SOC101 NOTES- Religion
Religion: means different things (no consensus on definitions).
• Substantive definitions (focuses on what it is): belief in something; entails actions;
involves emotions; a social phenomenon.
• Functional definitions (focuses on what it does): provides meaning and purpose to life;
promotes social cohesion and sense of belonging; provides social control.
Marx (conflict): religion is a human creation and ‘opium of the people’; encourages people to
accept existing social inequalities and unite people under ‘false consciousness’; those who hold
power encourage religious belief in the process of exploiting and subjugating them; conflict
between religious groups, within groups and with larger society occurs; people join religious
groups that downplay the importance of life.
Durkheim (collectivity): religion’s origin is social and result a collective conscience; religious
beliefs articulate the nature of the sacred and its symbols (sacred/profane), and religious rites
provide guidelines as to how people should act in the presence of sacred; religion creates and
reinforces social solidarity; while science is incomplete and too slow, religion has a “gap-filling”
Weber (ideas): unlike Marx and Durkheim, Weber had little interest if religion is true or false but
argued that religion represent a person’s definition of reality; religion is oriented toward this
world, as religious ideas and behaviour are evident in everyday conduct; need to interpret action
by understanding the actor’s motives; god conceptions are strongly related to economic, social,
and political conditions in which people live; growth of monotheism is related to goals of political
unification; dealt with themes like relationship between religion and social class and nature of
religious organizations; different groups in society vary in their inclination to be religious.
Humanist perspective: human-centred and is concerned with making life meaningful; meaning
that do not have supernatural referent and are used to interpret the world.
Collective conscience (Durkheim): awareness that a group is more than the sum of its
individual members and the belief that such awareness is experienced as the supernatural.
Religiosity: refers to how important religion is to people.
• Can be measured in: strength of belief, emotional attachment, knowledge, frequency of