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South Bend Cmty. Health , F. City of Newark , F. Logan County Pub. Library , F. Although this document concerns Title VII, employers and employees should note that there may be state and local laws in their jurisdiction prohibiting religious discrimination in employment, some of which may be parallel to Title VII and some of which may afford narrower or broader coverage. Redmond v. GAF Corp. Smith , U. Review Bd. City of Hialeah , U. Meyers , F. Courts are not arbiters of scriptural interpretation. Seeger , U.

United States , U. Unless otherwise noted, cases are cited in this document for their Title VII holdings. The Commission has consistently applied this standard in its decisions. Commonwealth of Pa. Local Union , United Auto. Implement Workers of Am. Meyers, F.

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Landon , F. Panarchate v. United States , F. Pena , F. Yogi, F. Commission Decision No. King Soopers , F. Pena, F. In an analogous case, Peterson v. Wilmur Communications, Inc. However, the Peterson court might have reached a different conclusion had it considered whether the belief was merely one-dimensional and thus not religious, i. EBB Auto Co. Kroger Co. LaFevers v.

Saffle , F. Landon, F. District of Columbia , F. County of Alameda , P. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. Costco Wholesale Corp. Johns-Manville Prods. Waldorf-Astoria , F. Ilona of Hungary, Inc. Oak Rubber Co. IBP, Inc. Logistics IMC , Inc. Choice Courier , WL S. Under 42 U. Lukens Steel Co. Safeway Stores, F. Town of Warren , 80 F. To the extent it has been held that a union cannot be held liable where it knowingly acquiesces in discrimination, the EEOC disagrees.

See EEOC v. This subchapter shall not apply to. Lancaster Jewish Cmty. See 67 Fed. Baptist Mem. Health Care Corp. Samford Univ. EEOC v. Kamehameha Sch. Amos , U. Valley Beth Shalom , F. Holy Cross High Sch. Fremont Christian Sch. Salvation Army , F. Methodist Healthcare, Inc.

Catholic Diocese of Peoria , F. Lyght , F. Central Texas Annual Conf. Catholic Univ. Holy Cross High School , 4 F. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, 42 F. Cote , F. Gannon Univ. Desert Southwest Annual Conf. However, some courts have ruled that the ministerial exception does not bar harassment claims by ministers, but rather only applies to claims involving matters such as hiring, promotion, and termination.

See Elvig v. Calvin Presbyterian Church , F. Heartland Presbytery, F. Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Colorado, F. Shenandoah Baptist Church , F. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, F. Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, F. Evans , F. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary , F. William Paterson Coll. A disparate impact analysis could also apply in the religion context, particularly in the area of recruitment and hiring. Greenville Indep. Preferred Mgmt. Kelly Servs. Wal-Mart Stores , F. City of Blue Springs, F. University of Chicago Hospitals , F.

Shalala , WL 4th Cir. May 18, unpublished Orthodox Jewish employee who was treated in the same manner as non-Jewish employees with similar performance and disciplinary records failed to show that she was terminated because of her religion ; Altman v. However, not all employer decisions affect a term, condition, or privilege of employment as required to be actionable as disparate treatment. Allstate Ins. Blue Cross Blue Shield , F. Ansonia Bd. Philbrook , U. See Moranski v. General Motors Corp. Kinney Sys. June 10, Ethiopian Christian parking garage cashier could proceed to trial on claims of religious harassment and discriminatory termination where he was not allowed to bring a Bible to work, pray, or display religious pictures in his booth, while Somali Muslim employees were permitted to take prayer breaks and to display religious materials in their booths.

See supra nn. However, the Commission is aware of no statute or order that requires or permits distinctions based on religion. Baylor Coll. Dynalectron Corp. Loyola Univ. Boca Raton , U. Bank, FSB v. Vinson , U. Seidner , F. ATSI, Inc. City of Delphi , F. Bank, U. Motorola, Inc. However, in Sattar the plaintiff did not prevail because the plaintiff failed to prove that his discharge was linked to the harassment by his former supervisor.

