Social role of religion

Religion in Today's Society

Religion has always accompanied human life, being truly a uniting force for most centuries. It includes survived numerous interpersonal changes, having the ability to protect its importance for individuals and teams within society. This may clarify why its cultural happening is of a considerable interest for sociologists. Sociology will try to regulate how religion is integrated into culture, how it affects individuals and when there is reciprocal effect. What place and just why does it occupy in the people's lives? What role does it play in population? Could it be a constructive or harmful force? What is the duty of an individual in the framework of faith? Sociology attempts to find answers to these questions and reveal the trick of the power that religion has over people. In this paper, three major theories will be presented, giving an understanding into the social role of religious beliefs.

Functionalism, Turmoil Theory and Interactionism

Functionalism is the most widely-used theory in modern sociology. In general, functionalism runs on the systematical approach to any given thing, asserting that all element of this object fulfills a required role, which is vital either to keep carefully the balance of the system or for its survival. Any change in the talk about of any of the elements influences the whole system. Functionalism focuses on population as a unity of people and just how they, within this whole, are affected by various communal organizations. It explores religious beliefs at the macro-level, analyzing the effect its practices and icons have on different aspects of society all together as well as the tranquility between its elements and/or its strength. Based on the functional approach, faith can fulfill different duties, for example, build unity, describe and introduce various norms to modern culture, teach visitors to deal with possible unpredictable outcomes of certain happenings; it aims at simplifying the ideas or events that are difficult to comprehend. Extreme modern functionalists even claim that faith is vital for the survival of the human race and that it is the only means to enable the change from selfishness to altruism.

Functionalism was primarily introduced into sociology by Emile Durkheim, as well as Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer and Bronislaw Malinowski ("Sociology of Religion, " 2003). Society is viewed as a system which aims to keep a certain balance and return to it as soon as possible if some disruption occurs. Emile Durkheim, the creator of functionalism, driven religion as a organized set up of certain knowledge and useful activities related to beliefs and sacred objects. He asserted that in order to comprehend faith, one had to recognize those holy items or icons and what they stood for. To be able to evaluate the importance of religion in social connections, Durkheim examined spiritual practices of varied primitive peoples like the Australian Aborigines. Their cultural hierocracy was predicated on the clan system. Each clan worshipped a totem with which it was determined. The totem usually displayed some natural force or living creature. It had been engraved on some materials subject that was used during holy rituals. Durkheim figured for those tribes the totem displayed not only God, but world as well. Thus, they celebrated both. It was clear why someone would worship God. But why sanctify world? Durkheim explained a man accepted that there were things and phenomena beyond his understanding, in other words, "above" him; the same occurred with modern culture. But one had to translate their worship of something that could stand for those superior pushes for them, which was how spiritual symbols made an appearance.

Another outstanding theorist of functionalism, Bronislaw Malinowski, also reviewed small teams to determine the social role of faith ("Sociology of Religious beliefs, " 2003). His studies led him to a summary that religion got a calming effect on the individuals, especially in difficult environment. This end result was predicated on the fact that religion possessed penetrated into fundamental but extremely tense for humans events, such as matrimony or burial, for example. For Malinowski, loss of life had a particular significance as it supposed that population lost one of its associates. Nevertheless, he found faith very useful in this situation, as it proposed consolation by means of life after death. By executing a funeral, religion eased pain and stress, protecting against possible communal outbursts. Amongst others, Malinowski researched some tribes from the Trobriand Islands, who possessed a special wedding ceremony performed prior to going fishing, which was their only profession. This ritual helped them get over fear about what might happen (as the sea was an unstable environment), and also built solidarity. The researcher came up to a finish that religious beliefs helped people face the anonymous future.

In basic, functionalism sees religious beliefs as a confident element of contemporary society, as it unites people, helps maintain communal balance and avoids disorder. Functionalists accept that it is important as spiritual institutions match functions that population needs for survival, creating individual models of behavior that are beneficial for the public balance. Religion is also viewed as a reconciling measure between a person as an factor of world and society all together. Functional way allows individuals to have different degrees of religious involvement. Fashionable functionalists, like J. Milton Yinger, also note that in modern society religion has extended its impact from the church surroundings to everyday activities, which means that activities previously unrelated to religion suddenly become associated with it in the people's thoughts (Blasi, n. d. ). Religious beliefs helps individuals to establish their role in modern culture, giving them the feeling of safety and familiarity with other individuals in a certain group.

Machiavelli and Hobbes were the first researchers who introduced the idea of issue into sociological theories. They applied the term of "cynical realism" to the information of contemporary society: motifs of specific behavior were based exclusively on self-interest. Each society has a certain ideology, symbolized in a system of values (religion), which is often used in line with the passions of the people involved. However the core of discord theory is based on the ideas of Karl Marx (McClelland, 2000). Corresponding to Marx, the driving a vehicle force of cultural presence is labor, which provides people with means to gratify their basic needs (e. g. food, shelter). Just how this labor is sorted out from a communal viewpoint determines the fundamental sociable characteristics, making those who carry out the development the constructors of culture. Marx presumed that market was the basis for creating different communal institutions that motivated the form of social awareness of each person.

In order to determine the role of religious beliefs as it sometimes appears incompatible theory, we have to understand Marx's view on society. He saw capitalism as the dominant structure of modern-day economical interactions, where capital belonged to a small group of individuals, who used workers. The second option used capital to produce different goods, however in order for the small group of individuals to get profit, the workers were paid significantly less than they actually possessed produced. So there is a issue: those two classes needed one another, as they provided each other using what the other one did not have, but their hobbies had different vectors. To keep the staff (who outnumbered the bourgeois class) under control, different measures were used: politics, law enforcement institution, religion. Issue theory sees religion as an instrument used to prevent almost all from functioning on their own, to make sure they are accept the established way of life in society. Marx presumed that eventually the workers would dominate (through growing consciousness), and a fresh model of economical relationships - socialism - would be set up.

