapters, I will make use t, together with some other nonobvious ideas of sociology. .\ ...
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