Sociological Perspective Of Religion Sociology Essay
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Sociology|
|✅ Wordcount: 1851 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
The institution of religion can be evaluated by varies sociological theories because the institution of religion has been part of every society. With society it possible to find some sort of religion. Among these theories functionalism, conflict and interactions will be use to assess the impact each theory has on the religion institution. “Sociologist tends to be interested in the social impact of religion on individuals and the institution.” (Schaefer, 2009, p.323) They are not attempting to authenticate to the truth of the religion institutions merely probing how institution such as religions influences on individuals in society. Religion has been part of society foundation since the beginning of human existence. It has been the central part of other institution as well and have had a profound impact on the choices taken by other institutions. It is clear that Religion influence has extended widely through society.
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However, one must ask what religion is. Emile Durkheim defines “religion as a unified system of beliefs and practice relative to sacred things.” (Schaefer, 2009, p. 323) Sociological theorists also have differing views about how religion serves society. Some view it from a functionalist perspective while other sociologist take the conflict outlook and other the interactions view. The Functionalism Perspective is a sociological approach that highlights the process which society is organized to ensure stability.
When looking at religion, one might attempt to discover how religion contribute to the stability of a societies Emile Durkheim, “recognized the importance of religion in human societies.” (Schaefer, 2009, p.323)
He believed that religion brought about stability in society. Durkheim believed religion to be an influential force in society. Durkheim sought to answer a puzzling question, “How can human societies be held together when they are usually composed of individuals and social groups with diverse interests and aspirations.” (Schaefer, 2009, p. 327) Durkheim believe this was possible through what is called the “societal glue,” that is religion is source to keep society together and meaning and purpose in people in life. (p.327)
In a functionalist point of view, the institution religion gives humanity a moral compass and a place to belong and reinforces social norms. Places of worship have become more than worship site it is also a place to socialize or fellowship. Furthermore, religion give different groups a certain sense of connection to others they might be of different faith they still find themselves bound to others who have a similar belief system. Institutions such as education and families are essential in relaying morals as the social norm, but religion may well be the institution that holds all of those to a higher standard.
Religion provides support during some of life struggle and changes by applying morals in the early in a child life. Changes can be overwhelming, however with a strong religious tradition one can find meaning and direction in all of life’s tough times.
In the process of talking about religion the focus is mainly on the positive aspects however one can also find negative aspects in religion institution as well. Religions from the beginning of has been the reason behind many conflict in the world. Even today society conflict occur due to religion. For example in the United States religion is used as a weapon by social conservatives. They use religion to push their social agenda such as the issue of abortion, same sex marriage, and stem cell research. Religion has also been the source of conflicts between different types of religion such as Christian and Muslims. While in other countries the dysfunction of religion has made citizens turn on their fellow citizens. For example, in Iraqi the Sunnis and the Shiites have fought civil wars because of religion. In Europe the protestants and catholic have battled for years over different ideology.
“The conflict theorists believes that religion is a potential obstacle to a structural social change but also can be a source for cultural change through liberation theology” (Schaefer, 2009, p.330) Dysfunction of religion is common ground for the functionalist and conflict theorists. The dysfunction of religion proves many theories with the conflict theory itself. Conflict theorist would say that religion provides tension between different groups, and societies.
The conflict perspective can simply explained “as a sociological approach that assumes that social behavior is best understood on terms of tension between groups over power, or the allocation of resources, including housing, money, access to services, and political representation” (Schaefer, 2009, p. 14-15). “Conflict theorists examine the relationship of religion to social inequalities, especially how religion reinforces a society’s stratification system.
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Karl Marx stated “religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world It is the opium of the people.” Instead of increasing social solidarity, Marx believed, religion is used to control the working class, to persuade them to accept their lot in life. Far from being a positive force religion provides people the illusory hope that things will get better in the next life and prevents them from seeking a political answer in this”( Marx, K. & Engels, F. 1843).
It has also been said, “Religion legitimizes, reinforces and perpetuates the rule of the ruling class and their interests” (Marx, K. & Engels, F., 1843). Conflict theorists believe that religion itself is used as a means to keep the lower classes working with little or no regard for their status.
The theory provides that religion gives the masses hope when there is none, and therefore keeps them content with their current condition, essentially religion is used as tool for the rich, or dominate classes to subdue the masses. An example of this can be found through the interpretation of a verse in the Bible, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. While this single verse was intended to portray the difficulty of a wealthy person giving up his fortune in order to follow Christ, it also provides a settling truth to the poor; by saying it is easy for the poor or afflicted to enter heaven because they have less to give up.
Additionally, conflict theorist find more evidence to support their ideas within the dominate structure of a society. For example, kings and queens once ruled and were believed to be chosen or directed by God, while other rulers were simply considered gods themselves. This plays directing into the ideology behind the conflict theory, by demonstrating how a ruler can impose his or her rule over a vast amount of people, solely based in the idea that the ruler is somehow empowered by a higher being. Thus underlying classes within the society would follow or work blindly to support the ruler(s), again with little regard to their personal status, or condition. Therefore religion itself can stifle social change, and movement, by controlling the people and impeding change through an organized and overwhelming regime of rituals and beliefs. The last sociological theory that must be discussed is the Interactionist perspective, this theory or perspective notes the generalizations about every day forms of social interaction; in order to explain society as a whole. It primarily focuses on the micro-sociology of a society. In a sense, interactionist look to the little things of society, for example, how people within the society interact with each other in regards to specific institutions such as religion. Such can be seen in ones belief systems, and how the assists us to make sense of the things we experience in our daily lives. Within this theory it has been stated that “religion is seen as a reference group, for many people, religion serves as a reference group to help them define themselves. Religious symbols, for example, have a meaning to large bodies of people (e.g., the Star of David for Jews; the crescent moon and star for Muslims; and the cross for Christians), (Nelson Education, chapter 17). This is where the functionalist and interactionist theory find common ground; both perspectives see religion as a positive force, which provide a stabilizing factor within a society. Both also agree that religion can enrich an individual’s life and enhances an individual’s to deal with some of the difficulties in life. Regardless it is clear through the research of both perspectives that religion brings people within society, together; therefore adding a harmonizing and supportive structure with the society and or culture.
While the three sociological perspectives have differing views on the institution of religion, they also all see religion as a force within society that can motivate and facilitate social change and movement within a society. In example of this is the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. “The U.S. civil rights movement is perhaps the best example of a social movement drawing on religious resources to accomplish its goals. Both religious leaders and laity were active in the civil rights movement. Congregations provided material resources necessary for large-scale political action, acted as conduits for frame dissemination and provided an ideal setting for the micro mobilization process to occur. (Loveland, M. T., Walls, E. N., Myers, D. J. and Sikkink, D., 2003). Another example of religion’s affect on social movements can be found in the debate over abortion. The issue of abortion has strong ties to the institution of religion within the United States. Almost every religious faction found in the U.S. has strong beliefs on whether abortion is immoral or not. “Another notable sociologist Max Weber saw religion as a primary source of social change. He analyzed how Protestantism gave rise to the Protestant ethic, which stimulated what he called the spirit of capitalism. The result was capitalism, which transformed society”. (Henslin J. ch 13)
In closing one can clearly see the differences in the three sociological perspectives in regards to religion. The institution of religion has a profound affect on the society, in which it dwells, adding both positive and possibly negative attributes that add to the stability of that society. Regards a society that uses religion as a cornerstone, will ultimately find that it provides a settling sense over that society. In addition religion will assist in the establishment and maintenance of the social norms and expectation within that culture.
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