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concept of religion in sociology

1973 [1844]. Thus different people or groups may interpret the same Bible in different ways. 2001. Division of Labor in Society. For instance, from the functionalist perspective of sociological theory, religion is an integrative force in society because it has the power to shape collective beliefs. They study religion objectively, and their purpose is not to judge. Some would argue that the Protestant work ethic is still alive and well in the United States. Throughout history, religion has been a central part of all known human societies. Modern academic sociology began with the study of religion in Emile Durkheim’s 1897 The Study of Suicide in which he explored the differing suicide rates among Protestants and Catholics. (The modern use of “work ethic” comes directly from Weber’s Protestant ethic, although it has now lost its religious connotations.). http://openstaxcollege.org/l/immanent_frame/, http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Grinnell_functionalism, http://openstaxcollege.org/l/women_clergy, http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Protestant_work_ethic, http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/religion/overview.php, http://personal.lse.ac.uk/KANAZAWA/pdfs/ARS1997.pdf, http://cnx.org/contents/02040312-72c8-441e-a685-20e9333f3e1d/Introduction_to_Sociology_2e, Discuss the historical view of religion from a sociological perspective, Understand how the major sociological paradigms view religion. This view was supported by Emile Durkheim. Besides the family, religion is one of the largest social institutions that sociologists study. sacred connections with god or dedicated to a religious purpose so deserving veneration They are considered replaceable commodities as opposed to valued employees. 1933 [1893]. From this perspective, religion serves several purposes, like providing answers to spiritual mysteries, offering emotional comfort, and creating a place for social interaction and social control. Religious rituals bring order, comfort, and organization through shared familiar symbols and patterns of behavior. “Sociological Rational Choice Theory.” Annual Review of Sociology 23:191–214. Fasching, Darrel, and Dell deChant. Durkheim also discussed how religion serves as a central source for connecting people to the larger society and thus is one of the most important social institutions.It is one of the ways in which we create rules and conformity, develop a shared sense of morality, and feel a connection to other worshippers and a larger spiritual realm. To interactionists, beliefs and experiences are not sacred unless individuals in a society regard them as sacred. Moreover, it can foster group cohesion and integration. Sociology of religion is the study of the beliefs, practices and organizational forms of religion using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology. 1922. Sociological and anthropological theories about religion (or theories of religion) generally attempt to explain the origin and function of religion. They do not attempt to say whether any religion is right or wron… Ritzer, George. As an institution, religion persists over time and has an organizational structure into which members are socialized. What are some sacred items that you’re familiar with? Concept of institution in Sociology. RCT is widely used in economics and to a lesser extent in criminal justice, but the application of RCT in explaining the religious beliefs and behaviors of people and societies is still being debated in sociology today. Weber therefore was no exception. Wulff (1997) suggested that what had occurred was a change of reference to religion from a verb to a noun. Finally, religion promotes social control: It reinforces social norms such as appropriate styles of dress, following the law, and regulating sexual behavior. Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach. “The theory of religion” or “sociology of religion”, established by Max Weber clearly indicates that there is a close relationship between the religious beliefs of the people and their economic activities. Weber noted that certain kinds of Protestantism supported the pursuit of material gain by motivating believers to work hard, be successful, and not spend their profits on frivolous things. 2002 [1905]. Each major sociological framework has its perspective on religion. Sociologists study religion to understand religious experiences around the world and how religion is tied to other social institutions. Throughout history, and in societies across the world, leaders have used religious narratives, symbols, and traditions in an attempt to give more meaning to life and understand the universe. As a social institution, religion is a pattern of social action organized around the beliefs and practices that people develop to answer questions about the meaning of existence. Rising from the concept that our world is socially constructed, symbolic interactionism studies the symbols and interactions of everyday life. This new Routledge Major Work is a five-volume collection of seminal and influential articles, chapters, and extracts in the sociology of religion and related disciplines. Durkheim's theory of religion exemplifies how functionalists examine sociological phenomena. Durkheim, Émile. For example, the Vatican has a tremendous amount of wealth, while the average income of Catholic parishioners is small. In the wake of nineteenth century European industrialization and secularization, three social theorists attempted to examine the relationship between religion and society: Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx. Weber thought the emphasis on community in Catholicism versus the emphasis on individual achievement in Protestantism made a difference. It is not just a strict institution but also exerts a tremendous influence upon all other institutions. The pay, working conditions, and robotic nature of the tasks dehumanizes the workers and strips them of incentives for doing quality work. RELIGION, SOCIOLOGY OF The study of the relationship of religion to social structures and social processes. 