Stores, Inc. Forklift Sys. June 3, mistreatment of Sanctified Pentecostal Christian employee was not because of religion; supervisor mistreated all of her employees and had poor management and interpersonal skills. Barr , F. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. City of Dundee , F. United Recovery Sys. Sundowner Offshore Servs. Arco Prods. Motors Corp. AKZ Mgmt. See Johnson v. Spencer Press of Maine, Inc. Colt Const. Edgewood Universal Cabling Sys. Tessler v. Brown v. Johnson v. Renaissance Hotel Operating Co.

Ellerth , U. Faragher , U. Powell v. Berry v. Delta Airlines, Inc. See George Gallup, Jr. Townley , F. Rather, Title VII attempts to reach a mutual accommodation of the conflicting religious practices. Bodett v. CoxCom, Inc. Hardison, U. Volkswagen of Am. Kasraian , F.

Mann , F. Eckerd Corp. Wessling , F. Carmichael, F. ABF Freight Sys. Domtar Indus. Diagnostic Ctr. Arlington Transit Mix, Inc. Ithaca Indus. Tyson Foods, Inc. Bruff v. Mississippi Health Serv. Universal Mfg. Some courts have approached the issue of what is a reasonable accommodation in a manner that conflicts with longstanding Commission and judicial precedent. United Parcel Service, Inc. California, 95 F. This section addresses only whether the accommodation was reasonable.

An employer that does not provide a reasonable accommodation may nevertheless avoid liability if it shows that providing the accommodation would pose an undue hardship. In cases involving requests for schedule changes or leave as an accommodation, an employer does not have to provide paid leave as an accommodation beyond that otherwise available to the employee, but may have to provide unpaid leave as an accommodation if it would not pose an undue hardship.

See Cosme v. Henderson , F. Runyon , 2 F. Pyro Mining Co. Home Depot , F. City of Chicago, F. Postal Workers Union v. Postmaster , F. Moreover, a denial of accommodation claim can be brought if the employer could have provided an accommodation absent undue hardship that did not disadvantage a term, condition, or privilege of employment, but did not do so. For example, if a Muslim employee is transferred to non-customer service position because she refuses to stop wearing a religiously mandated headscarf, she states a claim for denial of accommodation under Title VII.

Draper v. However, an employer need not accommodate an employee who chooses to resign before notifying the employer of the need for accommodation or fails to cooperate with the employer in the accommodation process. Washington , F. United Parcel Service , where courts focused on reasonableness before looking at undue hardship, the employer still has the burden of persuasion.

Firestone , F. Martin Marietta Corp. Tampa , 42 F. Dynamics Convair Aerospace Div. Whirlpool Corp. Under Title VII, for example, in Hardison , the payment of overtime or premium pay to another employee so that plaintiff could be off for weekly religious observance was an undue hardship.

Southwestern Bell Tel. LP , WL E. Hewlett-Packard Co. BJ Servs. Freightways Corp. Carson City, Nevada , F. Chevron U. Providence St. Joseph Med. However, an employer should not assume that it would pose an undue hardship to accommodate a religious practice that appears to conflict with a generally applicable safety requirement, but rather should assess whether an undue hardship is actually posed. For example, there are existing religious exemptions to the government enforcement procedures of some safety requirements. Oak-Rite Mfg. Webb v. City of Philadelphia, WL E.

June 27, undue hardship to accommodate the wearing of a traditional religious headpiece called a khimar by a Muslim police officer while in uniform, where evidence showed dress code in para-military organization promotes cooperation, fosters esprit de corps, emphasizes the hierarchical nature of the police force, and portrays a sense of authority as well as public and religious neutrality to the public. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. Local Union of Am.

Roadway Express, Inc. Frank , 7 F. West Communications, 58 F. An employer or union would have to show. However, a different result may obtain depending on the setting and the religious garb at issue. See United States v. Section generally prohibits the possession of knives, including kirpans, with blades longer than 2. Different factual circumstances will require different solutions. Home Depot , WL 5th Cir. Department of Justice and resolved by consent decree prior to ruling by court on merits; the settlement provided that the employer would accept the applications of Sabbath-observant applicants; provide applicants with information about their accommodation rights; permit drivers to swap assignments with other drivers, and when no acceptable assignment is possible either through use of seniority rights or swaps, permit drivers to take temporary leaves of absence; and provide information about religious accommodation in marketing literature and in its training programs for supervisors.

