Sociology of Religion

Sociology of Religion:

This is the branch of sociology which deals with what religion is how it works & what influence it has. Two classic modern sociologists of religion are Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, but the field goes back to Auguste Comte, founder of sociology.

Sociology of religion needs "methodological atheism," that means that a sociologist following the scientific method can’t clarify religious phenomena using religious ideas.

Sociology of Religion is the study of the practices, beliefs and organizational forms of religion by using the tools & methods of the discipline of sociology. This objective investigation might include the use of both quantitative methods (polls, surveys, demographic and census analysis) and qualitative approaches like participant observation, interviewing, & analysis of historical, archival and documentary materials.

Sociologists of religion study each aspect of religion from what is believed to how individual act whereas in worship and whereas living out their stated convictions. They study the altering role of religion both in the public arena (economic, political, and media) and in close interpersonal relationships. Global religious conflict and pluralism, the nature of religious cults & sects, the influence of religion on gender, racial and sexuality issues, and the effect of the media & modern culture has on religious practices are every topics of interest in current sociology of religion research.

Historically the study of religion was central to the discipline of sociology along with early seminal figures like Max Weber and Emile Durkheim writing widely on the role and function of religion in human society. Social scientists who study religion nowadays perform a vital function in helping journalists & the general public makes sense of the go up of religious themes and influences in political conflicts, television, personal issues like abortion and homosexuality and in highly publicized "cultic" tragedies. The regulation of sociology of religion has much to teach regarding how religion functions for the individual and in society. Unluckily research done by sociologists of religion rarely filters out of the "ivory towers" to those "in the trenches."

Not all of religions share the same set of beliefs, but in one of form or another, religion is found in the entire known human societies. Even the earliest societies on record illustrate clear traces of religious symbols & ceremonies. Throughout history, religion has continued to be a central part of societies & human experience, shaping how individuals react onto the environments wherein they live. Since religion is such significant part of societies round the world, sociologists are very interested in studying it.

Sociologists study religion as a belief system and a social institution both. As a belief system, religion shapes what populace thinks and how they see the world. Such as a social institution, religion is a pattern of social action organized around the beliefs & practices that people develop to answer questions regarding the meaning of existence. Such as an institution, religion persists over time and has an organizational structure in which members are socialized.

In studying religion from a sociological perspective, this is not significant what one believes regarding religion. What is significant is the ability to study religion objectively in its social and cultural context. Sociologists are interested in various questions regarding religion:

•    How are religious beliefs & factors associated to other social factors like age, race gender, and education?
•    How does religion influence social change?
•    How are religious institutions planned?
•    What influence does religion have on other social institutions, like political or educational institutions?

Sociologists also learn religiosity of groups, individuals and societies. Religiosity is the intensity & consistence of practice of a person’s (or group’s) faith. Sociologists determine religiosity via asking people regarding their religious beliefs, their membership into religious organizations, & attendance at religious services.

Modern academic sociology started with the study of religion in Emile Durkheim’s 1897 The Study of Suicide wherein he explored the differing suicide rates amongst Catholics and Protestants. Following Karl Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber also looked at religion’s role and influence in other social institutions like politics and economics.

Sociological Theories of Religion:

Each main sociological framework has its perspective on religion. For example, from the functionalist perspective of sociological theory, religion is an integrative force into the society since it contains the power to shape collective beliefs. In the social order it provides cohesion by promoting a sense of belonging & collective consciousness. This view was supported by means of Emile Durkheim.

A second viewpoint, supported through Max Weber, views religion in terms of how it supports other social institutions. Weber thought that religious belief systems gave a cultural framework which supported the development of other social institutions, such as the economy.

Whereas Weber and Durkheim concentrated on how religion contributes to cohesion of society, Karl Marx targeted on the conflict & oppression that religion provided to societies. Marx saw religion like a tool for class oppression wherein it promotes stratification since it supports a hierarchy of people on Earth and the subordination of humankind to divine authority.

Finally, symbolic interaction theory targets on the procedure by which people become religious. Different religious beliefs & practices emerge in distinct social and historical contexts since context frames the meaning of religious belief. Symbolic interaction theory helps describe how the similar religion can be interpreted in a different way by different groups or in different times during history. From this perspective, religious texts are not truths, although have been interpreted by people. Therefore different people or groups might interpret the similar Bible in different ways.

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