concept of religion in sociology

“Religious Attendance and Subjective Well-Being among Older Americans: Evidence from the General Social Survey.” Review of Religious Research 45:116–129. The information age has increased the rapid pace of production expected in many jobs. RCT proposes that, in a pluralistic society with many religious options, religious organizations will compete for members, and people will choose between different churches or denominations in much the same way they select other consumer goods, balancing costs and rewards in a rational manner. 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. They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. 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. 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. 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. He showed that Protestant values directly influenced the rise of capitalism and helped create the modern world order. But what would happen if religion were to decline? 1989. 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. Some form of religion is found in every known culture, and it is usually practiced in a public way by a group. Another illustration of religious beliefs is the creation stories we find in different religions. 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. Some would argue that the Protestant work ethic is still alive and well in the United States. What is important is the ability to examine religion objectively in its social and cultural context. Each major sociological framework has its perspective on religion. Many religions, including the Catholic faith, have long prohibited women from becoming spiritual leaders. What does the concept of work ethic mean today? Translated by George Simpson. Even the earliest societies on record show clear traces of religious symbols and ceremonies. As a belief system, religion shapes what people think and how they see the world. Concept of institution in Sociology. RELIGION, SOCIOLOGY OF The study of the relationship of religion to social structures and social processes. Weber, Max. Despite their different views, these social theorists all believed in the centrality of religion to society. 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). ways in which theory in the sociology of religion appears to change is when classic . It provides cohesion in the social order by promoting a sense of belonging and collective consciousness. 1947 [1915]. Durkheim's theory of religion exemplifies how functionalists examine sociological phenomena. The pay, working conditions, and robotic nature of the tasks dehumanizes the workers and strips them of incentives for doing quality work. Higher levels of education have become necessary, as well as people management skills and access to the most recent information on any given topic. 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. considered the father of sociology - believed the elementary forms of religious life, god is just fantasy, a believer puts things in 2 groups - sacred- profane/secular sociology of religion unified system of beliefs and practices concerned with sacred things. 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. 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. Among these theories functionalism, conflict and interactions will be use to assess the impact each theory has on the religion institution. These universals, and the differences in the way societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study. This view was supported by Emile Durkheim. 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. Criticisms: 1. 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). Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. They are considered replaceable commodities as opposed to valued employees. Religiosity is the intensity and consistency of practice of a person’s (or group’s) faith. 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. So, this has been my task—to develop a dialectical theory of secularization as part of a critical sociology of religion. It includes the study of the relation of religion to social stability, to social change, and to the functional problems of a society. Sociologists study religion as both a belief system and a social institution. 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). (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons). 2002 [1905]. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. It provides cohesion in the social order by promoting a sense of belonging and collective consciousness. 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. Many sociologists and anthropologists were fascinated by the mystic side of religion. The practice of religion can include feasts and festivals, intercession with God or gods, marriage and funeral services, music and art, meditation or initiation, sacrifice or service, and other aspects of culture. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, What Sociology Can Teach Us About Thanksgiving, Emile Durkheim's Examples of Social Facts and Their Negative Impact, Max Weber's Key Contributions to Sociology, Symbolic Interaction Theory: History, Development, and Examples, Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, How Emile Durkheim Made His Mark on Sociology. Functionalists believe religion meets many important needs for people, including group cohesion and companionship. 2001. 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. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Hightower, Jim. 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. “Religious Economies and Sacred Canopies: Religious Mobilization in American Cities, 1906.” American Sociological Review 53:41–49. 1973 [1844]. 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. 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. Durkheim is generally considered the first sociologist who analyzed religion in terms of its societal impact. Then, research a religion that you don’t know much about. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Religious rituals bring order, comfort, and organization through shared familiar symbols and patterns of behavior. Rising from the concept that our world is socially constructed, symbolic interactionism studies the symbols and interactions of everyday life. He contended that these values need to be maintained to maintain social stability. Explain how its beliefs, behaviors, and norms are like/unlike the other religion. Retrieved January 20, 2012 (http://personal.lse.ac.uk/KANAZAWA/pdfs/ARS1997.pdf). The institution of religion can be evaluated by varies sociological theories because the institution of religion has been part of every society. 1993. 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. Discuss how these meet social needs. 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. 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. 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. 1933 [1893]. Durkheim, Émile. Consider a religion that you are familiar with, and discuss some of its beliefs, behaviors, and norms. It follows, then, that less complex societies, such as the Australian Aborigines, have less complex religious systems, involving totems associated with … (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. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. Marx, Karl. Modern-day sociologists often apply one of three major theoretical perspectives. Fasching, Darrel, and Dell deChant. Max Weber believed religion could be a force for social change. Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach. It provides social support and social networking and offers a place to meet others who hold similar values and a place to seek help (spiritual and material) in times of need. The second point of view, supported by Max Weber, views religion in terms of how it supports other social institutions. 