Robert Bosch Corp. Tampa, 42 F. Mobile Infirmary Med. July 14, in case brought by Seventh-day Adventist who requested not to work on her Sabbath, employer satisfied its accommodation obligation by maintaining a neutral shift rotation schedule, allowing plaintiff to arrange a shift swap with co-workers, and making available the schedules of other employees. Texas Hydraulics, Inc. April 16, employer's proposal that employee find another qualified candidate to take his Saturday shift was not a reasonable accommodation because the employer was on notice that the employee "considers it a sin for anyone to work on Saturday, not just himself" ; EEOC v.

But they need not do so and, thus, their religiously-grounded support for coercive laws need not be defective. Third, critics of the standard view need have no aversion to secular justification and so need not object to a state of affairs in which each person, secular or religious, has what he or she regards as a compelling reason to endorse coercive laws of various sorts. Indeed, they claim that such a state of affairs would arguably be a significant moral achievement—a good for all concerned.

According to the liberal critics, however, what is most important is that parity reigns: any normative constraint that applies to the reasons on the basis of which citizens make political decisions must apply impartially to both religious and secular reasons. Many secular reasons employed to justify coercion—ones that appeal to comprehensive perspectives such as utilitarianism and Kantianism, for example—are highly controversial; in this sense, they are very similar to religious reasons.

For this reason, some advocate for a cousin —more or less distant, depending on the formulation—of the DRR, namely, one that lays down restrictions on all religious reasons and on some particularly controversial secular reasons. See section 6 below. Moreover, the normative issues implicated by certain coercive laws are so complex and contentious that any rationale for or against these laws will include claims that can be reasonably rejected—secular or religious as the case might be. If this is right, according to the liberal critics, equal treatment of religious and secular reasons is the order of the day: religious believers have no more, and no less, a responsibility to aspire to persuade their secular compatriots by appeal to secular reasons than secularists have an obligation to aspire to persuade their religious compatriots by appeal to religious reasons.

Otherwise put, according to the liberal critics, if we accept the claim that:. Recognizing parity of this sort, according to the liberal critics, lies at the heart of what it is to be a good citizen of a liberal democracy. For being a good citizen involves respecting one's fellow citizens, even when one disagrees with them. In a wide range of cases, however, an agent exercises respect not by treating her interlocutor as a generic human being or a generic citizen of a liberal democracy, but by treating her as a person who has a particular narrative identity and life history, say, as an African American, a Russian immigrant, or a Muslim citizen.

But doing this often requires pursuing and appealing to considerations that it is likely that one's interlocutors with their own particular narrative identity will find persuasive. And depending on the case, these reasons may be exclusively religious. To this we should add a clarification: strictly speaking, the liberal critics' insistence on parity between the pursuit of secular and religious reasons is consistent with the DRR. For, as we have construed it, the DRR allows that religious citizens may support coercive laws for religious reasons so long as they have and are prepared to provide a plausible secular justification for these laws.

See also Schwartzman Still, the DRR implies that there is an important asymmetry between the justificatory role played by religious and secular reasons. To this issue we now turn. Assume that, in religiously pluralistic conditions, religious citizens have good moral reason—perhaps even a moral obligation—to pursue secular reasons for their favored coercive laws.

Assume as well that secular citizens have good reason to pursue religious reasons for their favored coercive policies if only because, with respect to some coercive laws, some of their fellow citizens find only religious reasons to support them. What should citizens do, religious or secular, when they cannot identify these reasons? According to advocates of the standard view, if a religious citizen fails in his pursuit of secular reasons that support a given coercive law, then he is morally required to exercise restraint.

After all, if his pursuit of these reasons fails, then he does not have any secular reason to offer in favor of that law. Liberal critics of the standard view, by contrast, deny that citizens so circumstanced are morally required to exercise restraint. They claim that from the fact that religious citizens are morally required to pursue secular reasons for their favored coercive laws when that is necessary for persuasion , it does not follow that they should refrain from supporting coercive laws if their pursuit of secular reasons fails.

Because our having an obligation to try to bring about some state of affairs tells us nothing about what we ought to do if we cannot bring it about, nothing like the DRR follows from the claim that citizens should pursue secular reasons for their favored coercive laws. According to the liberal critics, a parallel position applies to non-religious citizens: from the fact that non-religious citizens are morally required to pursue religious reasons for their favored laws when that is necessary for persuasion , it doesn't follow that they should refrain from supporting coercive laws if their pursuit of religious reasons fails.

