Sociology of Religion P. Berger

If T. Lukman’s concept of religion in general can be considered integral and consistent, then Berger has undergone a significant evolution in his views on religion. Berger began publishing in the early 1960s as a sociologist of religion. Assessing the early stage of his own work, he emphasizes that at that time he paid too much attention to the process of secularization and the crisis of religion, and too little to its universal significance. In his first major works: “Ambiguous Vision” (1961) and “The Noise of Solemn Assemblies” (1961), paying tribute to the then fashionable existentialism, Berger argued that not only “meaningful universes”, but also society ( ) are a kind of , a projection of individual experience. However, later he comes to the conclusion that it is difficult to be a sociologist, adhering to “a one-sided individualistic view of human existence” [4, p. 178]. At this stage, he was very critical of institutional religion as a manifestation of “bad faith”, in the spirit of neo-orthodoxy, opposing the religion and church of the American establishment to the true Christian faith. Berger’s attitude towards religion changed radically in the 1960s, when, outgrowing the neo-orthodox position of his youth, he turned to the traditions of Protestant liberalism.

At one time, despite the similarity of their concepts, Berger dissociated himself from Lukman’s statements regarding innate religiosity and even criticized him for too frankly acknowledging the “religious essence” of man. Subsequently, however, he came to similar conclusions, and their differences in views, according to Berger himself, became only purely terminological.

The sociological concept of religion is most fully expounded by Berger in the book “The Sacred Veil” (1967), where, applying the conceptual apparatus of the sociology of knowledge developed by him together with Lukman to the phenomenon of religion, he sought to show the relationship between religion and the construction of the world by man, to trace the process of secularization in a historical perspective. , understand the functions, role and significance of religion in society. Verger emphasized that this book is not a “sociology of religion” in the proper sense of the word, which, in his opinion, should deal with more extensive material regarding the relationship of institutional religiosity, types of religious leadership, etc. is theorizing about understanding religion as a socio-historical product. At the same time, all questions relating to the truth or falsity of the religious vision of the world are taken by Berger in brackets and are not evaluated, since the possibilities of sociology are limited to the analysis of the socio-historical context of the emergence of certain ideas, institutions and their relationship with the everyday human life world.

In the process of socio-historical activity of people, the sociologist says, with the help of language, nomos is constructed, i.e. cognitive-normative complex, considered in society as knowledge. To be a member of a society is to share its knowledge, or nomos. The objective nomos, internalized in the course of socialization, becomes a subjective arrangement of personal experience. Society, thus, turns out to be the custodian of order and meaning not only objectively – in institutional structures, but also subjectively – at the level of individual consciousness. Since a departure from objective nomos (ie, anemia) threatens a person with the loss of life orientation, and ultimately of himself, the main function of society is nomization. However, public institutions cannot guarantee the stability and reliability of the man-made world. Such a guarantee is possible only when the human world is endowed with the characteristics of a sacred cosmos.

For most of human history, says Berger, religion has played a strategic role in man’s construction of social reality and has been the most effective and widespread means of legitimizing (i.e., explaining and justifying) the social order. This is explained by the fact that fragile social institutions subject to change, placed within the limits of the cosmic, sacred frame of reference, acquire the “ultimately valid ontological status”. Berger defines religion as a man-made “sacred cosmos” or “cosmization in the form of the sacred”. Sacred is understood by Berger as “the quality of a mysterious and awe-inspiring force, different from the person and yet directed towards him, which is believed to reside in some objects” [25]. This quality can be endowed with people, animals, stones, space and time. It can be embodied both in simple spirits and in great gods. Despite the variety of manifestations of the sacred, they have some similarities. The sacred is something very different from the reality of everyday life, extraordinary, dangerous and menacing. But if this force is propitiated, then its power can be of benefit to a person in his daily life.

