Max Weber, "Sociology of Religion"

in Economy and Society

Chapter i.1. The Origins of Religion


399      Religious behavior can only be understood from the viewpoint of participant's subjective experience

399f    Religious behavior oriented to this world; relatively rational - religion & magic behavior have economic ends

            -    irrational from modern point of view: means-ends, causality

            -    effectiveness or power of practitioner: charisma: inherent or by works

Chapter i.2


401      Belief in spirits endowed with volition

magician's charisma - intoxication

402      animism - supersensual forces that intervene in the world

403      soul vs. supernatural powers (gods, demons)

Chapter i.3


403      magic transformed from direct manipulation of forces to symbolic activity

405      symbolic becomes more important - all areas of human activity drawn in; among the longest lasting aspects of dogma, even in rationalized religion.

pictorial art originally symbolic

406      stereotyping -"sacred is the uniquely unalterable" - fixes worldly behavior

407      slow transition from analogical thinking to syllogistic

Chapter i.4


407      systematic thinking, rationalization of life, specialization - evolution of pantheon of gods

Chapter i.5


411      household and kin groups need own gods: spirits of ancestors

Chapter i.6


412      development of gods of political confederation - e.g. Yahweh

413      political and military conquest also entailed victory of stronger god

Chapter i.7


415      monotheism: variation in potential of a god to achieve primacy in pantheon

416f    which god exerts strongest influence - NB sky gods most constant; primacy of universal gods; growth of empire

419      hinderance to monotheism - interests of priests; need of laity for accessible gods, open to magical influence

Chapter ii.1. Magic and Religion


422      magical coercion, when god's power conceived by analogy to man's; also supplication and faithfulness to his will - prayer and sacrifice - mix magic and supplication

423      sacrifice of animals - fraternal community to gods

424      Dual aspect to religious evolution - rational systematization of god concept and relations of man to god; irrationalization - recession of practical goals in favor of otherworldly noneconomic goals.

Cult or religion vs. sorcery; gods vs. demons

Chapter ii.2


425f    differentiation of priesthood from practitioners of magic

                  -    possible distinctions:

                        *    influence gods by worship vs. coercion with magic

                        *    regular functionaries vs. individual and occasional efforts

                        *    association with social organization vs. self-employed [cf. Durkheim]

                        *    professionalism (knowledge, doctrine qualifications) vs. personal gifts (charisma)

426      -    crucial feature of priesthood: specialization of group in continuous operation of cultic enterprise, permanently associated with particular norms, times and places, and specific social groups - also NB rationalization of metaphysics and ethics

Chapter ii.3


427f    success or failure of influence with gods - affects priests' prestige

Chapter ii.4


430      increased ethical demands made on gods parallel social development - growing importance of judicial determination, cosmological rationalization, regulation by rules, economic reliability of given word: obligations which increase calculability of individuals' conduct

Chapter ii.5


432f    source of ethics in magical norms of conduct - rationalization of taboos

Chapter ii.6


433      -    totemism - relationship with an object

Chapter ii.7


435      taboo norms may impede development of trade and market, of capitalism

436      caste system and sacred vocations - opposite of economic rationalism: rather, traditional. Cf. ethics of ascetic Protestantism; Hindu notion of transmigration

Chapter ii.8


437      with rationalization of magic to religion - from coercion to worship - notion that violation of ethical norms caused gods' displeasure - led to notions of sin and salvation, for individuals and for groups (NB conscience)

438      magical sin-like notions

Chapter iii.1. The Prophet


439      Prophet - bearer of charisma, proclaims religious doctrine or divine commandment

440      -    personal call: distinction from priest

                  -    definite revelations, doctrine or commandment (not magic): distinct from magician.

but NB charisma generally required magical authentication

441            but prophet's prophecy is unremunerated, as against magician

Chapter iii.2


442      cf. lawgiver - called to office at time of social tensions

Chapter iii.3


444      teacher of ethics

Chapter iii.4


446      mystagogue

Chapter iii.5


447f    ethical prophet (preaches ethical duties) vs. exemplary prophet (shows the way to religious salvation by personal example)