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For the liberal critics, parity between the religious and the secular obtains both with respect to the obligation to pursue justifying reasons and with respect to the permission not to exercise restraint when that pursuit fails. Have we identified a genuine point of disagreement between the liberal critics and advocates of the standard view?

It seems so. If the liberal critics are correct, all that can be reasonably asked of religious citizens is that, in a pluralistic liberal democracy, they competently pursue secular reasons for the coercive laws they support. If the pursuit fails, then they may support these laws for exclusively religious reasons. Proponents of the standard view disagree, maintaining that if the pursuit fails, these citizens must exercise restraint.

This disagreement is rooted in differing convictions about the justificatory role that religious reasons can play. Once again, advocates of the standard view maintain that religious reasons can play only a limited justificatory role: citizens must have and be prepared to offer at least certain kinds of secular reasons for any coercive law that they support, as religious reasons are not enough. The liberal critics deny this, maintaining that no persuasive arguments have been offered to believe this.

The DRR highlights this disagreement, as it incorporates an assumption that religious and secular reasons play asymmetrical roles in justifying coercive laws. As we have explicated the view of the liberal critics, religious citizens are in a wide range of cases morally required to pursue secular reasons for their favored coercive laws, but they needn't exercise restraint if they fail in their pursuit. But this position raises a question: What's so bad about requiring citizens to exercise restraint? Why should liberal critics object to this? According to the liberal critics, one of the core commitments of a liberal democracy is a commitment to religious freedom and its natural extension, the right to freedom of conscience.

When citizens use the modicum of political influence at their disposal, liberal critics claim that we should want them to do so in a way that furthers the cause of justice and the common good. So, for example, when a citizen deliberates about whether he should, say, support the invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and its NATO allies, we want him to determine, as best he can, whether the invasion of Afghanistan is actually morally appropriate.

In order to determine that, he should be as conscientious as he can in his collection and evaluation of the relevant evidence, reach whatever conclusions seem reasonable to him on the available evidence, and act accordingly. If he concludes that invading Afghanistan would be unjust, then he should oppose it. That he does so is not only his right but also morally excellent, as acting in accord with responsibly held normative commitments is an important moral and civic good. This, the liberal critics maintain, suggests a general claim.

Whatever the policy and whatever the reasons—whether religious or secular—we have powerful reason to want citizens to support the coercive policies that they believe, in good conscience, to be morally appropriate. But that general claim has direct application to the issue at hand. It is possible, the liberal critics claim, for a morally sensitive and epistemically competent citizen to regard only certain religious considerations as providing decisive support for a given coercive law.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, to return to an earlier example, maintains that only theistic considerations can ground the ascription of inherent human rights, some of which are protected by coercive law. Arguably, were a citizen to find a position such as Wolterstorff's persuasive, then he should appeal to those considerations that he actually believes to further the cause of justice and the common good.

And this should lead us to want him to support that law, even though he does so solely on religious grounds, even if he regards that law as having no plausible secular justification. Good citizenship in a pluralistic liberal democracy unavoidably requires citizens to make political commitments that they know their moral and epistemic peers reject but that they nevertheless believe, with due humility, to be morally required.

This ideal of good citizenship, so the liberal critics claim, applies to religious and secular citizens alike. The portrait that we have offered of the standard view and that of its liberal critics is a composite, one which blends together various claims that its advocates make about the relation between coercive law and religious reasons. Because of this approach we have made relatively little explicit mention of particular advocates of the standard view, such as that towering figure of contemporary political philosophy, John Rawls.

Of all the contemporary figures who have shaped the debate we are considering, however, none has exercised more influence than Rawls. It is natural to wonder, then, whether we've presented the standard view in its most powerful form and, thus, whether we've omitted a crucial dimension of the debate between the standard view and its liberal critics. We believe not. The version of the standard view that we have considered is one that borrows liberally from Rawls' thought, albeit softened and modified in certain ways.

Still, before moving forward, it will be helpful to say something more about Rawls' view.