Pointing to the relationship between the microcosm of the “lower” (society) and the macrocosm of the “mountain” (the realm of the sacred), i.e. “natural” and “supernatural” realities, among the main functions of religion, Berger singles out the legitimizing function. The cosmization of institutions is necessary to maintain not only the existing “status quo”, but also the individual, who in this case has a feeling of “correctness” of the reality surrounding him and his place in it, both in the cognitive and in the normative sense. When social institutions and the roles that a person plays in them are endowed with a cosmic status, the individual’s self-identification with them turns out to be deeper and more stable. And then

According to Berger, the sacred, on the one hand, opposes the “profane” (secular), which he calls everything in the man-made world that does not have a sacred character, and, on the other hand, chaos. The sacred cosmos arises from chaos and is its direct opposite. This is expressed in various cosmogonic myths. Although a person is outside the sacred space, he is at the same time included in the sacred world order, thanks to which he receives protection from the horrors of chaos and anemia. Only if a person destroys his connection with the sacred cosmos can he be thrown into chaos.

Any nomic construction or nomos seeks to save a person from chaos, but the sacred cosmos or religion succeeds best of all. In essence, Berger reiterates, human existence is a continuous process of externalization (i.e., manifestation of oneself in activity), during which a person comprehends reality and tries to make it meaningful. And every society is in the process of never ending construction of the human world, which has the most diverse meanings and meanings. , according to Berger, means the identification of this significant and meaningful human world with the world as such; and then the human world becomes rooted in the world as such, from which all the basic structures of the human world spring [8, p. 27], giving meaning to human life, endowing a person with a system of values and guaranteeing protection from the horrors of anemia, chaos and loss of one’s own personality. Human life, placed within the limits of the sacred space, acquires the utmost significance. Thus, religion, according to Berger, primarily serves to maintain the reality of that socially constructed world within which people exist in their daily lives.

The legitimizing function of religion also manifests itself in the integration into a single exhaustive mute of a given society of all marginal situations, including the world of dreams, fantasies, encounters with death, i.e. those situations which are characterized by the experience of “ecstasy” (literally meaning transcendence of ordinary reality) and which call into question the self-evident character of the “reality of everyday life”.

The most important among the marginal situations is the encounter with death, which defies all social conventions and resembles the borderline situation in existentialism. But if M. Heidegger, and then K. Jaspers believed that without experiencing borderline situations such as death, suffering, etc. true existence is impossible, then Berger believes that the severity, and sometimes unbearable marginal situations should be weakened. To do this, it is necessary to legitimize them within the sacred cosmos, since only in this case they can acquire meaning and reconcile a person with their existence.

Speaking about the social context of the emergence, establishment and maintenance of various religious systems, institutions, movements, Berger introduces the concept of “probabilistic structure”, by which he denotes the totality of social processes, relations, “definitions of reality” accepted and taken for granted in a given society (i.e., definitions of reality). i.e. ideas, theories, etc.), which can otherwise be called a semantic substructure, since it also includes ideas in the substructure. That is, this is the social and socio-psychological basis that actually gives ideas, worldview an unshakable status of objective reality in the minds of people. With the disintegration of probabilistic structures, one or another ideational complex loses its self-evident character and ceases to be perceived as an objective reality. When the social infrastructure weakens or disappears, within which the reality of the Christian world is taken for granted (that is, with the deobjectification of the probabilistic structure), religion loses its mass character and durability and ceases to be an all-encompassing phenomenon.

Since the worlds created by man are always in danger of being thrown into chaos, they must be constantly strengthened and maintained. Berger assigns an important role in this task to theodicy (literally meaning the justification of God in the face of evil existing in the world), which he defines as an explanation of anemic phenomena, such as illness, suffering, death, in terms of religious legitimations. The basis of any theodicy, according to Berger, is the masochistic attitude, which consists in the rejection of oneself for the sake of socially established power. The roots of theodicy should be sought in certain characteristics of human communities, since any society imposes restrictions on a person, to a greater or lesser extent requiring the denial of certain aspects and aspects of his existence. “Masochism,” says Berger, “is a curious convulsion of both human sociality and its need for meaning.” For, unable to endure his loneliness, man rejects his individuality and, unable to endure meaninglessness, finds a paradoxical meaning in self-destruction> [8, p. 56].

The nature of the theodicy is determined by those to whom it is intended: if the ruling classes, then it is a “theodicy of happiness”, which has a sadistic character; if to the lower classes, then this is a “theodicy of suffering”, which has a masochistic character; if both at the same time, then it has a sadomasochistic character. In any case, the main function of theodicy, according to the sociologist, is the explanation and justification of social inequality and injustice, as well as giving meaning to anemic phenomena.