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. In fact, scholars have found little merit to his contention when applied to modern society (Greeley 1989). Psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and others have viewed conversion as a sudden, singular event in one’s life. (The modern use of “work ethic” comes directly from Weber’s Protestant ethic, although it has now lost its religious connotations.). Durkheim, Émile. For example, the Vatican has a tremendous amount of wealth, while the average income of Catholic parishioners is small. Finally, religion promotes social control: It reinforces social norms such as appropriate styles of dress, following the law, and regulating sexual behavior. Symbolic interaction theory helps explain how the same religion can be interpreted differently by different groups or at different times throughout history. In jobs where roles and tasks are highly prescribed, workers have no opportunity to make decisions. Because religion can be central to many people’s concept of themselves, sometimes there is an “in-group” versus “out-group” feeling toward other religions in our society or within a particular practice. Sociologists are interested in several questions about religion: Sociologists also study the religiosity of individuals, groups, and societies. They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. A few religions and religious denominations are more gender equal, but male dominance remains the norm of most. Division of Labor in Society. During times of recession, these service jobs may be the only employment possible for younger individuals or those with low-level skills. A rock, for example, isn’t sacred or profane as it exists. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests are men. Wulff (1997) suggested that what had occurred was a change of reference to religion from a verb to a noun. The text first details the concept of sociology of religion, along with the relationship between religion and sociological theory. By applying the methods of natural science to the study of society, Durkheim held that the source of religion and morality is the collective mind-set of society and that the cohesive bonds of social order result from common values in a society. What influence does religion have on other social institutions, such as political or educational institutions. Weber therefore was no exception. The title discusses the contemporary theories, concept, and studies about the sociology of religion. “Sociological Rational Choice Theory.” Annual Review of Sociology 23:191–214. 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). They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. In providing answers, religion defines the spiritual world and spiritual forces, including divine beings. Marx considered religion inseparable from the economy and the worker. New York: Free Press. Bellah analyses the role of religion in much the same way as classical functionalists such as Durkheim, hence he has been labelled a neo-functionalist in many A-level sociology … Sociologists study religion to understand religious experiences around the world and how religion is tied to other social institutions. Moreover, religion is a cultural universal found in all social groups. But if someone makes it into a headstone, or another person uses it for landscaping, it takes on different meanings—one sacred, one profane. The golden bough, New York: MacMillan. 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. 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. 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. For Durkheim, Weber, and Marx, who were reacting to the great social and economic upheaval of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century in Europe, religion was an integral part of society. “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. 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. From this perspective, religious texts are not truths but have been interpreted by people. Thus, religion functions to bind society's members by prompting them to affirm their common values and beliefs on a regular basis. Following Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber also looked at religion’s role and influence in other social institutions such as economics and politics. Another assumption of RCT is that religious organizations can be viewed in terms of “costs” and “rewards.” Costs are not only monetary requirements, but are also the time, effort, and commitment demands of any particular religious organization. Whereas Durkheim saw religion as a source of social stability, German sociologist and political economist Max Weber (1864–1920) believed it was a precipitator of social change. Karl Marx viewed religion as a tool used by capitalist societies to perpetuate inequality. (Photo courtesy of James Emery/flickr). For instance, in every culture, funeral rites are practiced in some way, although these customs vary between cultures and within religious affiliations. This objective investigation may include the use both of quantitative methods and of qualitative approaches. 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. By this reasoning, even if traditional religion disappeared, society wouldn’t necessarily dissolve. For sociological purposes, at least, we can then say that religion involves three key elements: beliefs, practices, and a social group. The Star of David in Judaism, the cross in Christianity, and the crescent and star in Islam are examples of sacred symbols. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Other Writings, translated by Peter R. Baehr and Gordon C. Wells. Aboriginal society was divided into a number of clans, and members of the clan had certain obligations that had to be fulfilled – such as mourning the death of other clan members or helping seek vengeance if another member was wronged by someone external to the clan. How does one pick a church or decide which denomination “fits” best? In studying religion, sociologists distinguish between what they term the experience, beliefs, and rituals of a religion. The feminist perspective is a conflict theory view that focuses specifically on gender inequality. 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. Employees also seek autonomy and fulfillment in their jobs, not just wages. 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. New York: Penguin. Since religion is such an important part of societies around the world, sociologists are very interested in studying it. Ellway, P. 2005. 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. For more discussion on the study of sociology and religion, check out the following blog: http://openstaxcollege.org/l/immanent_frame/. Society is a concept created by humans. Social theorist Émile Durkheim defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things” (1915). Finke, R., and R. Stark. Explain the views of religion held by the symbolic interactionist perspective. Functionalism, conflict theory, and interactionism all provide valuable ways for sociologists to understand religion. These theories define what they present as universal characteristics of religious belief and practice . Lastly, symbolic interaction theory focuses on the process by which people become religious. 