When religion is not influential in a society or has ceased to be, the state inherits the entire burden of public morality, crime and intolerance. It then must use punishment and police. Yet this is unsuccessful as morality, integrity and self-respect not already inherent in the individual, cannot be enforced with any great success.
Only by a spiritual awareness and inculcation of the spiritual value of these attributes can they come about. There must be more reason and more emotional motivation to be moral, etc. When a culture has fallen totally away from spiritual pursuits into materialism, one must begin by demonstrating they are each a soul, not a material animal.
From this realization of their own religious nature individuals can again come to an awareness of God and become more themselves. As they politically insist on monopoly and use social and political propaganda to enforce their monopoly, they debar actual search for real answers to human nature.
Their failures are attested by lack of result in the field of human nature. They cannot change man—they can only degrade. While asserting dominance in the field of human nature they cannot demonstrate results—and nowhere do they demonstrate that lack more than in their own persons. They have the highest suicide rate and prefer the use of force on others. Under their tutelage the crime rate and antisocial forces have risen. But they are most condemned by their attacks on anyone who seeks answers and upon the civilizing influences of religion.
Of course, if one is going to find fault with something, it implies that he wishes to do something about it and would if he could. If one does not like the crime, cruelty, injustice and violence of this society, he can do something about it. Briefly, a Volunteer Minister fulfills the definition of religion in this increasingly cynical and hopeless world. In a few words, religion can be defined as belief in spiritual beings. More broadly, religion can be defined as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life.
The quality of being religious implies two things: first, a belief that evil, pain, bewilderment and injustice are fundamental facts of existence; second, a set of practices and related sanctified beliefs that express a conviction that man can ultimately be saved from those facts. Thus, a Volunteer Minister is a person who helps his fellow man on a volunteer basis by restoring purpose, truth and spiritual values to the lives of others. A Volunteer Minister does not shut his eyes to the pain, evil and injustice of existence.
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Rather, he is trained to handle these things and help others achieve relief from them and new personal strength as well. How does a Volunteer Minister accomplish these miracles? Basically, he uses the technology of Scientology to change conditions for the better—for himself, his family, his groups, friends, associates and for mankind. A society to survive well, needs at least as many Volunteer Ministers as it has policemen.
A society gets what it concentrates upon. By concentrating on spiritual values instead of criminality a new day may yet dawn for man. Milton Yunger, Oberlin College. Freedom uplifts human aspiration. It stands for accurate and accountable reporting and publishes information available in no other publication.
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March Vol. November Vol. December Clearwater Special Edition. Special Clearwater Edition. August They were encouraged to see themselves as working in unity with others and did not create or support distinctions with those who were better off. They empowered the poorest among them. If we link the success of liberation theology at the Biguhu parish back to its failure to help the poor in the Brazilian context, we can see a clear difference in religious style and culture, which in turn has important implications for whether the poor feel excluded: the Biguhu parish did not emphasize literacy, as did the liberationist Catholics in Brazil.
At a time when the global middle class is growing rapidly Heiman et al. Rogers , for example, compares the religious styles of middle-class Buddhists and Protestants in urban China and finds that both groups exert their moral authority as educated and cultured persons to delimit appropriate forms of religiousness, a process that serves to draw and reinforce class boundaries, as well as religious ones.
Such attempts, regardless of whether they are conscious or inadvertent exercises of power, play out not only at the individual level but also, as Longman shows, at the institutional level as well. As we have shown in this essay, social science has demonstrated that while religion can and does often aid in producing social and economic changes that benefit those living in poverty, it can also be implicated in shoring up social and economic inequalities that have adverse effects upon the poor. On the positive side, religion often offers structural benefits to those in poverty and can assist people in navigating their everyday lives.
These benefits include, for instance, the services that religious institutions provide for the poor, the personal and communal meaning people from all classes derive from religion, and the fact that religious organizations remain a key building block of civil society in countries around the world. At the same time, religion can sustain and even promote class divisions and inequalities that are inimical to the values and ideals of many religious traditions. When and how religion either benefits or inhibits those in poverty is not simply a function of theology, though theology can play an important role, but also one of religious leadership, organizational dynamics, cultural contexts, and the broader social structures of local society.
However, when religion can be activated to aid the poor, it is often a powerful force for change. Importantly, such findings are, within limits, applicable not only to the Western contexts in which sociology developed but also the world more broadly. At the same time, it is important to note that despite our focus on social class in this piece, we recognize that for all the influence it has on the relationship between religion and poverty, it is not the only mediating factor at play.
Other social inequalities, particularly race, ethnicity, and gender, also intervene in this process, and there remains much room for work on the interplay of these different factors. Their focus is on religion and American politics, but we suspect that complex religion provides a fruitful starting point for research on other topics and in other locals, including religion, class, and poverty in a global context. To conclude, as sociologists, we have primarily worked within the sociology of religion literature to explore the question of whether religion always helps the poor, with additional input from related works in other social science disciplines such as political science and anthropology.
For many who work on religion and poverty, these insights confirm much of what they already know from their own engagement in fields as diverse as theology, religious studies, and development studies: that religion can be a powerful source for social change but that religious congregations have weaknesses when it comes to addressing the needs of the poor and that empowerment takes hard work.
However, we hope that this brief review of some of the theoretical and empirical insights that sociology has to offer helps practitioners situate their own knowledge in the global context as they encounter the new challenges that arise in our increasingly globalized world. Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analyzed during the current study.
We recognize that the definition of social class is highly variable and remains contested in the sociological literature. Providing a definition is beyond the scope of this essay, and we instead work with the concept as broadly conceived by Marx and Weber. See Lareau and Conley for a recent compilation of sociological thinking on the topic. Even in the post-Mao era, China remains a highly atheistic society.
Most Chinese do not identify with a religion, so the majority of Christian rural migrants in Wenzhou converted after moving there, often due to the evangelizing efforts of boss Christians. Mahmood , Rao , and Winchester all show how religious actors actively deploy specific religious practices to inculcate desired religious dispositions.
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Christianity, when properly understood, is a religion of losers
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