Chapter iii.6


450f    Nature of Prophetic Revelation: view of world as meaningful totality - both social and cosmological - to which man's behavior must be oriented to obtain salvation

                  -    conflict between empirical reality and this concept - produces strongest tensions for man

                  -    competition of priests, prophets, non-priests (including philosophers) to give metaphysical account

Chapter iv.1. The Congregation between Prophet and Priest


452      Congregation - originally lay followers just outside the charismatic circle of followers of prophet; Routinization of prophetic charisma

455      congregational religion - laity actively participates

456      priesthood must meet needs of laity to maintain power; factors which they must come to grips with: prophecy (often themselves laymen); traditionalism; lay intellectualism

Chapter iv.2


457f    Priesthood had to codify doctrine (new, victorious, of prophets; old, against prophecy) to retain power: produced canonical writings and dogma (latter is priestly interpretation of scriptures [hermeneutics]); becomes scripturally established tradition and basis of system of education

460      with development of lay literacy and bureaucratization, priestly control of education - establishment of religious community was the strongest impetus for development of doctrine: sets community apart from others and gives it propaganda superiority

461      also - to fight religious indifference

461f    contrasts different religions in development of doctrine

Chapter iv.3


464      Preaching and Pastoral Care - cf. magicians: priestly activity innovative

465      pastoral care - priests' real instrument of power, especially over workaday world

467      prophetic charisma and lay traditionalism - polar opposites, influence work of priests in systematization; also lay rationalism - NB different social strata bearers

Chapter v.1. The Religious Propensities of Peasantry, Nobility & Bourgeoisie


468      Peasantry so tied to nature that it will become carrier of religion only when threatened with proletarianization or enslavement

470      image of peasantry as religious a modern romantic view

471      city traditionally considered seat of piety

Chapter v.2


472f    Warrior Nobles and Feudal Powers not religious bearers - no concept of beneficent providence or religious ethics - seem reprehensible to sense of honor; also warrior regularly faces death - only needs protection against magic

473      nobility influenced by prophetic or reformist religion

475      different among standing armies, bureaucratic organizations

Chapter v.3


476      Bureaucracy - disesteem for religion and recognition of its usefulness in controlling people

                  -    seems irrational

Chapter v.4


478      Upper levels of Commercial Class, Bourgeoisie not religious bearers - especially traditional capitalists; showed indifference or skepticism

479f    However, modern rational capitalism has affinity to rational, ethical congregational religion - reasons given later

Chapter vi.1. The Religion of Non-Privileged Strata


481      Petty-Bourgeois strata show religious diversity; ancient and medieval Christianity a religion of artisans;

482      urban middle classes showed affinity to congregational religion - substitute for kinship groupings; less connection with nature (and thus, magic) and more with rational behavior and calculability: need for ethic of compensation. Artisans initially attracted to magic: specialized "art" imbued with charisma

Chapter vi.2


484      Slaves and Day Laborers not bearers of religion

485f    Modern Proletariat - indifference or rejection of religion: modern surrogate ideologies and awareness of dependence on non-individual (rather, social) factors

486      -    but lower levels susceptible to religious missionary enterprise, but not ethical religion; NB needs for salvation religion

Chapter vi.3


486f    Salvation religion may start in privileged strata and devolve to non-privileged

487      -    may take direction of wizardry, may move to savior religion - for masses

487f    -    sentimental legend - for middle and lower bourgeoisie

Chapter vi.4


488      Religion of disprivileged - tend to grant equality to women

489      NB receptivity of women to non-military prophecy

Chapter vi.5


490f    Function of Salvation Religion for Higher and Lower Strata: Legitimation vs. Compensation

492      cf. Jewish religion, modern Chinese, modern proletariat

Chapter vi.6


492f    Pariah people and Ressentiment - Judaism vs. Hinduism

493      definition of pariah people - hereditary, stateless; socially disprivileged and distinctive economically

494      ressentiment - inequality caused by sinfulness which God will avenge: desire for vengeance

496      desire for revenge stirred up by persecutions

497      absence of ressentiment among Hindus and Buddhists explained by theodicy of rebirth. Jewish theodicy - concern for own fidelity to law, struggle for sense of own worth. NB saw success in occupation as sign of God's favor, but no sense of Bewährung in calling as inner-worldly asceticism: Jew remained traditional in frank respect for wealth

