January 14, 2014
Sociological Perspective on Religion:
Questions Sociology Cannot Address:
• There are many spiritual questions that Sociology cannot answer such as:
• Does God exist?
• Is there life after death?
Sociology Does Address:
• Are there any social factors that are associated with religiosity? (I.e., age, urban vs. rural
residence, region of country, level of education, gender, employment status)
• New Society Data
• How can we measure religiosity?
• How many people in a society:
• Would define them selves as religious?
• Attend worship services?
• Believe in life after death in a society?
• Pray every day?
• How has this changed over time? What accounts for these changes?
• Crossnational comparisons
• How important is the family?
• Why has membership in some religious denominations declined/increased?
• Has society become increasingly secular?
• What are the main religious denominations in a particular country?
• Religion is functional in meeting societal needs
• Durkheim: preindustrial society characterized by mechanical solidarity; industrial society
characterized by organic solidarity
Conflict Theory (Karl Marx)
• Religion is problematic because it is a source of false consciousness for the workingclass
• Religion is bad because it passives us (the workingclass) – revolts us from economic elites
• Distracts working class; distracts them from going against capitalists
• Some social historians debate on religions purpose in American slavery (religion provided
different kinds of support/social networking needed for slaves to fight for freedom)
• Role played by religious symbols, subjective understandings of religion
• Max Weber: Protestantism allowed capitalism to flourish
• Max Webers book; ..Spirit of Capitalism – making a connection between religion and capitalism –
the reason capitalist first took off in the US and not in other countries is very closely