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Ch 24: Religion

About This Chapter

Watch online anthropology video lessons to learn about primal religions, rites of passage, Greek myth, nontheism and more. These video lessons are short and engaging and make learning easy!

Religion - Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives

Begin your study of this topic by identifying common traits used to define religion. You can also explore religion's role in society and investigate theories explaining the origins of this type of belief system. The remaining lessons cover everything from myth and magic to the concepts of animism and reincarnation, so you can survey the different religions out there and track their development. Use this chapter to learn about the following:

  • Primal religious practices
  • Gods in the Sumerian pantheon
  • Greek and Roman mythology
  • Mesoamerican rites of passage
  • Characteristics of monotheism
  • Nontheist ideologies

Video Objectives
What Is Religion? - Definition & Role in Society Identify common traits among religions, including a belief in the supernatural, the performance of ritual acts and adherence to a moral code.
Religion: Key Concepts and Definitions Explore religious concepts, like the sacred and profane, and examine the uses of rituals and totems. Differentiate between churches, sects and cults.
Theories on the Origins of Religion: Overview Survey theories developed by the likes of Kant, Freud and Marx to explain the origins of religion.
Primal Religions: Types & Practices Consider primal religions' use of myth. Explore the concepts of animism and totemism.
Differentiating Between the Magic Religions Survey the types of magic practiced in various cultures.
How Religion Developed in the Stone Age and Bronze Age Study the origins of male deities along with factors contributing to the decline of female gods in ancient societies.
Wallace's Typology of Religions Differentiate between shamanic, Olympian, monotheistic and communal religions.
How Religion Contributes to Cultural Change Learn how revitalization movements, syncretism and New Age religions can cause cultural change.
Mystery Cults and the Early Mother Goddess Survey examples of prehistoric art, and explore the prevalence of mother goddess worship in early society.
Religions of Sumer and Akkad: Definition & History Examine characteristics of Sumerian city-states and temples, as well as some of the deities in their pantheon.
What Are the Myths of Babylon? - Definition & Significance Trace the sources of Babylon's creation myth, and identify its key deities.
The Epic of Gilgamesh Study themes occurring in this epic poem, including the significance of prophetic dreams and the search for immorality.
Greek Myth and Religion Identify characteristics of Greek religion. Get an overview of the mythology of Greek gods and demigods.
The Odyssey: Greek Epic Chart key events in this epic poem depicting the journey of Odysseus.
Roman Myths and Religion Explore the ways in which Greek myth influenced Roman culture. Examine the similarities and differences between these two societies.
Gods of the Home: Primal Roman Religious Practices Study the significance of religion in Romans' everyday life. Get an introduction to deities including Janus and Juno.
The Religions of Mesoamerica Look into the roles of human sacrifice in Mayan and Aztec societies.
Rituals and Rites of Passage in Society Assess the function of rituals, and identify the stages of separation, liminality and incorporation in rites of passage.
The Mesoamerican Religious Rites of Passage Discover rites of passage used to mark birth, puberty, marriage and death in Mayan and Aztec societies.
Monotheism: Islam, Judaism & Christianity Survey religious beliefs associated with each of these three monotheistic religions.
Nontheism: Hinduism, Buddhism & Confucianism Examine concepts and practices found in nontheist religions, including reincarnation, meditation and ren (humanism).
Animism and Shamanism: Definitions, Worldviews & Ideologies Get an introduction to the practice of shamanism. Study the concept of animism.
Geography of Religion: Political and Social Impacts Identify factors affecting the geographical dispersion of religion. Pinpoint sources of conflict among different religious groups.

22 Lessons in Chapter 24: Religion
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
What Is Religion? - Definition & Role in Society

1. What Is Religion? - Definition & Role in Society

This lesson will focus on the traits of religion. Using the works of Tillich and Noss, it will highlight religion's belief in the supernatural, its inclusion of a moral code, and its use of prescribed ritual acts.

Religion: Key Concepts and Definitions

2. Religion: Key Concepts and Definitions

Sociologists strive to study every aspect of religion in an objective way. In this lesson, we define religion and identify key concepts that are found in religion. We also discuss the difference between churches, sects, and cults.

Theories on the Origins of Religion: Overview

3. Theories on the Origins of Religion: Overview

This lesson will explore the many theories on the origins of religion. In doing so, it will highlight the works of Kant, Muller, Frazer, Marx and Freud. It will also explain animism and nature worship.

Primal Religions: Types & Practices

4. Primal Religions: Types & Practices

This lesson will explore the many traits of the primal religions of past and present. In doing so, it will highlight animism, totemism and the use of shamans in the primal religions of the world.