Analyzing various types of theodicy, drawing on significant historical material, Berger comes to the conclusion that the problem of theodicy is most acute in the Judeo-Christian religion. This is due to transcendentality, the extreme remoteness of the biblical God from man, which is the reason for the extreme form of the masochistic attitude of biblical theodicy. [8, p. 74]. An example of such submission to the highest authority, which is the essence of the masochistic attitude, is the recognition by Job of his insignificance before the supremacy of God, when the accusation of God turns into an accusation of man, as a result of which the problem of theodicy disappears, giving way to the problem of anthropodicy. The problem of theodicy, in essence, has never been a purely theological problem, but has always been solved in a social context. Berger seeks to show that the “probability” of Christianity is connected with the “probability” of his theodicy. in this case is not used in the generally accepted sense, since Berger here emphasizes the self-evident, unquestionable nature of this or that phenomenon) And just as in his time, thanks to Jesus Christ, who was both a punishing and suffering God, Christian theodicy was able to win over to its side significant masses of believers, and at present the decline of the Christian religion is accompanied by the devaluation of its theodicy. And since a person constantly encounters anemic phenomena in life, with which he must come to terms and endow them with meaning, the need for theodicy is ineradicable, Berger argues.

In the sociologist’s solution to the problem of theodicy, a certain influence of psychoanalysis is noticeable. However, if we discard the Freudian terminology, then he quite accurately captures the mechanism for the formation of religious ideas as a compensation for human weakness and fear of natural and social forces, in fact speaking about the illusory-compensatory function of religion.

Considering the mechanism of the formation of religious ideas, Berger touches upon the problem of alienation, modifying Marx’s concept in his own way. Alienation he calls “the process during which the dialectical relationship between the individual and his world is lost” [8, p. 85], when the socio-cultural world created by man is perceived by him as an alien and incomprehensible objective factuality, and a person from the creator of the world turns into its product.

Religion alienates a person from himself and in this sense is associated with “false consciousness”. Calling religion a “hoax”, “false with knowledge”, Berger seeks to show that it falsifies a person’s awareness of his own activity in constructing the social world, which turns out to be shrouded in a “sacred veil”. “Sacred veil”, on the one hand, centuries the true nature of the relationship: a person – social reality – a sacred space, an active role in which belongs to a person, and on the other hand, it reliably protects him from chaos and anemic phenomena. Thus, for Berger, alienation turns out to be a means of maintaining nomic structures and constructing a semantic universe. Since Berger does not draw a line between alienation in the sphere of labor and religious alienation and does not differentiate between different types of activity, objective activity turns out to be equivalent to a religious act. The similarity with Marx’s understanding of the category of alienation, which Berger points out, remains purely terminological, since, speaking of alienation, Marx already in 1844 associated it with property relations. And Berger, in his analysis of alienation, firstly, does not go beyond consciousness, considering human activity as an ideal process of constructing social reality, and secondly, in fact, he starts from an abstract individual who “self-alienates” his “essence” and creates thus the whole world around.

A significant place in the works of L. Berger is occupied by the problem of secularization, the attitude to which he repeatedly changed. Secularization, defined by him as the process by which ever larger sectors of society and culture come out of the influence of religious institutions and symbols, is only one of the moments of the general process of “modernization” that has engulfed all advanced industrial countries at the present stage of development. An important consequence of the modernization process associated with the rapid growth of the scientific potential of technological production, the rationalization of the economy, etc., are the processes of secularization and pluralization.

Occurring at the level of both individual consciousness and public institutions, the processes of modernization lead to the “disenchantment of the world”, the loss of old communal ties and traditional beliefs. At one time (in the early 60s), Berger, observing the liberation from church authority and the influence of various spheres of social and cultural life, attached great importance to secularization, considering it to be an all-encompassing phenomenon. However, he gradually comes to the conclusion that, although secularization does take place, it does not cover all areas of life, being significant only in the “public sphere”, while not affecting the “private sphere”.