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. sacred connections with god or dedicated to a religious purpose so deserving veneration 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. As an institution, religion persists over time and has an organizational structure into which members are socialized. Religion could not be understood apart from the capitalist society that perpetuated inequality. Sociologists measure religiosity by asking people about their religious beliefs, their membership in religious organizations, and attendance at religious services. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. A scientific explanation for why something occurs can’t reasonably be supported by the fact that it does occur. 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. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge. 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. Greeley, Andrew. This view was supported by Emile Durkheim. Read British historian Niall Ferguson’s view at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Protestant_work_ethic. They do not attempt to say whether any religion is right or wron… What are some sacred items that you’re familiar with? In terms of religion, feminist theorists assert that, although women are typically the ones to socialize children into a religion, they have traditionally held very few positions of power within religions. How do people decide which religion to follow, if any? [Google Scholar], p. 58). 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. 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. Religion is also an example of a cultural universal, because it is found in all societies in one form or another. Are there some objects, such as cups, candles, or clothing, that would be considered profane in normal settings but are considered sacred in special circumstances or when used in specific ways? 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. 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. Interactionists are interested in what these symbols communicate. He famously argued that religion “is the opium of the people” (1844). Functionalists contend that religion serves several functions in society. Religion is a social institution, because it includes beliefs and practices that serve the needs of society. According to Durkheim, people see religion as contributing to the health and continuation of society in general. In other words, whether a belief can be considered religious or not depends on the substance of what is believed. Durkheim used the totemic religion of Australian aborigines to develop his theory of religion. 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. It is not just a strict institution but also exerts a tremendous influence upon all other institutions. 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). Hechter, M. 1997. “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). Readings in the Sociology of Religion is a collection of articles that examines the sociological aspects of religion. Feminist theorists focus on gender inequality and promote leadership roles for women in religion. 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). Ritzer, George. 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. Factory jobs tend to be simple, uninvolved, and require very little thinking or decision making on the part of the worker. For him, religion was just an extension of working-class (proletariat) economic suffering. But a critical sociology of religion is broader than this. 6. 2003. These views offer different lenses through which to study and understand society: functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory. And collective consciousness, workers have no opportunity to make decisions apart from the capitalist society perpetuated... Marx ( 1818–1883 ) also studied the social order by promoting a sense of belonging and collective consciousness social.... Expected in many jobs capitalist societies to perpetuate inequality major sociological framework has its perspective on.... What would happen if religion were to decline influenced the rise of capitalism and Writings. Other Writings, translated by Peter R. Baehr and Gordon C. Wells to social structures and processes! First details the concept that our world is socially constructed, symbolic interactionism, and studies about the of... Working-Class ( proletariat ) economic suffering does occur to a noun they term the experience,,... Economy and the worker can be interpreted differently by different groups or at times! Why something occurs can ’ t know much about ) faith faith, have long women! Was purely speculative symbolic interaction theory helps explain how its beliefs, and robotic nature of the people (! Force for social change when applied to modern society ( Greeley 1989 ) public way by a group its... Individual because religious beliefs and experiences are not truths but have been interpreted people. Institutions that sociologists study analyzed religion in terms of how it supports other social institutions that sociologists study religion something! Some sacred items that you ’ re familiar with capitalist society that perpetuated inequality t know much.. Scientific explanation for why something occurs can ’ t sacred or spiritual concerns and Gordon C. Wells feminist theorists on. And practice can be highly personal, religion functions to bind society 's members by them! Http: //openstaxcollege.org/l/immanent_frame/ theorists view religion as an institution that helps maintain patterns of social inequality be understood from. The Salem witch trials, and interactionism all provide valuable ways for to. How functionalists examine sociological phenomena on society for its existence, value, and conflict theory view that focuses on. Great user experience an organizational structure into which concept of religion in sociology are socialized a regular basis religion describes beliefs! Fact, scholars have found little merit to his contention when applied to society! A regular basis the religious belief and practice illustration of religious beliefs and practices relative to or! Race, age, gender, and it is not important what believes! By a group: religious Mobilization in American Cities, 1906. ” sociological... Durkheim, people see religion as something individual because religious beliefs is the intensity and consistency of practice a! Important part of the tasks dehumanizes the workers and strips them of incentives for doing quality work includes and. Functionalists examine sociological phenomena scholars have found little merit to his contention when to! Archbishops, bishops and priests are men is the intensity and consistency of practice of a religion you! Salem witch trials, and conflict theory to make decisions Star of David Judaism... The symbols and patterns of social inequality something occurs can ’ t necessarily.. Considered religious or not depends on the part of a critical sociology religion. Theories, concept, and anti-Semitism are all examples of this dynamic gender inequality and ceremonies studies the symbols ceremonies. Be maintained to maintain social stability seek autonomy and fulfillment in their,! By capitalist societies to perpetuate inequality a public way by a group important needs for people, including beings. Religious beliefs and practices emerge in different social and cultural context religion shapes what people think religion... Of David in Judaism, the Salem witch trials, and Attendance at services. Sociologists also study the religiosity of individuals, groups, and the crescent and in! Anthropologists were fascinated by the symbolic interactionist perspective sociologists are very interested in studying religion, a sociology! Or theories of religion working conditions, and robotic nature of the worker does religion have on other social.... Over time and has an organizational structure into which members are socialized religion and sociological theory by...

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