498f    Jesus's teaching

Chapter vii.1. Intellectualism, Intellectuals, and Salvation Religion


500      Intellectual influence on religion - at first priesthood carrier of intellectualism through scriptures

Chapter vii.2


502      High status intellectuals as religious innovators - all Asian religions

503      cf. Greek philosophy

Chapter vii.3


503      salvation religions emerge when ruling strata have lost political power to a bureaucratic-militaristic unitary state

504      ruling strata then come to value their intellectual abilities, non-practical

505f    Salvation mass religion - esoteric intellectual doctrine, popular magical savior for masses

506      Salvation sought by intellectual based on inner need rather than relief from distress (as masses) - seeks meaning and unity, infinite causuistry, especially as intellectualist Entzauberung proceeds and events lose magical significance

506      contradictions of search for meaning and empirical world: intellectual's flight from world

Chapter vii.4


507      proletarian, petty-bourgeois, and pariah intellectualism

Chapter vii.5


508      ancient Jewish intellectualism

Chapter vii.6


511f    anti-intellectualism of early Christianity

512      primary bearers or propagators of world religions -

Confucianism - world-ordering bureaucrat

Hinduism - world-ordering magician

Buddhism - medicant monk wandering through the world

Islam - world-conquering warrior

Judaism - wandering trader

Christianity - itinerant journeyman

Chapter vii.7


513      elite and mass intellectualism in medieval Christianity

Chapter vii.8


515      modern intellectuals and secular salvation ideologies - e.g. socialist, populist

516f    unlikely for new congregational religion to emerge from modern intellectualism

            -    factors - present religion's utility in controlling masses; intellectuals' indifference to religion

517      need of cafe-society intellectuals an unlikely source

Chapter viii.1. Theodicy, Salvation, and Rebirth


518      religion may be mono- or polytheistic - attributes of great power to god(s)

519      Problem of Theodicy - how to reconcile imperfection of world with great power of god(s) ["incongruity of destiny and merit" in Gerth & Mills, p. 275]

Solutions -

                  -    future revolution in this world; suffering of present generation caused by sins of past

520f    -    notion of world beyond present one - at first magical, including retribution for errors in ritual; later when religion ethicized, gods employ moral considerations - raised questions of relations of gods to this world; cf. day of judgment

Chapter viii.2


522      Notion arose of ethical chasm between transcendent god and men

Predestination an extreme example of this view

523      ethical behavior would have no effect, but might be a sign of predestination

                  -    extreme tendencies to Entzauberung

Chapter viii.3


523      Other Solutions of Theodicy -

523f    -    Dualism - struggle of good and evil, light and dark, in which former purges latter from the world; man participates with forces of light, purges sin (darkness)

524f    -    Transmigration of souls - guilt and merit punished and rewarded in next life - each forges his destiny in next life

Chapter viii.4


526      not every religion is one of salvation - salvation may have variety of contents

528      notions may or may not affect economic life

Chapter ix.1. Salvation Through the Believer's Efforts


530      Salvation through Ritual - not much different than magic (cf. Puritanism). NB devotional mood

531      the more ritual is in everyday life, the more it takes on mystical character

532      NB casuistry - cf. ancient Judaism and law

Chapter ix.2


532      Salvation through Good Works

533      -    fate depends on actual achievements - can make an accounting of actions

533f    -    can be symptom of underlying ethical total personality - may be tolerant of isolated deviations

Chapter ix.3


534      Salvation through Self-Perfection - cf. charismatic magical powers

536      in non-magical, ethical religion with transcendant god, self-deification cannot be goal - rather to be his instrument or vessel

Chapter ix.4


538      Certainty of Grace - heightening of certain subjective conditions - problem of their constant maintenance

539      Religious Virtuosi - have charisma of permanent certainty of grace

Chapter x.1. Asceticism, Mysticism and Salvation


541      Asceticism: methodical procedure for achieving religious salvation by god-directed ethical behavior

542      "world" as realm of temptations; asceticism may be world-rejecting (rejects political, economic, erotic, aesthetic, etc.); or inner-worldly - within institutions of world but in opposition to them (as god's instrument)