The sociologist tries to trace in historical perspective to what extent the “seeds of secularization” were contained in the Western religious tradition. Protestantism, in his opinion, has become a kind of “prelude” to modern secularization, since it represents a significant “truncation” of sacred reality, being deprived of “the three most ancient and powerful accompanying elements of the sacred: mystery, miracle, magic”. The Protestant, deprived of various intermediaries and channels of communication with the sacred, is left face to face with a radically transcendent God, whose mercy is the only miracle of the Protestant universe. And one has only to break this single thread for the road to secularization to be opened. The “disenchantment of the world” has, however, even deeper roots, says Berger, in the religion of ancient Israel. The culture and religion of ancient Israel were in sharp contrast to the cultures of neighboring Mesopotamia and Egypt, whose main characteristics were cosmological. The religion of Ancient Israel, which denied the cosmological order and was characterized by three moments – “transcendeptalization, historicization and rationalization of ethics” [8, p. 115], was a monotheism, distinguished by the radical transcendence of God, who cannot be identified either with nature or with man. He has no pantheon, he is the only one who believes in him. However, “Yahweh, for all his formidable outside world, or rather, precisely because of it, is much closer to man than the anthropomorphic gods of ancient Greek mythology … Yahweh, in the end, has only one goal, the only one like himself: to find a person in obedience and devotion to himself> [1, p. 589].

All Old Testament literature is a vivid example of how the arena of struggle and the revelation of God’s will is not the cosmos, but history, which acquires meaning in the continuous connection of events, phenomena, people and represents an extreme “polarization of the transcendent God and man, between which there is a completely “demythologized” universe> [8, p. 117]. Calling Yahweh a “mobile God”, Berger shows that his mobility is manifested, firstly, in the fact that he was not a “tribal deity”, “naturally connected by Israel, but a God whose connection with him was “artificial”, i.e. This relationship was established as a result of an agreement between Yahweh and Israel and entailed certain obligations, the violation of which could lead to its liquidation> [8, p. 116]. kingdom, it in no way resembles the institution of a deity in Mesopotamia or Egypt.Yahweh does not have a strictly defined place of sanctuary, since the “Ark of the Covenant” is transported from place to place and has no dependence on the victim.In short, it is immune to “magical manipulation >.

The rationalization of the ethics of the Old Testament is manifested in its anti-magic orientation, as well as in specific historically mediated commandments of the “living God” Yahweh. The motive for rationalizing ethics was present in both the priesthood and the prophets. At the priesthood, it manifested itself in the purification of “the cult from all magical and orgiastic elements and in the development of religious law (Torah) as a fundamental discipline of everyday life” [8, p. 120]. And the prophets – in the requirement to devote their lives to the service of God and thereby rationalize their daily lives. The proof of the rationality of the ethics of the religion that would later be called Judaism, as well as its triumph, was that it managed to survive and survive in the diaspora, surviving both the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The motive of rationalization, so characteristic of the Judaic religion, according to Berger, then passes in a somewhat weakened form into Christianity, in the context of which the modern Western world is formed.

The consequence of the process of secularization, according to Berger, is that at present a person is faced with a completely new situation for him, when religious legitimations lose their “probability” for an increasing number of people. Since religion is losing its former importance in the life of society, there is a “de-alienation” and “humanization” of social reality, which, however, are bought at the price of “severe anemia and existential anxiety”.

Along with other aspects of modernization, among the factors that led to the process of secularization, Berger especially singles out one, in his opinion the most important one – the “pluralization of social worlds”. In fact, both of these processes – secularization and pluralization – are so closely interrelated that it is difficult to determine which of them is primary.

Previously, the Christian world had a socio-structural and cognitive unity, and religion was the main institution that determined reality. “Pluralization of social worlds” means that a “demonopolization” of religious tradition takes place in society, when religion is unable to claim the final definition of reality and is forced to compete in this not only with other religions, but also with non-religious ideologies, worldviews, etc. d. If earlier the Christian tradition could be imposed by force of authority and forcibly, now in a market situation it becomes a commodity. In order for a product to be in demand, it is necessary to rationalize its production, which, in turn, leads to the bureaucratization of religious structures and “cartelization”, which occurs as a result of the merger of religious organizations and groups and their functioning on the basis of mutual agreements.