Max Weber is considered to be always a uniting hyperlink between discord theory and the interactionism. The scientist extended developing Marx's views, and added new levels of discord to his theory. Weber presumed that there were more conflicts than simply one-kind-of-property discord, thus acknowledging that there have been more resources to deal with for which society was a multiple-class composition, with each course playing a specific role in materials economic connections. Unlike Marx, Weber moved the concentration of turmoil to the control of means of violence that offered to suppress the opposition. Furthermore very important to us, Weber got clearly proved what role religion played in society. He saw religious beliefs as a way to emotionally unite people, and that function of religion was exploited by the state. Faith helped different groups acquire certain statuses or develop into certain communities (based on ethnicity, for example). Spiritual ceremonies built strong feelings of solidarity within the group, created psychological unity and bonds through program of symbols, techniques and different material aids. Regarding to Weber, religious beliefs had not been above the turmoil or method of resolving it, it was another tool. If some power integrated itself into religious beliefs of individuals, it occupied the prominent position in world. Religion might also be used as a means of finding allies against one common enemy. It could be implemented to create a certain social hierocracy. Through this idea, Weber showed that religious beliefs was a manipulation tool, creating history for stratification of society (e. g. stratification in relationships and founded positions of religious leaders, member of the group and non-followers). In conflict theory, any discord lies in the desire of 1 group to dominate the other or others, which can be most effectively achieved through violent constraint. One conflict arises when those people who have the authority to coerce provide some groups with certain privileges and remove other groups of them. Corresponding to conflict theory, every specific acts in his own pursuits, to be able to affect self-perception of others, which creates another turmoil: differing people having different resources available to them create the reality of others, which they use to their advantage. At a personal level, each individual's self-consciousness is developed predicated on the way they comprehends the reality - that is through social communication - which brings us to the idea of interactionism.

Interactionism (brief for symbolic interactionism) is another major theory in sociology, the most recently developed among the ones offered in this work. A few of its ideas were taken from Marx, Weber and additional produced by George H. Mead and Herbert Blumer with the contribution of Charles Horton Cooley (McClelland, 2000). This theory concentrates on the subjective area of human tendencies and cultural development. It targets individuals alternatively than society. Matching to interactionism, each individual takes on a certain role, having the ability to change his tendencies if the patterns of others changes, too. This is because individuals are able to understand and read in to the actions of others, that happen to be perceived as symbols. Moreover, every individual perceives himself and his own actions as symbols as well. Getting together with one another, folks are constantly along the way of interpreting the symbols that they exchange as well as the planet around them. Interactionism identifies individuals as dynamic participants of social life and constructors of society. Its focus is on the average person interactions, diminishing the value of established norms (like in functionalism and conflict theory). Corresponding to interactionism, the changeable character of negotiation process between the society's participants forms the constantly changing communal fact, which nevertheless continues in the framework of the steady set of rules regulating these interactions. It compensates special attention to the roles that individuals play in communal relations, believing that they can be either pre-defined or not. It is important to understand that individuals not just respond, but measure the meaning of counteraction, and then decide on their reation.

According to interactionism, religion is a certain ideology (a system of symbols) that helps people understand and relate to things that are above understanding, and in a certain way to track their lives in the wake of the ideology. Religious beliefs creates an overview of appropriate habit and includes it into people's minds. Participation in religious ceremonies is ways to verify the correctness of one's course and to reinforce one's beliefs, but also a means of imposing certain symbols. Interactionism recognizes faith as a very powerful social organization, because if it succeeds in building itself as a symbolic system of some individual, it becomes the one right way for they to interpret the earth around him. Spiritual ceremonies have emerged by this theory as very very important to confirming people's system of beliefs and reinforcing certain interpretation of the world. In general, interactionism is an extremely subjective sociological approach.


The three theories displayed in this research newspaper see religion much less an essential real truth but instead an illusion of the truth, as it is greatly influenced by different factors. Functionalists see religious beliefs as a uniting drive bringing society's customers together through the sensation of solidarity. They assert that religious symbols are the representation of the prices of people and give special so this means to the religious ceremonies and rituals, as they encourage more robust unity in cultural groups. Functionalism identifies religion as a confident factor of the cultural system since it introduces another unearthly reality to people aiding them forget the stress of every day life. Regarding to functionalism, religion is effective for health insurance and is also an important condition for future survival of society. Conflict theory in a figurative meaning sees religion as a drug for certain social groups. It is one of the ways for the oppressed to feel united, though it is a cruel tool in the hands of the ruling course. They make use of it to enforce the difficult life-style, make the working category believe it is their fate and there can't be another. Religion relates only to the near future, promising prize or better life in the faraway future or even after loss of life (in afterlife). For discord theory, religion is at a stage of change, preventing the theory that the existing life-style benefits only a few while the majority of society suffers from injustice. It really is interesting to mention that both Durkheim and Marx expected that religion will vanish from the communal life being worthless. Symbolic interactionism specializes in the individuals and their relationships through which the way the culture functions and the functions of its institutions are defined. This theory sees culture as a constantly changeable symbolic organism. Need for religion is in the first place defined by this is of religion for every separate specific. Being part of religious beliefs is a continuing and regular evaluation and confirmation of one's system of values.

The research demonstrates the role of religion can be described from different tips of view, and there is no right or wrong explanation.


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