543      world is only the medium through which charismatic state of grace can be proved

                  -    ascetic's vocation is to act in the world (NB aspects)

544      rationally systematize own conduct - especially ascetic Protestantism

Chapter x.2


544f    Salvation may come not than activity but from contemplation - subjective condition

545      Mysticism - flight from world rather than rejection: strives for mystical union mystical knowledge - incommunicable

547      NB mystic who feels world is more dependent on it than ascetic who rejects it

547f    inner-worldly ascetic becomes indifferent to meaning - he has vocation and does not question god's purpose

551      Decisive difference between Oriental and Occidental Salvation - former usually contemplative/mystical, later ascetic

Reasons for difference -

552f    1.   concept of transcendent, omnipotent god arise in West - road closed to self-defication and possession of god; salvation required ethical justification to god in West - led to activity and "work"

553      2.   empirical world not abandoned for Oriental intellectual: meaning would be discovered; for Western religion - meaning of world transcedent

                  3.   Legalistic (rational law) orientation of West - man subject to god - Roman legacy

553f    4.   Roman-Jewish rejection of ectasy, etc. in favor of rational-methods

555      5.   Occidental Church organization - uniformly rational, monarchical, centralized - controlled lives of subjects

555f    Only in occident was additional step taken - by ascetic Protestant of transferring rational asceticism into life of world - See sketch, page 556

557      Salvation through Savior and Institutionalized Grace - rejects own efforts as insufficient

560      Institutional Grace - (1) only through institution; (2) priest need not be personally charismatic; (3) recipient of grace needs no charismatic religious qualification - thus, salvation universal, open to more than virtuosi - level of ethical conduct must be average - will be low - this is description of Catholic Church

561      Results - spares recipient of necessity of organizing life systematically (can always receive grace and forgiveness for sins); sins remain individual and form no total pattern - rather discute actions; no one need feel certainty of grace - (always attainable) - for these reasons, control of laity - which confessional and spiritual direction should provide - often cancelled, since grace always waited

562      Contest Judaism and ascetic Protestantism, both of which lacked confessional: ethically rationalized pattern of life

563      Salvation through Faith and its Anti Intellectual Consequences - NB level of do

564      especially Christian churches, dogma to compete with intellectualism - cf. Confucianism, Judaism, Islam

567      NB unlimited trust - god, "sacrifice of intellect"

572      Salvation through Belief in Predestination - as free, inexplicable gift of grace from transcedent and uninfluencable god - leading in Eastern relig, in ancient relig, in warrier ethic

573      predest gives recipient of grace greatest certainty - but needs signs, promote activity, not satanism

574      Puritanism - belief became stronger the more bouregious Puritanism became; BN hostility of and to secular (political) power

575      But - Predest understood as outcome of list rather than individuals place in world beyond - loses ethical, rational character - e.g. Islam, Confucianism, Puritanism - man of vocation; development - became ever more intolerably bleak - predestination given up

Chapter x.3

Chapter xi.1. Soteriology or Salvation from Outside

Chapter xi.2

Chapter xi.3

Chapter xii.1. Religious Ethics and the World: Economics


576      The more a salvation religion develops Gesinnungsethik, the greater its tension to the world.

577      Religions involving stereotyping, taboos, and rituals are in less tension with the world. When ethical prophecy breaks through stereotyping, revolution may take place in relations with the world.

578      Religion based on Gesinnungsethic sets its own goals within theological realm: world becomes a problem. Decisive aspect is not intensity of religious belief, but rather religion's theoretical attitude toward the world.

Chapter xii.2


579      Familial piety, neighborly help, and compensation.

580      Obligation to help one's fellow originally limited to neighbors; more universal extensions depend on extension of social-political unit, growth of plural societies.

Chapter xii.3


581      As economic differentiation proceeded, customs of mutual neighborly assistance transformed into customs of mutual aid among various social strata, ethnic groups.

582      Relations among brothers in faith an extension of neighborly and familial relations: usury prohibited, aid to families without compensation.

