A scientific explanation for why something occurs can’t reasonably be supported by the fact that it does occur. 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. While there are several other paradigms operating in the sociology of religion, a critical sociology of religion has remained undeveloped. 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. Sociologists are interested in several questions about religion: Sociologists also study the religiosity of individuals, groups, and societies. 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. He famously argued that religion “is the opium of the people” (1844). He contended that these values need to be maintained to maintain social stability. Marx considered religion inseparable from the economy and the worker. Another illustration of religious beliefs is the creation stories we find in different religions. These universals, and the differences in the way societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study. They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. Psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and others have viewed conversion as a sudden, singular event in one’s life. 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. Feminist theorists focus on gender inequality and promote leadership roles for women in religion. This objective investigation may include the use both of quantitative methods and of qualitative approaches. 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 … Symbolic interaction theory helps explain how the same religion can be interpreted differently by different groups or at different times throughout history. The title discusses the contemporary theories, concept, and studies about the sociology of religion. Division of Labor in Society. 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 … A few religions and religious denominations are more gender equal, but male dominance remains the norm of most. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests are men. Readings in the Sociology of Religion is a collection of articles that examines the sociological aspects of religion. The information age has increased the rapid pace of production expected in many jobs. 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. Fasching, Darrel, and Dell deChant. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Other Writings, translated by Peter R. Baehr and Gordon C. Wells. Since religion is such an important part of societies around the world, sociologists are very interested in studying it. Religion is a social institution, because it includes beliefs and practices that serve the needs of society. Employees also seek autonomy and fulfillment in their jobs, not just wages. New York: Penguin. 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. List some ways that you see religion having social control in the everyday world. It includes the study of the relation of religion to social stability, to social change, and to the functional problems of a society. 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. 1947 [1915]. Durkheim used the totemic religion of Australian aborigines to develop his theory of religion. Functionalism, conflict theory, and interactionism all provide valuable ways for sociologists to understand religion. 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. The History of Religion as a Sociological Concept. Discuss how these meet social needs. 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. Modern-day sociologists often apply one of three major theoretical perspectives. But what would happen if religion were to decline? Rising from the concept that our world is socially constructed, symbolic interactionism studies the symbols and interactions of everyday life. 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. 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. While some people think of religion as something individual because religious beliefs can be highly personal, religion is also a social institution. “Protestant and Catholic: Is the Analogical Imagination Extinct?” American Sociological Review 54:485–502. Concept of institution in Sociology. 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. It is not just a strict institution but also exerts a tremendous influence upon all other institutions. So, this has been my task—to develop a dialectical theory of secularization as part of a critical sociology of religion. Finke, R., and R. Stark. Hechter, M. 1997. Translated by George Simpson. They are considered replaceable commodities as opposed to valued employees. 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. Religion could not be understood apart from the capitalist society that perpetuated inequality. 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. 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. 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. (Photo courtesy of James Emery/flickr). Glencoe, IL: Free Press. 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. Society. 1973 [1844]. Factory jobs tend to be simple, uninvolved, and require very little thinking or decision making on the part of the worker. For sociological purposes, at least, we can then say that religion involves three key elements: beliefs, practices, and a social group. Let’s explore how scholars applying these paradigms understand religion. This view was supported by Emile Durkheim. 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. 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. 6. 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). 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). What are some sacred items that you’re familiar with? It provides cohesion in the social order by promoting a sense of belonging and collective consciousness. It provides cohesion in the social order by promoting a sense of belonging and collective consciousness. The feminist perspective is a conflict theory view that focuses specifically on gender inequality. 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. Durkheim, Émile. 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). The Star of David in Judaism, the cross in Christianity, and the crescent and star in Islam are examples of sacred symbols. Moreover, religion is a cultural universal found in all social groups. 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. But if someone makes it into a headstone, or another person uses it for landscaping, it takes on different meanings—one sacred, one profane. Moreover, it can foster group cohesion and integration. Religiosity is the intensity and consistency of practice of a person’s (or group’s) faith. What is important is the ability to examine religion objectively in its social and cultural context. 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. Some form of religion is found in every known culture, and it is usually practiced in a public way by a group. 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". A rock, for example, isn’t sacred or profane as it exists. 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. 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. Many sociologists and anthropologists were fascinated by the mystic side of religion. Some would argue that the Protestant work ethic is still alive and well in the United States. Durkheim’s Sociology of religion was purely speculative. 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. Weber thought that the religious belief systems provided a cultural framework that supported the development of other social institutions, such as the economy. RELIGION, SOCIOLOGY OF The study of the relationship of religion to social structures and social processes. 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. 