In addition to changes at the socio-structural level, the influence of the pluralistic situation on religion is manifested in the fact that it undergoes a change in its content. In accordance with market dynamics, religion must find a “place” for itself in modern society and adapt to the needs of the consumer. And since, according to Berger, the processes of modernization in society are always accompanied by processes of counter-modernization, the general standardization of religious denominations is opposed by a tendency to “marginal differentiation”, which is expressed in a differentiated approach to the religious denominations that have become the standard and individual “discovery of confessional heritage”.

Like Lukman, Berger comes to the conclusion that there is an “individualization” and “privatization” of religion. “Private religion”, which becomes a matter of individual “choice” or “preference”, however, is no longer able to fulfill the fundamental function of religion – the construction of a common world, within which all social life acquires the ultimate meaning and meaning, mandatory for all. The situation is as follows: to the extent that religion is general, it lacks “reality” and, conversely, to the extent that it is “real”, it lacks generality. That is, [7, p. 150]. With the demonopolization of religion, difficulties arise associated with maintaining its probabilistic structure, which is losing its mass character, durability and strength. Any form of religion that becomes a fashion proves very difficult to maintain as an unchanging truth. The very multiplicity of probabilistic structures creates the ground for the relativization of their religious content; there is a process of their , which means that they are deprived of the status of a self-evident reality in the mind of the individual. Religion is “subjectivized”, since a person “discovers” it within the limits of his own consciousness, and the place of religious legitimations is occupied by existentialist, psychological, etc. theories.

Following the “Holy Veil” appears Berger’s book “Rumors about Angels” (1970), where, trying to combine the position of a sociologist with the position of a true Christian, the author points out the need for “relativization of relativizers”. This means that criticism of religion, which has now reached its climax, can in turn be criticized. The offensive against religion and theology, Berger believes, is carried out along different lines by the natural and social sciences. “If Copernicus deprived man of the throne cosmologically, then Darwin deprived man of the throne biologically even more painfully. But if the blow inflicted on religion by the natural sciences was significant, then the blow that followed from the side of the social sciences (history, psychology, sociology) turned out to be truly crushing. As a result of the studies of the historical school, the most sacred elements of the religious tradition are deprived of their divine character and are considered as products of human activity.

The psychoanalytic concept of religion 3. Freud became the basis for understanding religion as a projection of the Oedipus complex on the relationship between man and God. As a result, different perspectives are opened from which to view and interpret religion. The challenge posed by sociology to religion reaches its greatest strength and depth. The sociology of knowledge, says Berger, helps us analyze any scientific concept in terms of its probabilistic structure and show the relativity of all these multiple perspectives. Since each theory, according to Berger, is “probable” within its “probabilistic structure”, then Feuerbach, Marx, and Freud, who defined religion in different ways, were right within their own concept. Each perspective is relative and does not exclude the other. Therefore, depending on the ultimate definition of reality and the frame of reference adopted, religion can be seen as a reflection of both human and divine reality.

Berger sharply criticizes the “relativizing” religion R. Bultmann, who came up with a program of “demythologization” of Christianity. The relativizers of religion, notes Berger, consider the authors of the New Testament to be suffering from “false consciousness”, and put modern man intellectually higher than the Apostle Paul. But after all, the arguments of relativizers can be directed against them, attributing to them, in turn, “false consciousness”>. Berger uses the conceptual apparatus of the sociology of knowledge to show that modern scientific theories are no less “mythological” than the Old and New Testaments, and therefore cannot be opposed to the truths of religion. Since the “probability” of religion for Berger continues to be very significant, and since he considers it the main cementing force of society, he criticizes mainly those theories that refute the truth and necessity of religion in the modern world.

An important task of theology at present, the sociologist considers the search and identification of “signals of transcendence.” By them, he calls those phenomena which, being a manifestation or reflection of supernatural reality, can be detected within the limits of natural reality (i.e., everyday life). Transcendence in this case is understood simply as going beyond the limits of the “reality of everyday life”. The idea of the need to revive faith in our non-religious world, where only “rumors” remained about the supernatural, runs like a red thread through the entire book. Actually, sociology should solve this problem. Analyzing various traditions, perceiving “signals of transcendence”, tracing their sources, it will allow a person to make his own choice, because the faith that leaves our lives is necessary for modern man just as it was thousands of years ago. It can be said that the book “Rumors of Angels” was a turning point in Berger’s work, since it is in it that a tendency is manifested, which later becomes stable, which indicates that the theologian takes precedence over the sociologist in it.