Chapter xii.4. Religious Ethics, Economic Rationality and the Issue of Usury


583      Rejection of usury is an extension of this familial treatment of brothers in faith. Prohibition of usury lacking only in Protestantism, Confucianism (NB its accommodation to the world), and ancient Babylonian religions controlled by urban trading citizenry.

584      Original basis for rejection of usury was primitive custom of economic assistance to one's fellows: brothers in faith.

584      Tensions arise between ethical religion and economics as both are further rationalized.

                  -    Religion treats commercial enterprise as suspect even if possession of wealth is well regarded.

                  -    Also, economic rationalization tends to weaken traditional authority of sacred law (and traditionalism generally) - especially when economic rationalization becomes impersonal. Rationalized economy follows its own rules.

585      -    Depersonalization under rationalized economy also undermines religious charitability, which appeals to particular individuals. Charity loses its meaning.

585f    On the other hand, religions also have specific economic interests. This works against any consistent religious opposition to worldly economic activity, or economic power.

587      Medieval Christianity consistently kept the most devout groups from the life of trade.

587f    Inner-worldly asceticism of Protestantism first - unintentionally - produced a capitalist ethics: legitimated a career, rational plan of life; confined prohibition against usury to cases of selfishness; eliminated systematic alms-giving and ended benevolent attitude toward beggars and idleness.

589      Mystical religions take opposite tack: required completely unselective generosity. Mystical flight from the world.

Chapter xiii.1. Religious Ethics and the World: Politics


590      Every ethical religion is in tension with the world.

591f    Congregational religions of subjugated peoples tend toward demilitarization (example of ancient Jews).

592      -    In some cases (e.g. early Christianity) this gave rise to ethic of brotherly love; ethic of non-resistance.

593      Inner-worldly asceticism can compromise with political power: aim of transformation of world. But compromise with political power more difficult than with economics, since former, oriented toward lowest common denominator, leads to greater surrender of principles.

Chapter xiii.2


594      Wherever congregational religions reject force, without requiring flight from world, it leads to martyrdom or passive acceptance of regime.

595      -    Some variation on rejection of force if goal of force is to protect religion.

596f    Ancient and medieval Christian attitudes toward the State: (1) abomination of Roman empire, (2) indifference and passive suffrance, (3) withdrawl from active participation but view that state is God-ordained, (4) positive view of state for social control, given condition of sin.

Chapter xiii.3


598      General schema by which religion resolves tension between ethics and politics: ethics of vocation, by which given order is God-ordained. Thus, any rebellion is expression of self-aggrandizement.

600      Medieval and Lutheran traditionalist ethics of vocation (and Confucian) assumed that political power had a personalistic character, on model of family. Today, this is rare: power, like economics, depersonalized. Likewise, calling becomes impersonal duty.

Chapter xiv.1. Religious Ethics and the World: Sexuality and Art


602f    Sexual intoxication, especially in the orgy, is often by-product of primitive religious behavior, especially the dance.

603      Considerable functional equivalency between sexuality and religion: former can be sublimated into latter in a variety of ways. Also NB typical religious animosity to sexuality; cultic chastity or abstinence, especially among charismatics and religious virtuosi.

603f    In ethical sphere, sexuality often seen as one of the temptations of the world: for mystic, a distraction; for ascetic, an interruption in planful activity.

Chapter xiv.2


606      All salvation religions, not just Christianity, have hostility to sexuality.

Chapter xiv.3


607      Ethical religion also in tension with art, although art and religion are intimately related from the beginning.

608      -    Tension between esthetic sphere and religion due in part to anti-communal orientation of the former. Climax of conflict comes with ascetic religion.

609      -    Tension also especially high with prophetic religion (e.g. Judaism), with its message of transcendental God.

                  -    On the other hand, religion (especially mass religion) consistently recognizes the "divinity" of artistic achievement: tendency to magic and idolatry.

610      Special rejection of esthetic by most rational religions: Judaism, ancient Christianity, ascetic Protestantism.

Chapter xv.1. The Great Religions and the World

Chapter xv.2

Chapter xv.3

Chapter xv.4

(copyright Frederick Weil)