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). Then, research a religion that you don’t know much about. Ellway, P. 2005. 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. Interactionists are interested in what these symbols communicate. 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. Hightower, Jim. The pay, working conditions, and robotic nature of the tasks dehumanizes the workers and strips them of incentives for doing quality work. Consider a religion that you are familiar with, and discuss some of its beliefs, behaviors, and norms. For him, religion was just an extension of working-class (proletariat) economic suffering. Weber, Max. German philosopher, journalist, and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx (1818–1883) also studied the social impact of religion. Each major sociological framework has its perspective on religion. It's a system or organization of interrelationships … “Religious Economies and Sacred Canopies: Religious Mobilization in American Cities, 1906.” American Sociological Review 53:41–49. 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. 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. Durkheim is generally considered the first sociologist who analyzed religion in terms of its societal impact. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. According to Durkheim, people see religion as contributing to the health and continuation of society in general. How are religious institutions organized? They do not attempt to say whether any religion is right or wron… 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. He showed that Protestant values directly influenced the rise of capitalism and helped create the modern world order. 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. 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 … 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. [Google Scholar], p. 58). 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. (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. Among these theories functionalism, conflict and interactions will be use to assess the impact each theory has on the religion institution. During times of recession, these service jobs may be the only employment possible for younger individuals or those with low-level skills. How are religious beliefs and factors related to other social factors like race, age, gender, and education? 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. Following Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber also looked at religion’s role and influence in other social institutions such as economics and politics. Sociologists study religion as both a belief system and a social institution. Religion, in fact, depends on society for its existence, value, and significance, and vice versa. 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. Max Weber believed religion could be a force for social change. 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. Because interactionists study one-on-one, everyday interactions between individuals, a scholar using this approach might ask questions focused on this dynamic. The text first details the concept of sociology of religion, along with the relationship between religion and sociological theory. 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. Religion is also an example of a cultural universal, because it is found in all societies in one form or another. Finally, religion promotes social control: It reinforces social norms such as appropriate styles of dress, following the law, and regulating sexual behavior. 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. He believed religion reflects the social stratification of society and that it maintains inequality and perpetuates the status quo. 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. Read British historian Niall Ferguson’s view at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Protestant_work_ethic. Translated by J. Swain. 2001. 1988. Thus different people or groups may interpret the same Bible in different ways. Higher levels of education have become necessary, as well as people management skills and access to the most recent information on any given topic. Sociologists study religion to understand religious experiences around the world and how religion is tied to other social institutions. These views offer different lenses through which to study and understand society: functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 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. Civil religions effectively performing many of the same functions of ‘traditional religions’, just without the concept of a god or higher power. 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). Rational choice theory (RCT) is one way social scientists have attempted to explain these behaviors. 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 History of Religion as a Sociological Concept. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons). 1975. 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. 1993. They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. In studying religion, sociologists distinguish between what they term the experience, beliefs, and rituals of a religion. The golden bough, New York: MacMillan. Not all religions share the same set of beliefs, but in one form or another, religion is found in all known human societies. Besides the family, religion is one of the largest social institutions that sociologists study. For more discussion on the study of sociology and religion, check out the following blog: http://openstaxcollege.org/l/immanent_frame/. texts get reinterpreted, when some end up relegated to the dustbin, or when new . What influence does religion have on other social institutions, such as political or educational institutions. In fact, scholars have found little merit to his contention when applied to modern society (Greeley 1989). Different religious beliefs and practices emerge in different social and historical contexts because context frames the meaning of religious belief. 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. The McDonaldization of Society. 2003. As a belief system, religion shapes what people think and how they see the world. 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. The second point of view, supported by Max Weber, views religion in terms of how it supports other social institutions. Criticisms: 1. Lastly, symbolic interaction theory focuses on the process by which people become religious. From this perspective, religious texts are not truths but have been interpreted by people. The institution of religion can be evaluated by varies sociological theories because the institution of religion has been part of every society. 1933 [1893]. In providing answers, religion defines the spiritual world and spiritual forces, including divine beings. Religion describes the beliefs, values, and practices related to sacred or spiritual concerns. Weber thought the emphasis on community in Catholicism versus the emphasis on individual achievement in Protestantism made a difference. Explain how its beliefs, behaviors, and norms are like/unlike the other 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. 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. 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. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwel. How does one pick a church or decide which denomination “fits” best? 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. Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. 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). 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. They term the experience, beliefs and practices relative to sacred or spiritual concerns prompting. 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