Sociology and religion
- Religious beliefs are not falsifiable: they can be neither falsified nor confirmed
by empirical evidence.
- For this reason, sociologists are not concerned with the truth-value of religious
- Foci: individual and group differences in religiosity, individual and social
causes and consequences of religiosity, religious organizations.
Religion: sociological definitions and political-legal significance
- Substantive definition: a system of beliefs with a supernatural referent, and
rituals associated with those beliefs.
- Civil religion: a system of attitudes with social or political referent, and rituals
associated with these attitudes.
- Functional definition: social solidarity (e.g. Bellah).
- Religion also causes conflict.
- Beaman focuses on privileged position of religion (in comparison to other
culture phenomena; 2013 Office of Religious Freedom), based on:
1. Religious organizations’ access to political power (pre-modern and modern
2. Cultural distinction between sacred and profane (pre-modern and modern
3. Legal protection of religious freedom (modern societies).
- Importance of religion to an individual.
- Four dimensions: belief, practice (Beaman: participation), experience, and
- Religiosity of Canadians (Bibby. 2003):
- Believe in God (~80%)
- Maintain that there is life after death (~70%)
- Pray privately at least once a month (~60%)
- Think they have experienced God (~50%)
- Are committed to a religion (~50%)
- Have basic religious knowledge (~40%)
1 Individual causes of religiosity
- Reflection: religious commitment develops in people who seek to give meaning
to their lives.
- However, many Canadians who think about life’s “big questions” are not religious
and seek meaning in philosophy or social activism.
- Socialization: most regular attendants attended religious services as children.
- Only 1/3 of Canadians whose parents attended are themselves attending.
- Deprivation: religion as compensation (Marx).
- In Canada, no strong relationship between class/SES/education and religious
commitment. Strong relationship between gender, age and religious commitment.
Workforce participation is negatively associated with religious commitment.
- Why? Women are more religious than men. Women who work as homemakers
are more religious than women who are in the workforce.
Social causes of religiosity in modern societies
- Secularization: decline in social significance of religion.
- Measures: participation in organized religion, institutional importance of religion,
- Secularization thesis: the level of religious commitment declines with
industrialization because religious explanations are replaced by rationalism and
- Persistence thesis