The Social Ecology of Religion

By Vernon Reynolds; Ralph Tanner | Go to book overview

women who have been widowed ought not to experience a new outburst of sexual feelings, or indeed expect to remarry, but to accept widowhood. These quasi-religious sentiments do nothing to provide the widow with economic support, and there are strong economic, as well as social and psychological, grounds for her remarriage, both for her own and for her children's welfare. Christianity is not helpful to widows. They are not encouraged by the church to remarry, least of all to remarry quickly, and there are no Christian organizations which cater particularly to the widowed, though this is the normal experience, late in life, of almost all married women. For such older people, their isolation and often loneliness do not constitute biological loss of fertility, since they are already postmenopausal. They can still perform grandparental functions. However, there is evidence of an increased mortality rate in that group. The mortality rate of bereaved women has been substantially higher than that of the nonbereaved of the same age and sex. 49 This heightened mortality rate has also been found for the younger widowed between twenty and thirtyfour years of age in a United States study. 50

We pursue our concern with older people in the next chapter. In many societies older people are a burden on the community, being less active and less productive than the young. Nevertheless, older people have more experience and are accorded respect. This is particularly true in cultures with ancestor cults, but also in places where the old have ritual control over funeral and mortuary rites. There are, however, situations in which the old are, or were in the past, encouraged to commit suicide, and we look at the most famous example, the institution of suttee, or selfimmolation, by orthodox Hindu widows.


Notes
1.
Tanner R. E. S. ( 1958). "Fertility and child mortality in cousin marriages". Eugenics R, 49, 197-99. See also Tanner R. E. S. ( 1958). "Ancestor propitiation ceremonies in Sukumaland, Tanganyika". Africa, 28, 225-31.
2.
Cory H. ( 1953). Sukuma law and custom. Oxford University Press/ International African Institute, London.
3.
Middleton J. ( 1971). Lugbara religion. Oxford University Press, London.
4.
Bhardwaj S. M. ( 1973). Hindu places of pilgrimage in India. University of California Press, Berkeley.
5.
Dubois J. A. ( 1972). Hindu manners, customs and ceremonies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
6.
El Saadawi. ( 1980). The hidden face of Eve: Women in the Arab world. Zed, London.
7.
Russell A. D., and Suhrawardy A. A. M. ( 1925). A manual of the law of marriage. Kegan Paul, London.
8.
Westermarck E. ( 1914). Marriage ceremonies in Morocco. Macmillan, London.
9.
Encyclopaedia Judaica. ( 1971). Keter, Jerusalem.

-197-

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The Social Ecology of Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents *
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - Why Religions? 3
  • Notes 18
  • 2 - Prior Approaches to the Study of Religion 19
  • Notes 28
  • 3 - The Challenge of Modernity 29
  • Notes 50
  • Part II - Religion and the Life Cycle 51
  • 4 - Conception and Contraception 53
  • Notes 75
  • 5 - Infanticide and Abortion 79
  • Notes 97
  • 6 - Birth and Childhood 101
  • Notes 126
  • 7 - Adolescence 131
  • Notes 147
  • 8 - Marriage 149
  • Notes 180
  • 9 - Divorce and Widowhood 185
  • Notes 197
  • 10 - Middle and Old Age 200
  • Notes 209
  • 11 - Death 211
  • Notes 230
  • Part III - Religions and Disease 235
  • 12 - Faith and Sickness 237
  • Notes 261
  • 13 - Religions and the Enhanced Risk of Disease 267
  • Notes 282
  • 14 - Religions and the Reduced Risk of Disease 285
  • Notes 300
  • 15 - General Conclusions 305
  • Notes 312
  • Index 313
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