In other words, whether a belief can be considered religious or not depends on the substance of what is believed. 1989. 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. By this reasoning, even if traditional religion disappeared, society wouldn’t necessarily dissolve. It provides cohesion in the social order by promoting a sense of belonging and collective consciousness. Durkheim's theory of religion exemplifies how functionalists examine sociological phenomena. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. Marx, Karl. 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 second point of view, supported by Max Weber, views religion in terms of how it supports other social institutions. In his view, religious phenomena are expressions of religious experience in three specific areas of life---the theoretical, the practical, and the sociological. [Google Scholar], p. 58). New York: Penguin. A few religions and religious denominations are more gender equal, but male dominance remains the norm of most. For sociological purposes, at least, we can then say that religion involves three key elements: beliefs, practices, and a social group. For more discussion on the study of sociology and religion, check out the following blog: http://openstaxcollege.org/l/immanent_frame/. 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. The Star of David in Judaism, the cross in Christianity, and the crescent and star in Islam are examples of sacred symbols. Sociologists study religion as both a belief system and a social institution. Eat Your Heart Out: Food Profiteering in America. Despite their different views, these social theorists all believed in the centrality of religion to society. Thus different people or groups may interpret the same Bible in different ways. 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. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons). Let’s explore how scholars applying these paradigms understand religion. They are considered replaceable commodities as opposed to valued employees. 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. Readings in the Sociology of Religion is a collection of articles that examines the sociological aspects of religion. Durkheim, Émile. Many sociologists and anthropologists were fascinated by the mystic side of religion. Religion describes the beliefs, values, and practices related to sacred or spiritual concerns. It provides cohesion in the social order by promoting a sense of belonging and collective consciousness. Durkheim, Émile. This view was supported by Emile Durkheim. 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. 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. 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. Weber therefore was no exception. Critics of RCT argue that it doesn’t fit well with human spiritual needs, and many sociologists disagree that the costs and rewards of religion can even be meaningfully measured or that individuals use a rational balancing process regarding religious affiliation. He showed that Protestant values directly influenced the rise of capitalism and helped create the modern world order. “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. Higher levels of education have become necessary, as well as people management skills and access to the most recent information on any given topic. Marx considered religion inseparable from the economy and the worker. For him, religion was just an extension of working-class (proletariat) economic suffering. How does one pick a church or decide which denomination “fits” best? Since religion is such an important part of societies around the world, sociologists are very interested in studying it. 1988. ways in which theory in the sociology of religion appears to change is when classic . 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. Institution is an established way of behaving or established forms of procedure. Functionalism, conflict theory, and interactionism all provide valuable ways for sociologists to 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. Sociologists are interested in several questions about religion: Sociologists also study the religiosity of individuals, groups, and societies. As an institution, religion persists over time and has an organizational structure into which members are socialized. 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). Society is a concept created by humans. Barkan, Steven E., and Susan Greenwood. texts get reinterpreted, when some end up relegated to the dustbin, or when new . Even the earliest societies on record show clear traces of religious symbols and ceremonies. 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. Social scientists recognize that religion exists as an organized and integrated set of beliefs, behaviors, and norms centered on basic social needs and values. The History of Religion as a Sociological Concept. Conflict theorists view religion as an institution that helps maintain patterns of social inequality. Religion could not be understood apart from the capitalist society that perpetuated inequality. Many religions, including the Catholic faith, have long prohibited women from becoming spiritual leaders. 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. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. But what would happen if religion were to decline? Translated by George Simpson. 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 … 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. Greeley, Andrew. This view was supported by Emile Durkheim. Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. 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. For example, the Vatican has a tremendous amount of wealth, while the average income of Catholic parishioners is small. Because interactionists study one-on-one, everyday interactions between individuals, a scholar using this approach might ask questions focused on this dynamic. Feminist theorists focus on gender inequality and promote leadership roles for women in religion. The feminist perspective is a conflict theory view that focuses specifically on gender inequality. Modern-day sociologists often apply one of three major theoretical perspectives. “Religious Economies and Sacred Canopies: Religious Mobilization in American Cities, 1906.” American Sociological Review 53:41–49. 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. The McDonaldization of Society. 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. Thus, religion functions to bind society's members by prompting them to affirm their common values and beliefs on a regular basis. Finally, religion promotes social control: It reinforces social norms such as appropriate styles of dress, following the law, and regulating sexual behavior. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwel. 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). Retrieved January 20, 2012 (http://personal.lse.ac.uk/KANAZAWA/pdfs/ARS1997.pdf). 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. How are religious institutions organized? He famously argued that religion “is the opium of the people” (1844). 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). Weber thought that the religious belief systems provided a cultural framework that supported the development of other social institutions, such as the economy. Religious rituals bring order, comfort, and organization through shared familiar symbols and patterns of behavior. The golden bough, New York: MacMillan. 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. Each major sociological framework has its perspective on religion. The information age has increased the rapid pace of production expected in many jobs. Durkheim used the totemic religion of Australian aborigines to develop his theory of religion. Karl Marx viewed religion as a tool used by capitalist societies to perpetuate inequality. Concept of institution in Sociology. Translated by J. Swain. 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. The institution of religion can be evaluated by varies sociological theories because the institution of religion has been part of every society. Durkheim’s Sociology of religion was purely speculative. Functionalists contend that religion serves several functions in society. 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. 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. In studying religion from a sociological perspective, it is not important what one believes about religion. Among these theories functionalism, conflict and interactions will be use to assess the impact each theory has on the religion institution. Explain the views of religion held by the symbolic interactionist perspective. In fact, scholars have found little merit to his contention when applied to modern society (Greeley 1989). 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). Sociologists Roger Finke and Rodney Stark (1988) first considered the use of RCT to explain some aspects of religious behavior, with the assumption that there is a basic human need for religion in terms of providing belief in a supernatural being, a sense of meaning in life, and belief in life after death. 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. 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. New York: Free Press. 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. What is important is the ability to examine religion objectively in its social and cultural context. 