Chp 13 – Churches & Religion
- Religions consist of revealed truths
- Sociologists are interested in how people act out their religious beliefs in everyday life and how
these beliefs affect their interactions with others and with society.
o They are concerned with how certain beliefs are legitimatized and who in society
controls this process.
- From a macro sociological perspective, they are interested in the rise and fall of religions, and
the persistence of certain religions over centuries and even millennia; and they are interested in
the effects of these long-lived belief systems on other belief systems: political, economic, or
- In a social science perspective, the stance of sociology is that religion is merely a social
phenomenon, one of many products of social life that play an important role in society’s
- Marx viewed it as a form of socially organized self-deception and a way that people, especially
the ruling class disguise their exploitation of the masses
- Durkheim viewed religion as an opportunity for group celebration. The content of religion is less
important than the opportunity it presents to express social solidarity in ritualized form
- Weber viewed religion as a set of beliefs that give life meaning and purpose. These beliefs can
have enormous and sometimes positive social consequences.
- Religion is any system of beliefs about the supernatural and the social groups that gather
around these beliefs.
o The change process is called secularization, meaning that in these celebrations, and
elsewhere, we continue to see the separation between religion and politics, and
between scared private beliefs and secular public spheres.
- West are more autonomous than before, they no longer need the emotional support and
communal solidarity religion traditionally offered.
- New religious movements are groups and institutions comprising people who share similar
religious or spiritual views about the world but who are not part of mainstream religious
- Church is any social location or building where people carry out religious rituals. WAYS OF LOOKING AT RELIGION
- Emile Durkheim worked within the functionalist model
o Concerned with religion’s role in promoting social solidarity.
o Wanted to know why religions are universal and what functions they perform in these
Concluded that religion has the power to bring people together
Religion perpetuates social solidarity by continually reaffirming people’s shared
Believes influence of religion would decline as scientific and
technological thinking gradually replaced religion thinking
- Karl marx established critical theory model
o Viewed religion largely as a form of social control and therefore as a cause of conflict.
o Believed that religion is part of dominant ideology of society, a set of values that benefit
the groups that exercise the most power in society
o Opiate of the masses, making them submissive, uncritical and easily manipulated.
Diverts the working class’s attention from injustices perpetrated by the owners
Also believed that religion would lose its importance in the future
Predicted after a worldwide revolution by the working class, new
socialist society would have not place for religion
o Religion continues to cause conflicts between people and
- Max Weber focused on the subjective meaning and personal experience of religion
o Believed that people have inner need to understand the world as ‘meaningful’
Otherwise, how could we make sense and cope with tragedies
Especially interested in the way religious doctrines shape people’s world views,
and how their world views shape their secular behaviour
His book Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism,
o Discussed the connections between the rise of capitalism and
the rise of Protestantism
Argued that Protestantism provided a value structure
that supported the rise of capitalism in NW Europe
Values lead to capitalism, explaining why
capitalism arose in protestant Europe
- The elementary forms of religious life
- One of Durkheim’s work
- Focused on the role of religion in social life
- Goal was to understand the universality of religion, to do so, needed to understand its
emergence in the very earliest societies (primitive)
- Also studied totemism, the use of natural objects and animals to symbolize spirituality - Emblem serves as a symbol that unites all the members of society with a common belief, thus
contributing to social solidarity
o They also reinforce group solidarity and shared group beliefs
o Connects people to escape everyday life, ‘profane life’ into a higher scared plane of
- According to Durkheim, rituals and totemic objects are important in themselves. Their meaning
and significance lie only in the social cohesion they create, maintain, and celebrate
- For Durkheim, religion expresses a collective consciousness, the sum of people’s individual
consciousnesses and shared way of understanding the world.
o Key words are shared and symbol
- A diverse organic society (urban industrial society) need a form of humanism, a worldview that
lets people connect with one another around their common humanity and not around specific
religious beliefs as was the case with mechanical solidarity
- Concluded that the influence of traditional religion would decline as society modernized,
scientific thinking would replace religious thinking.
o Concept of GOD would become less powerful
- Religion is a difficult concept to define, as it encompasses many concepts connected to
spirituality and faith and may mean different things to people.
- Substantive definition focus on what religion is, and what does and does not count as religion
o Identifies religion’s core elements
- Functional definition describes what religion does for an individual or a social group.
o Describes how religion provide a sense of connectedness between people
- Durkheim believed that social life could be divided into sacred and profane (secular) parts
o Religion resided in the sacred part.
People need totems and rituals, so they need a portion of life that is sacred.
- On profane world, we go through normal activities