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A Sociological View of Rastafarianism Essay

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Organized religion is a duality between the religion and the church which represents it. Sometimes the representation of the religion is marred and flawed to those who view it because of the bureaucracy contained within. Unknown to those who gaze upon the dissolved morals and values of what is perceived to be the contradiction known as modern religion, it was never intended to be this way. Most religions started off as a sect, a minor detail on the fringes of the society it never wanted to represent. Rastfarianism is such a sect. The differences between Rastafarianism and a normal “mainstream” religion are numberless, including: no set membership, no authoritative leader, no offices of authority, no trained clergy and no involvement with the world as a whole. Rastafarianism is based upon an underrepresented minority which needed hope in the face in utter demise.

     According to Max Weber, religion emerges to satisfy a social need. “In treating suffering as a symptom of odiousness in the eyes of gods and as a sign of secret guilt, religion has psychologically met a very general need (Weber 271). Rastafarianism emerges in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1930’s to meet the needs of the poor, unskilled black Jamaicans who needed a hope. The social situation which was emerging in the 1930’s which called for this need was as follows. Jamaica was a commonwealth of the British Empire. It had recently, around 1884, received a write in clause to their constitution which stipulated if the new government did not succeed and the economic life of Jamaica were to suffer because of it, the political constitution would be amended or abolished to meet new conditions. Black Jamaicans had a taste for power in their mouths and in 1938, this erupted in labor riots and violence. This act did nothing for their cause. It would still be 30 years until Jamaica received its independence. Blacks in Jamaica were the victims of social stratification which left them at the bottom rung of the ladder. They had menial jobs such as field worker or an attendant at the sugar plant, if they had jobs at all. The blacks were suffering as a people and as an organized group.

     Ethopianism had been introduced to Jamaica in 1784 by George Liele, by adding it to the name of his Baptist church, hoping to graft itself onto the African religion of Jamaican slaves. But the movement to em...


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...; it integrates those involved within it. The falsity is what people believe. So, if people change, the religion changes with the people, not necessarily minor beliefs within it. It is a cycle which includes the transfer of old gods to new gods, completely changing the religion with society.

     Rastafarianism has not faded away, and in fact has spread its brethren among many areas of the world. “The Rastafarian movement is no longer a mere revolutionary movement; it has become a part of the establishment, a part of officialdom” (Barret 245). Rastafarianism may have started on the fringes of Jamaican society, but it now a representation of what it considered hell. In terms of an outsider, Jamaica is no longer Babylon, it is now Rastafaria, a step on the way to utopian Zion. Rastafarianism is now an integration of all of Jamaican society rather that just one social strata. Its changes have moved along with the changes of Jamaica as a nation. The people of Jamaica are interchangeable with Rastafarianism. It is ironic which a group so hating of their own environment would become such a force as to represent it to the world. Rastafarianism is truly by the people, for the people.


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