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We limit ourselves to the following three observations. First, Rawls' own position about the relation between coercive law and religious reasons has shifted. In Political Liberalism , Rawls admits that at one point he inclined toward accepting an ambitious version of the DRR according to which each citizen of a liberal democracy ought not to appeal to religious reasons when deliberating about matters of basic justice and constitutional essentials see Rawls , n.

In the face of criticism, Rawls modified his position, arriving at a close relative of the DRR, viz. Secular reasons must be forthcoming see Rawls Second, Rawls places significant restrictions on the content of the secular reasons to which an agent may appeal. In Rawls' view, when deliberating about these matters, appealing solely to secular comprehensive accounts of the good such as Aristotelianism or utilitarianism is no more legitimate than appealing solely to religious reasons.

For all of these comprehensive doctrines will be alien to some of one's reasonable compatriots. As will have been evident, in our presentation of the DRR, we have relaxed Rawls' stipulation, allowing for the legitimacy of appealing to only secular reasons that have their home in one or another comprehensive conception of the good. This might render the DRR vulnerable to the criticism that it invidiously and arbitrarily discriminates against religion.

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But the Rawlsian 'public reason' alternative is also vulnerable to criticism. It is not clear, for one thing, that the content of public reason will be rich enough to provide compelling reasons to support genuinely informative positions on matters of basic justice or constitutional essentials. Perhaps, for example, the claims that belong to public reason are only fairly sweeping ones that ascribe basic rights of various sorts but offer no guidance about how they should be weighed see Quinn , Furthermore, it is unclear that appealing to public reason is the best way to respect one's fellow citizens.

Perhaps, as Wolterstorff and Stout have argued, respect is better served both by explicitly disclosing to one's interlocutors the reasons one finds most persuasive whatever they may be and appealing to reasons that they might most find most persuasive, given their own commitments to one or another comprehensive perspective see Wolterstorff and Stout , Chs. In fact, Wolterstorff has argued that, ironically, Rawls' methodology has the implication that appealing to public reason would be to treat others with profound disrespect. For note that when Rawls formulates his version of public reason, he claims that it will incorporate the idea that liberal democracy is a society with a system of fair cooperation over time.

How do we identify such a system? But, as Wolterstorff contends, there are many who do not satisfy Rawls' account of reasonability, including those who think of politics not in terms of distributive justice but other categories such as preserving individual liberty, protecting small government, maximizing their own wealth, and so on.

Third, as Paul Weithman points out in Weithman , there are really two types of argument that Rawls provides in favor of his position. The first is a variant of the argument from respect. More specifically, it is a relative to the first version of the argument from respect that we considered earlier, which maintains that coercive laws are morally legitimate only if they can be justified to citizens of a liberal democracy with their actual commitments and beliefs.

This argument, if the liberal critics are correct, is subject to some fairly powerful replies, among which is that, given the fact that there is widespread pluralism about God and the good among the citizens of liberal democracies, it is impossible for coercive laws that protect basic liberal commitments to be justified to them. The second type of argument that Rawls provides in favor of his favored restrictions on religious reasons, however, appeals not to the claim that justifying coercion on the basis of alien reasons disrespects our compatriots, but to the idea that the reasons on which we rely must be ones that others can endorse as autonomous agents.

In Kantian categories, this second line of argument singles out not the evil of heteronomous considerations, but the goodness of considerations that autonomous and reasonable agents could accept as an appropriate basis for settling fundamental political questions. It is difficult to see, however, that this latter argument genuinely moves beyond the argument from respect. The problem is that it is not evident that the content of what Rawls terms public reason is that to which reasonable and autonomous agents would primarily appeal when attempting to settle fundamental political questions.

Once again, the content of public reason may be too thin to settle anything of importance. Moreover, it is unclear that reasonable and autonomous agents would regard as inappropriate a democratic system in which agents bring to the table whatever reasons that seem best to them and vote solely on their basis. Imagine, for example, a scenario in which citizens of a liberal democracy such as ours must deliberate on an issue of basic justice such as health care reform.

One approach these citizens might take is Rawls': they appeal primarily to public reason. Another approach is that they try to forge a consensus about the issue that incorporates features that belong to rather different comprehensive perspectives. According to this latter approach, Jews, Christians, Kantians, Buddhists, and Aristotelians all offer each other the reasons from their own comprehensive perspectives that seem to support health care reform, pointing out to each other the degree to which their reasons overlap.