2003. There are three main approaches to defining religion, in sociology: Substantive Functional Social constructionist Max Weber (1905) used a substantive definition of religion, seeing it as a belief in a supernatural power that is unable to be scientifically explained. Read British historian Niall Ferguson’s view at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Protestant_work_ethic. By this reasoning, even if traditional religion disappeared, society wouldn’t necessarily dissolve. They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. German philosopher, journalist, and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx (1818–1883) also studied the social impact of religion. “The Rational Choice Theory of Religion: Shopping for Faith or Dropping your Faith?” Retrieved February 21, 2012 (http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/religion/overview.php). According to this perspective, religion has been used to support the “divine right” of oppressive monarchs and to justify unequal social structures, like India’s caste system. Working hard also doesn’t seem to have any relationship with Catholic or Protestant religious beliefs anymore, or those of other religions; information age workers expect talent and hard work to be rewarded by material gain and career advancement. An interesting response to these debates is found in Jim Beckford's proposal that the concept of religion should be tied more closely to its contexts of … As stated earlier, French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things” (1915). Modern-day sociologists often apply one of three major theoretical perspectives. texts get reinterpreted, when some end up relegated to the dustbin, or when new . The Star of David in Judaism, the cross in Christianity, and the crescent and star in Islam are examples of sacred symbols. The Immanent Frame is a forum for the exchange of ideas about religion, secularism, and society by leading thinkers in the social sciences and humanities. He believed religion reflects the social stratification of society and that it maintains inequality and perpetuates the status quo. Rewards are the intangible benefits in terms of belief and satisfactory explanations about life, death, and the supernatural, as well as social rewards from membership. The golden bough, New York: MacMillan. Symbolic interaction theory helps explain how the same religion can be interpreted differently by different groups or at different times throughout history. Durkheim’s Sociology of religion was purely speculative. In studying religion, sociologists distinguish between what they term the experience, beliefs, and rituals of a religion. 1 The Sociology of Charisma In the sociology of religion, the study of charisma has been closely associated with Max Weber (1864–1920) who adopted the idea from the historical and theological research of Rudolf Sohm and Karl Holl who in turn had developed the … This question led Durkheim to posit that religion is not just a social creation but something that represents the power of society: When people celebrate sacred things, they celebrate the power of their society. The title discusses the contemporary theories, concept, and studies about the sociology of religion. He showed that Protestant values directly influenced the rise of capitalism and helped create the modern world order. In the wake of nineteenth century European industrialization and secularization, three social theorists attempted to examine the relationship between religion and society: Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx. 1993. Karl Marx viewed religion as a tool used by capitalist societies to perpetuate inequality. Since religion is such an important part of societies around the world, sociologists are very interested in studying it. Throughout history, religion has continued to be a central part of societies and human experience, shaping how individuals react to the environments in which they live. By the end of this section, you will be able to: From the Latin religio (respect for what is sacred) and religare (to bind, in the sense of an obligation), the term religion describes various systems of belief and practice that define what people consider to be sacred or spiritual (Fasching and deChant 2001; Durkheim 1915). According to Durkheim, people see religion as contributing to the health and continuation of society in general. New York: Free Press. While some people think of religion as something individual because religious beliefs can be highly personal, religion is also a social institution. Religion is also an example of a cultural universal, because it is found in all societies in one form or another. While there are several other paradigms operating in the sociology of religion, a critical sociology of religion has remained undeveloped. To him, sacred meant extraordinary—something that inspired wonder and that seemed connected to the concept of “the divine.” Durkheim argued that “religion happens” in society when there is a separation between the profane (ordinary life) and the sacred (1915). Religion being a pervasive and universal institution is deeply rooted in human beings. Psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and others have viewed conversion as a sudden, singular event in one’s life. They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. During times of recession, these service jobs may be the only employment possible for younger individuals or those with low-level skills. Functionalists believe religion meets many important needs for people, including group cohesion and companionship. Marx considered religion inseparable from the economy and the worker. The text first details the concept of sociology of religion, along with the relationship between religion and sociological theory. Eat Your Heart Out: Food Profiteering in America. Conflict theorists are critical of the way many religions promote the idea that believers should be satisfied with existing circumstances because they are divinely ordained. Max Weber (1904) posited that, in Europe in his time, Protestants were more likely than Catholics to value capitalist ideology, and believed in hard work and savings. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. “Religious Economies and Sacred Canopies: Religious Mobilization in American Cities, 1906.” American Sociological Review 53:41–49. Religion could not be understood apart from the capitalist society that perpetuated inequality. What does the concept of work ethic mean today? The theory doesn’t address many aspects of religion that individuals may consider essential (such as faith) and further fails to account for agnostics and atheists who don’t seem to have a similar need for religious explanations. 1947 [1915]. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons). While Durkheim and Weber concentrated on how religion contributes to the cohesion of society, Karl Marx focused on the conflict and oppression that religion provided to societies. This power dynamic has been used by Christian institutions for centuries to keep poor people poor and to teach them that they shouldn’t be concerned with what they lack because their “true” reward (from a religious perspective) will come after death. It provides cohesion in the social order by promoting a sense of belonging and collective consciousness. The work ethic in the information age has been affected by tremendous cultural and social change, just as workers in the mid- to late nineteenth century were influenced by the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Today, the work ethic of the modern workforce has been transformed, as more thinking and decision making is required. Barkan, Steven E., and Susan Greenwood. He examined the effects of religion on economic activities and noticed that heavily Protestant societies—such as those in the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Germany—were the most highly developed capitalist societies and that their most successful business leaders were Protestant. In the 1960s and 1970s, in the wake of new religious movements and the flowering of Asian religious traditions in the West, sociologists reformulated conversion as an active, gradual process of transformation. A rock, for example, isn’t sacred or profane as it exists. Rational choice theory (RCT) is one way social scientists have attempted to explain these behaviors. “Protestant and Catholic: Is the Analogical Imagination Extinct?” American Sociological Review 54:485–502. 1989. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge. He famously argued that religion “is the opium of the people” (1844). What influence does religion have on other social institutions, such as political or educational institutions. (Photo courtesy of James Emery/flickr). Conflict theorists also point out that those in power in a religion are often able to dictate practices, rituals, and beliefs through their interpretation of religious texts or via proclaimed direct communication from the divine. Explain how its beliefs, behaviors, and norms are like/unlike the other religion. Let’s explore how scholars applying these paradigms understand religion. (iv)Finally, religion has a euphoric functions in that it serves to counteract feelings of frustration and loss of faith and certitude by re-establishing the believers sense of well being, their sense of the essential Tightness of the moral world of which they are a part. Translated by George Simpson. In his view, religious phenomena are expressions of religious experience in three specific areas of life---the theoretical, the practical, and the sociological. Above all, he believed religion is about community: It binds people together (social cohesion), promotes behavior consistency (social control), and offers strength during life’s transitions and tragedies (meaning and purpose). Religion describes the beliefs, values, and practices related to sacred or spiritual concerns. The History of Religion as a Sociological Concept. Institution is an established way of behaving or established forms of procedure. Even the earliest societies on record show clear traces of religious symbols and ceremonies. Religious experience refers to the conviction or sensation that we are connected to “the divine.” This type of communion might be experienced when people are pray or meditate. One of the most important functions of religion, from a functionalist perspective, is the opportunities it creates for social interaction and the formation of groups. These theories define what they present as universal characteristics of religious belief and practice . How are religious beliefs and factors related to other social factors like race, age, gender, and education? They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. Despite their different views, these social theorists all believed in the centrality of religion to society. Moreover, religion is a cultural universal found in all social groups. For example, it helps answer questions like, “How was the world created?” “Why do we suffer?” “Is there a plan for our lives?” and “Is there an afterlife?” As another function, religion provides emotional comfort in times of crisis. From the Latin religio (respect for what is sacred) and religare (to bind, in the sense of an obligation), the term religion describes various systems of belief and practice concerning what people determine to be sacred or spiritual (Durkheim 1915; Fasching and deChant 2001). Finke, R., and R. Stark. Durkheim, Émile. Some form of religion is found in every known culture, and it is usually practiced in a public way by a group. The interaction between religious leaders and practitioners, the role of religion in the ordinary components of everyday life, and the ways people express religious values in social interactions—all might be topics of study to an interactionist. In this framework, RCT also explains the development and decline of churches, denominations, sects, and even cults; this limited part of the very complex RCT theory is the only aspect well supported by research data. He contended that these values need to be maintained to maintain social stability. Functionalists contend that religion serves several functions in society. Employees also seek autonomy and fulfillment in their jobs, not just wages. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. Marx, Karl. Feminist theorists focus on gender inequality and promote leadership roles for women in religion. Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Religious rituals are behaviors or practices that are either required or expected of the members of a particular group, such as bar mitzvah or confession of sins (Barkan and Greenwood 2003). Society. The second point of view, supported by Max Weber, views religion in terms of how it supports other social institutions. Religious beliefs are specific ideas members of a particular faith hold to be true, such as that Jesus Christ was the son of God, or that reincarnation exists. A scientific explanation for why something occurs can’t reasonably be supported by the fact that it does occur. Dubussion (2003) claims religion is a western invented concept, which influences the way religion is defined by constructing western religions as ‘true’ and thus marginalising eastern religions which do not conform to the western ideal. How are religious institutions organized? Despite differences, there are common elements in a ceremony marking a person’s death, such as announcement of the death, care of the deceased, disposition, and ceremony or ritual. Translated by J. Swain. The McDonaldization of Society. It's a system or organization of interrelationships … Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwel. Religion is an expression of our collective consciousness, which is the fusion of all of our individual consciousness, which then creates a reality of its own. For instance, from the functionalist perspective of sociological theory, religion is an integrative force in society because it has the power to shape collective beliefs. Greeley, Andrew. Among these theories functionalism, conflict and interactions will be use to assess the impact each theory has on the religion institution. Functionalism, conflict theory, and interactionism all provide valuable ways for sociologists to understand religion. The Christian theologian Paul Tillich’s (1967) contention that religion involves issues of “ultimate concern” is far more broadly applicable (see Kurtz 1995:8–9). In other words, whether a belief can be considered religious or not depends on the substance of what is believed. Hightower, Jim. This objective investigation may include the use both of quantitative methods and of qualitative approaches. Sociological perspectives on religion aim to understand the functions religion serves, the inequality and other problems it can reinforce and perpetuate, and the role it plays in our daily lives (Emerson, Monahan, & Mirola, 2011). This view was supported by Emile Durkheim. Durkheim used the totemic religion of Australian aborigines to develop his theory of religion. Ellway, P. 2005. The theory proposes that people are self-interested, though not necessarily selfish, and that people make rational choices—choices that can reasonably be expected to maximize positive outcomes while minimizing negative outcomes. In his writing The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), he contends that the Protestant work ethic influenced the development of capitalism. As a belief system, religion shapes what people think and how they see the world. On the other hand, the “McDonaldization” of the United States (Hightower 1975; Ritzer 1993), in which many service industries, such as the fast-food industry, have established routinized roles and tasks, has resulted in a “discouragement” of the work ethic. For him, religion was just an extension of working-class (proletariat) economic suffering. Read more about functionalist views on religion at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Grinnell_functionalism, symbolic interactionist view on religion at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/flat_Earth, and women in the clergy at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/women_clergy. The institution of religion can be evaluated by varies sociological theories because the institution of religion has been part of every society. It includes the study of the relation of religion to social stability, to social change, and to the functional problems of a society. Another illustration of religious beliefs is the creation stories we find in different religions. In studying religion from a sociological perspective, it is not important what one believes about religion. These views offer different lenses through which to study and understand society: functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory. But what would happen if religion were to decline? Examples of patriarchy in religious organisations: Although some religious organisations do have women in senior positions, they are certainly the exception rather than the rule, and in most cases this is the result of relatively recent reforms. Religious explanations of these concepts are presumed to be more satisfactory than scientific explanations, which may help to account for the continuation of strong religious connectedness in countries such as the United States, despite predictions of some competing theories for a great decline in religious affiliation due to modernization and religious pluralism. Marx saw religion as a tool for class oppression in which it promotes stratification because it supports a hierarchy of people on Earth and the subordination of humankind to divine authority. His century-old claim that the Protestant work ethic led to the development of capitalism has been one of the most important and controversial topics in the sociology of religion. 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