In the “Reinterpreted Sociology”, which we have already considered, by addressing the problems of relativity, objectivity and truth of sociological knowledge, Berger shows that religious systems and ideas are social constructions. Is it then possible, asks the sociologist, to speak of religious truth? It is not the task of sociology to discuss this question, he replies, since the reality of the believer transcends the reality of human life. Sociology cannot evaluate religious claims or analyze religious experience. [9, p. 85]. It is equally impossible to use sociology for the purposes of theology.

And although religious experience itself is not subject to sociological analysis, it takes its place within a social context (i.e. “probabilistic structure”) that can be interpreted. But since it is impossible to isolate the pure essence of religious experience from its social context, Berger uses a phenomenological description of religious experience, the ontological status of which he takes into brackets. The concept of intentionality of consciousness allows him to recognize the reality of this religious experience. According to the phenomenologist, the sociology of religion deals mainly with specific aspects of religious “noesis”, and the “noema” of religious experience can only appear within the “brackets” of the phenomenological description. (, according to Berger, is the spiritual activity of consciousness, intentional action as such, and

Berger represents a trend that has been called neoconservatism since the mid-1970s. In the 1980s, the main provisions of neoconservatism were transferred to the programs of the right-wing parties in power in the United States and other Western countries. Berger signed the so-called Hartford Appeal, which marked the beginning of neo-conservatism in the United States. And, being, according to him, one of the most “leftist” among the signatories of this manifesto, he, however, undoubtedly shares the main theses of the neoconservative program. Long before the conservatives came to power, Berger predicted the crisis of liberalism and the inevitability of new ways to solve American society based on the preservation of the existing status quo.

In accordance with his political views, the sociologist also overestimates the concept of religion. Calling American society “revolutionary” because it is undergoing rapid and significant changes, he noted that these changes also apply to the position of religion in modern America. The religious situation that existed in the United States in the 1950s is associated with the so-called religious revival, marked by the rise of many indicators of institutional religion. It was a time of cooperation, not hostility and competition between different religious denominations, when it seemed that “everyone became active in their religious preference” [10, p. 193]. However, upon closer examination, it became clear that this state of affairs is far from due to religious factors, but, above all:

I) high social mobility, when people moved from the lower to the middle class;

they still believed in the existence of the old connection between bourgeois respectability and belonging to one church or another;

2) geographical mobility, as migrants found the corresponding symbol in the church

the integrity of life;

3) the post-war population explosion, when the authority of Sunday schools was still great,

to whom parents entrusted the moral education of their children.

Religion in the US, says Berger, exists in the form of denominational and civil religions.

A denominational religion is what, in fact, is considered to be a religion, i.e. the system of the Judeo-Christian tradition, personified by various religious organizations in the United States. It is the “religion of churches” simultaneously coexisting with each other on equal footing in a situation of religious pluralism. Following R. Belley, who defined civil religion as “the religious dimension of society, expressed in a system of beliefs, symbols and rituals” [14, p. 75], Berger identifies it with the American creed, i.e. with the value system of American society, which becomes a religion.

Berger, like many other Western authors, emphasizes that the relationship between denominational and civil religions was never antagonistic, but rather represented a symbiosis, with denominations benefiting from religious pluralism. The civil religion, in turn, which was never anti-clerical and emphatically secular, borrowed special content and religious pathos from denominations, as a result of which it managed to create symbols and rituals of national solidarity that contributed to the growth of national self-consciousness as a single “chosen” nation based on personal the motivation needed to achieve national goals.

The so-called religious boom of the 1950s, marked by the rise of denominational religion, also contributed to the flourishing of civil religion. The US foreign policy of those years, characterized by a “Manichaean confrontation” between East and West, was aggravated by the opposition of the virtues of the American way of life (including religious ones) to “godless materialism”. The rhetoric of the national government in those years was markedly religious patriotism. President D. Eisenhower’s well-known statement, which accurately reflects this trend, when an unbeliever was perceived as dubious: <... our government does not make sense until it is based on a deeply religious faith, whatever it may be> [9 , with. 97].

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