No public reasons are offered, only a plethora of particularistic reasons each of which is reasonably rejected by some citizens. Then the matter is put to a vote. Would an agent who is reasonable and autonomous reject this procedure in favor of appealing to public reason? According to the liberal critics, it is difficult to see why we should believe he would. If so, the connection that Rawls attempts to forge between the exercise of autonomy and public reason is too tight.

A final concern is worth airing. Figures such as Philip Quinn, Jeffrey Stout, and Nicholas Wolterstorff interpret Rawls as addressing the issue of how citizens in actual liberal democracies ought to conduct themselves when debating matters of justice and the common good.

But there is evidence that Rawls' texts ought not to be read in this way. For, as Rawls indicates at various places, he takes himself to be discussing well-ordered societies. A well-ordered society is such that it contains no egoists, everyone complies with the principles of justice, everyone wants to participate in forms of social life that call forth their own and others' natural talents, treachery and betrayal are absent, and its members want to cooperate with others on terms that are mutually justifiable and affirm only reasonable comprehensive doctrines Weithman , 65, , , In short, a well-ordered society is nothing like the actual world but is something approximating a political Utopia.

Suppose Rawls were to establish that in a well-ordered society agents would conform to his favored version of the restrictions on religious reasons. This would not imply that, in those circumstances in which we actually find ourselves, citizens should appeal to his version, thinking of it as a regulatory ideal in their political thinking. Not all ideals, after all, are worth pursuing. It might be, for example, that pursuing the Rawlsian ideal would make it much more difficult for citizens to employ other approaches to political deliberation that would result in a liberal democracy being sufficiently stable for the right reasons, which, says Rawls, should be a primary objective of any liberal democracy.

If this were correct, then Rawls's project would have very modest implications for how to think about the relation between religion and public reason, since it would provide little or no guidance for how citizens ought to conduct their behavior see Cuneo Liberal critics of the standard view have not been free of their own critics. We conclude this part of our discussion by articulating one important response.

This parity claim seems flatly inconsistent with the DRR — which singles out religious reasons for special, discriminatory treatment. But some theorists have argued that the parity claim, which is so important to the liberal critics, is in fact consistent with a version of the DRR. Gaus and Vallier's argument rests on two central claims. First, state coercion is presumptively wrong; each and every coercive state enactment must be justified by each and every citizen subject to it. By contrast, the lack of any state policy is not presumptively wrong, and so need not be justified — even to citizens whose well-being is affected by the lack of state activity.

Second, the reasons by which state coercion is justified need not be shared by or be accessible to the citizens who are subject to a given coercive measure. What matters for purposes of the justification of coercion is that each citizen has sufficient reason, as judged from his or her particular perspective, to endorse state coercion. Since this view places no restrictions on the reasons to which an agent might appeal, religious and secular reasons can play exactly the same justificatory role, namely, to defeat what would, in the absence of contrary reasons, be permissible acts of state coercion.

Gaus and Vallier, then, have defended a convergence rather than a consensus account of the standard view. If this account is correct, state coercion must be justifiable to religious citizens as religious believers and when it is not, then state coercion lacks moral legitimacy. The same holds true for non-religious citizens. Although the convergent conception of the standard view accords religious reasons a potentially decisive role in defeating state coercion, and so accords religious reasons a much more prominent role in the justification of state coercion than religious reasons have on most alternative formulations of the standard view, it is also consistent with the DRR.

How so? In any liberal polity, there will inevitably be some secular citizens. If there is nothing to be said from any secular perspective that decisively justifies some coercive measure, and if the only plausible rationale for that coercive measure is a religious rationale, then there will inevitably be some citizens to whom that coercive measure cannot be justified.

According to the view under consideration, such a coercive measure would be disrespectful and so illegitimate. So the convergent variation on the standard view maintains the core conviction that religious considerations cannot decisively justify state coercion in pluralistic liberal politics. The implications for the duties of religious citizens seem direct: they ought to restrain themselves from supporting any act of state coercion that they know cannot be justified other than by religious reasons.