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. 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. The sociology of religion is distinguished from the philosophy of religion in that it does not set out to assess the validity of religious beliefs, though the process of comparing multiple conflicting dogmas may require what Peter L. Berger has described as inherent "methodological atheism". They do not attempt to say whether any religion is right or wron… Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Wulff (1997) suggested that what had occurred was a change of reference to religion from a verb to a noun. 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. 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. 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). Religion being a pervasive and universal institution is deeply rooted in human beings. The common example of this term is the usage of religious belief .It represents the shared ideas and knowledge about the existence of supernatural order or the divinities in the ancient time. 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. They study religion objectively, and their purpose is not to judge. Division of Labor in Society. 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. 1922. 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. Sociologists study religion to understand religious experiences around the world and how religion is tied to other social institutions. 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. 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 … 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. 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. As stated earlier, French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things” (1915). Explain how its beliefs, behaviors, and norms are like/unlike the other religion. Sociological and anthropological theories about religion (or theories of religion) generally attempt to explain the origin and function of religion. Interactionists are interested in what these symbols communicate. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. What are some sacred items that you’re familiar with? These theories define what they present as universal characteristics of religious belief and practice . 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. Factory jobs tend to be simple, uninvolved, and require very little thinking or decision making on the part of the worker. 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. Hechter, M. 1997. Throughout history, religion has been a central part of all known human societies. Durkheim is generally considered the first sociologist who analyzed religion in terms of its societal impact. It includes the study of the relation of religion to social stability, to social change, and to the functional problems of a society. How are religious beliefs and factors related to other social factors like race, age, gender, and education? Glencoe, IL: Free Press. Ellway, P. 2005. 1973 [1844]. 1947 [1915]. In studying religion, sociologists distinguish between what they term the experience, beliefs, and rituals of a religion. 2003. For this reason, definitions of religion often combine two or more concepts, as in James G. Frazer's famous statement that ‘religion consists of two elements… a belief in powers higher than man and an attempt to propitiate or please them’ (1922 Frazer, J.G. From this perspective, religious texts are not truths but have been interpreted by people. Some would argue that the Protestant work ethic is still alive and well in the United States. “Sociological Rational Choice Theory.” Annual Review of Sociology 23:191–214. Moreover, it can foster group cohesion and integration. Hightower, Jim. They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. Rational choice theory (RCT) is one way social scientists have attempted to explain these behaviors. 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. 1933 [1893]. This objective investigation may include the use both of quantitative methods and of qualitative approaches. 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. 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. RELIGION, SOCIOLOGY OF The study of the relationship of religion to social structures and social processes. With society it possible to find some sort of religion. For Durkheim, religion was a force for cohesion that helped bind the members of society to the group, while Weber believed religion could be understood as something separate from society. “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). 1993. He contended that these values need to be maintained to maintain social stability. Discuss how these meet social needs. 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? 2001. But if someone makes it into a headstone, or another person uses it for landscaping, it takes on different meanings—one sacred, one profane. 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. Ritzer, George. Society. Fasching, Darrel, and Dell deChant. The pay, working conditions, and robotic nature of the tasks dehumanizes the workers and strips them of incentives for doing quality work. 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. On an extreme level, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, and anti-Semitism are all examples of this dynamic. For instance, in every culture, funeral rites are practiced in some way, although these customs vary between cultures and within religious affiliations. 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. Social theorist Émile Durkheim defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things” (1915). Then, research a religion that you don’t know much about. In jobs where roles and tasks are highly prescribed, workers have no opportunity to make decisions. These universals, and the differences in the way societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study. 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. Following Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber also looked at religion’s role and influence in other social institutions such as economics and politics. According to Durkheim, people see religion as contributing to the health and continuation of society in general. German philosopher, journalist, and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx (1818–1883) also studied the social impact of religion. Civil religions effectively performing many of the same functions of ‘traditional religions’, just without the concept of a god or higher power. “Protestant and Catholic: Is the Analogical Imagination Extinct?” American Sociological Review 54:485–502. They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. The text first details the concept of sociology of religion, along with the relationship between religion and sociological theory. (The modern use of “work ethic” comes directly from Weber’s Protestant ethic, although it has now lost its religious connotations.). Critics also believe this theory overuses economic terminology and structure and point out that terms such as “rational” and “reward” are unacceptably defined by their use; they would argue that the theory is based on faulty logic and lacks external, empirical support. In providing answers, religion defines the spiritual world and spiritual forces, including divine beings. But a critical sociology of religion is broader than this. 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. Not all religions share the same set of beliefs, but in one form or another, religion is found in all known human societies. 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. 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). 6. A scientific explanation for why something occurs can’t reasonably be supported by the fact that it does occur. It is not just a strict institution but also exerts a tremendous influence upon all other institutions. Read British historian Niall Ferguson’s view at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Protestant_work_ethic. These views offer different lenses through which to study and understand society: functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory. 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. 2002 [1905]. The History of Religion as a Sociological Concept. 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. Sociologists measure religiosity by asking people about their religious beliefs, their membership in religious organizations, and attendance at religious services. Weber thought the emphasis on community in Catholicism versus the emphasis on individual achievement in Protestantism made a difference. Religion is also an example of a cultural universal, because it is found in all societies in one form or another. List some ways that you see religion having social control in the everyday world. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge. To interactionists, beliefs and experiences are not sacred unless individuals in a society regard them as sacred. 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. It consists of all the structural components of a society through which the main concerns and activities are organized and social needs such as those for order, belief and reproduction are met. 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. 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. 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