How Religion Developed in the Stone Age and Bronze Age

5. How Religion Developed in the Stone Age and Bronze Age

Have you ever wondered exactly how religion developed in the ancient world? Check out this lesson to see how the impact of cities, writing and invasion upon religion, the ascent of the sky father and the descent of the mother goddess contributed to the development of religion.

Wallace's Typology of Religions

6. Wallace's Typology of Religions

Not all religions in history have developed around the worship of one god. This lesson highlights the connection between the structure of a society and its religions and how belief in the supernatural has been expressed by different cultures.

How Religion Contributes to Cultural Change

7. How Religion Contributes to Cultural Change

Religions have the power to dramatically change the culture around them and the people of a community. In this lesson, we'll look at three major examples of how history has been shaped by religion.

Mystery Cults and the Early Mother Goddess

8. Mystery Cults and the Early Mother Goddess

What kind of problems do we encounter when talking about ancient religions? What are the Mother Goddess figures, and where do they pop up throughout history? Watch this lesson to learn about one of the earliest forms of religious worship.

Religions of Sumer and Akkad: Definition & History

9. Religions of Sumer and Akkad: Definition & History

This lesson will explore the religion of ancient Sumer and its Akkadian empire. In doing this, it will highlight the Sumerian pantheon, their ziggurats, and their belief in the afterlife.

What Are the Myths of Babylon? - Definition & Significance

10. What Are the Myths of Babylon? - Definition & Significance

This lesson will explore the creation myth of ancient Babylon as compiled in the Enuma Elish. In doing this, it will highlight the Babylonian belief in Marduk as the supreme being and the creation of humans to serve him.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

11. The Epic of Gilgamesh

Witness the Epic of Gilgamesh, a story of adventure, love and friendship. This long poem will help us examine the hallmarks of civilization for a Sumerian and the importance of dreams. We'll also cover the Sumerian contributions to the epic form of literature.

Greek Myth and Religion

12. Greek Myth and Religion

This lecture examines the troubles of generalizing Greek religion, before doing just that. It lists the major Olympian gods and their roles. It then explores the function of heroes in Greek religion. Next, the relationship between gods and men is laid out. Finally, it explores aspects of Greek myth that reemerge in Christianity.

The Odyssey: Greek Epic

13. The Odyssey: Greek Epic

This lecture provides a rough outline of the exploits of Odysseus in Homer's epic poem ''The Odyssey''. You'll learn plot details about this epic poem, in addition to hearing about how this important tale relates to Greek culture and literary works throughout history.

Roman Myths and Religion

14. Roman Myths and Religion

This lesson compares Roman gods to their Greek predecessors and enumerates the similarities and differences between Greek and Roman religion. Finally, Roman religion's relationship with mystery cults, especially Christianity, is briefly explored.

Gods of the Home: Primal Roman Religious Practices

15. Gods of the Home: Primal Roman Religious Practices

This lesson will explore the religions of early Rome. In doing this, it will highlight the Roman deities, Janus and Vesta. It will also explain the concept of numina, and the importance of Roman Lares and Penates.

The Religions of Meso-America

16. The Religions of Meso-America

This lesson will explore the bygone religions of Meso-America, specifically the Mayan and Aztec belief systems. In doing this, it will highlight their belief in animism, their sacred calendars, and the use of human sacrifice as a means of worship.

The Meso-American Religious Rites of Passage

17. The Meso-American Religious Rites of Passage

This lesson will explain the Mesoamerican rites of passage. In doing this, it will explore the ancient cultures and ceremonial practices of the Mayan and Aztec people of Mexico and Central America.

Rituals & Rites of Passage in Society

18. Rituals & Rites of Passage in Society

Anthropologists can learn a lot about a culture by understanding the rituals that are practiced by a community. We'll look at examples, such as a vision quest and a Las Vegas wedding, to consider this topic.

Monotheism: Islam, Judaism & Christianity

19. Monotheism: Islam, Judaism & Christianity

In this lesson, we define monotheism and identify three significant monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We also discuss the ideology of each of these three religions.

Nontheism: Hinduism, Buddhism & Confucianism

20. Nontheism: Hinduism, Buddhism & Confucianism

Not all religions focus on the belief (or disbelief) in a particular deity. In this lesson, we define nontheism and discuss the ideologies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

Animism & Shamanism: Definitions, Worldviews & Ideologies

21. Animism & Shamanism: Definitions, Worldviews & Ideologies

In this lesson, we look at the basics of animism and shamanism and why these categories can be controversial. You'll imagine the conversations among anthropologists as they aim to better understand these beliefs.

Geography of Religion: Political & Social Impacts

22. Geography of Religion: Political & Social Impacts

In this lesson, you'll consider why geographers take an interest in the religions of people around the world. We'll also discuss how conflicts arise between groups with different beliefs and experiences.

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
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Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
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