That is, they must comply with the DRR. If Gaus and Vallier are correct, then, commitment to equal treatment of religion is entirely consistent with a version of the DRR. Gaus and Vallier, it is worth noting, reject the DRR as an account of the duties of citizens, accepting only a milder version that applies to certain public officials in certain circumstances. Although the convergent variation of the standard view will likely be more attractive to liberal critics than familiar alternatives, they still have reason to be skeptical.

The convergent conception of the standard view is, after all, demanding: state coercion must pass muster before the bar of religious and secular reasons. However, many citizens will have compelling reasons to reject core liberal commitments. It follows that, according to the convergence view, those liberal commitments will lack justification. If so, liberal critics have reason to reject the convergent view, not because of its implications for religion but for liberalism.

Consider in this regard the case of Qtub treated earlier. Qtub seems to have articulated compelling theological objections to the right to religious freedom, and thus articulated compelling theological reasons to deny that the state may coercively enforce that right. In this case, the state's enforcement of the right to religious freedom seems, according to the convergent conception, to lack legitimacy.

To this point, we have been primarily concerned to articulate the standard view and lay out the response offered to it by its liberal critics. We have emphasized that there are important differences between these two views. While not trivial, these differences should not be exaggerated, however. Both views are deeply committed to the core components of liberal democracy, including the protection of basic freedoms such as the freedom to practice religion as one sees fit.

Furthermore, both views recognize the legitimacy of religious reasons in political deliberation, noting the role of such reasons in important social movements such as the civil rights movement. The main difference between advocates of the standard view and their liberal critics, we've contended, is how they view the justificatory role of these reasons. That said, the liberal critics are not the only or even the most influential critics of the standard view. Indeed, if the central argument of Jeffrey Stout's book Democracy and Tradition is correct, the standard view has generated a worrisome backlash among prominent Christian theologians and political theorists.

These theologians and political theorists, who Stout labels the New Traditionalists , reject not only the standard view, but also liberal democracy as such—their assumption being that the standard view is a more or less inevitable outgrowth of liberal democracy. In spite of their fairly radical position, Stout contends that these thinkers need to be taken seriously by the friends of democracy, as they exercise considerable influence in certain sectors of the academy and the culture at large.

Suppose Stout is right to say that New Traditionalists such as John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Stanley Hauerwas are widely influential in the academy and elsewhere. Should they be taken seriously by political philosophers? That depends on what one understands the role of political philosophers to be. Suppose, however, we assume that political philosophers should be multidisciplinary in orientation, engaging with what sociologists, psychologists, and theologians write and say. If we assume this, then taking a multidisciplinary approach in this case seems to make sense.

The topic under consideration, after all, is the relation between religion and politics, and theologians have had much to say about their interrelations. Furthermore, while the approach that the New Traditionalists take to our topic is different from that taken by the advocates of the standard view—the New Traditionalists tell a historical narrative about the ills of liberal democracy—the narrative that they tell is a philosophical one. Indeed, it is a narrative whose main lines will be familiar to most philosophers working in ethics and political philosophy.

It is natural to want to know whether this historical-philosophical narrative survives philosophical scrutiny. We shall close, then, by considering the narrative that the New Traditionalists tell about the emergence of modern liberal democracies, highlighting the response offered to it by the liberal critics. Those familiar with the work of Alasdair MacIntyre will immediately recognize the New Traditionalists' narrative. For in its broad structure, it bears a close resemblance to the one that MacIntyre tells in his three books After Virtue , Whose Justice? Which Rationality? In the first stage, the New Traditionalists maintain that the late ancient and the high medieval thinkers of the west embraced a unified philosophical vision that includes three fundamental components.

The second component is a commitment to the claim that virtue consists in the perfection of our rational nature in both its practical and theoretical dimensions. Practical reason, according to the vision, can ascertain not merely the means to achieve one's ends, but also the very telos or end for human beings. And theoretical reason, so the vision has it, can gain genuine insight into the world by viewing the entire created order as participating in or resembling the divine nature.

The third component of the vision is that moral thought and discourse should be framed primarily in terms of the virtues—the virtues providing the dominant conceptuality in terms of which we conduct moral reasoning. To which it is worth adding the following point: advocates of the MacIntyrean narrative do not deny that pre-modern societies had their share of moral, religious, and political problems. Their claim is merely that these societies enjoyed at least in principle the shared conceptual resources with which they could coherently address and remedy them.

In the second stage of the narrative, there is a fall into our current fragmented moral and religious condition. Although the New Traditionalists regard different movements and figures as responsible for the fall, they agree on this much: the philosophical vision that unified the societies of pre-modernity fell apart. The teleological worldview was replaced by a nominalist and mechanistic one.

And theoretical reason was conceived of as working in a perfectly adequate fashion apart from any commitment to there being a divinely-ordered reality. Furthermore, the language of justice and individual rights supplanted that of virtue. In the third stage of the narrative, New Traditionalists maintain that liberal democracy emerges as the more or less natural political consequence of the fall from the pre-modern state. Liberal democracy, according to the New Traditionalists, is not only a political structure that protects putative individual rights such as to religious freedom , but is also committed to a broad thesis of neutrality with respect to notions of God and the good.

According to this understanding of liberal democracy, the state should not enact laws that require a religious rationale and citizens should therefore comply with the DRR. Given its commitment to neutrality and the DRR, the New Traditionalists claim that liberal democracy is a mode of governance that is fundamentally at odds with the type of traditional religious way of life that informed society during its pre-modern state.

In the final stage of the narrative, New Traditionalists offer proposals of various sorts for how traditionally religious believers should cope with being citizens of a political system whose fundamental commitments are at odds with their own. The proposals are generally not injunctions to transform the liberal state. Rather, they are broadly separatist in nature, exhorting traditional believers to distance themselves from the liberal state, say, by living in small religious communities, which owe their ultimate allegiance to the church or some larger religious tradition.

If they are correct, the DRR is both crucial to liberal democracy and an important reason for traditional believers to reject it. The MacIntyrean narrative is intriguing but highly controversial. Liberal critics have raised the following two objections to it. The first feature of the narrative to which liberal critics have drawn attention is its highly intellectualized character.

If John Milbank and MacIntyre are correct, for example, the fall into secularist liberalism is driven by the influence of some fairly abstract philosophical claims about the nature of reason and existence, which were defended by the medieval philosopher Duns Scotus. Liberal critics maintain that, as a matter of intellectual history, this is not correct. Proponents of broadly Scotistic or anti-theistic views, according to thinkers such as Stout, never had the numbers or clout to change the world as dramatically as New Traditionalists claim.

In fact, if Stout is correct, there is a counter-narrative to tell that is at least as plausible as the one that New Traditionalists champion. According to this counter-narrative, we should distinguish two types of secularism: on the one hand, there is secularism as understood by the standard view, which tells us that appeal to religious reasons in public political discourse is insufficient to justify coercive laws. On the other, there is broadly pluralistic secularism, which tells us merely that participants in public political discourse are not in a position to assume that their interlocutors are making the same religious assumptions that they are.

Stout maintains that liberal democracy is committed only to secularism of the second sort. Indeed, even critics of the standard view who affirm liberal democracy on religious grounds, such as Wolterstorff, grant that liberal democracy is secular in Stout's second, pluralistic sense.

Certainly, the liberal critics maintain, there is nothing about liberalism that commits it to a version of secularism in which the liberal state is an anti-Christian ecclesia or an alternate vehicle for salvation, as some New Traditionalists have claimed see, for example, Milbank, et al. Suppose that the liberal critics are correct in their contention that liberal democracy is committed only to pluralistic secularism.

Is this commitment the upshot of a broadly Scotistic view about reason and existence having taken root in modernity? If thinkers such as Stout and Wolterstorff are correct, the answer to this question is also: no. Rather, both Stout and Wolterstorff suggest that liberal democracy's commitment to secularism is the result of Christians themselves recognizing that post-Reformation Christianity itself had become so fragmented that Christians could no longer appeal to scripture and tradition in public discourse under the assumption that their interlocutors would share their views regarding scripture and tradition see Zagorin In support of this contention, Stout appeals to the historian Christopher Hill who maintains that in 17 th century English parliamentary politics, one increasingly finds members of parliament appealing rather less to scripture when engaging in public political discourse and rather more to considerations upon which they and their interlocutors could agree.

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. 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.

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.


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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.

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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.

The God Problem: Expressing Faith and Being Reasonable

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. 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.