In studying religion, sociologists distinguish between what they term the experience, beliefs, and rituals of a religion. (Photo courtesy of James Emery/flickr), Many religions, including the Catholic faith, have long prohibited women from becoming spiritual leaders. Religion and ‘The Study of Religions’ has many approaches which try to investigate the core of what religion is and what it means to the people who practice it. Karl Marx viewed religion as a tool used by capitalist societies to perpetuate inequality. Let’s explore how scholars applying these paradigms understand religion. Critics of RCT argue that it doesn’t fit well with human spiritual needs, and many sociologists disagree that the costs and rewards of religion can even be meaningfully measured or that individuals use a rational balancing process regarding religious affiliation. Throughout history, and in societies across the world, leaders have used religious narratives, symbols, and traditions in an attempt to give more meaning to life and understand the universe. Functionalists contend that religion serves several functions in society. Is there a phenomenology that isdistinctive of religious experience? For more discussion on the study of sociology and religion, check out the following blog: http://openstaxcollege.org/l/immanent_frame/. A few religions and religious denominations are more gender equal, but male dominance remains the norm of most. The McDonaldization of Society. For example, the Vatican has a tremendous amount of wealth, while the average income of Catholic parishioners is small. Religious rituals bring order, comfort, and organization through shared familiar symbols and patterns of behavior. Karl Marx viewed religion as a tool used by capitalist societies to perpetuate inequality. Today, the work ethic of the modern workforce has been transformed, as more thinking and decision making is required. Want to cite, share, or modify this book? He examined the effects of religion on economic activities and noticed that heavily Protestant societies—such as those in the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Germany—were the most highly developed capitalist societies and that their most successful business leaders were Protestant. Some form of religion is found in every known culture, and it is usually practiced in a public way by a group. http://openstaxcollege.org/l/immanent_frame/, http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Grinnell_functionalism, http://openstaxcollege.org/l/women_clergy, http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Protestant_work_ethic, http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/religion/overview.php, http://personal.lse.ac.uk/KANAZAWA/pdfs/ARS1997.pdf, http://cnx.org/contents/02040312-72c8-441e-a685-20e9333f3e1d/Introduction_to_Sociology_2e, Discuss the historical view of religion from a sociological perspective, Understand how the major sociological paradigms view religion. 1993. Ellway, P. 2005. “The Rational Choice Theory of Religion: Shopping for Faith or Dropping your Faith?” Retrieved February 21, 2012 (http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/religion/overview.php). RCT proposes that, in a pluralistic society with many religious options, religious organizations will compete for members, and people will choose between different churches or denominations in much the same way they select other consumer goods, balancing costs and rewards in a rational manner. Today, the work ethic of the modern workforce has been transformed, as more thinking and decision making is required. Moreover, religion is a cultural universal found in all social groups. First, from theseventeenth to the nineteenth century, the perspective of whiteEuropean males dominated the formative period of philosophy ofreligion to such an extent that it was hard to see how the distortionsof this long tradition might be overcome. 2 hours Structural theories Outcome 1 PC (a) & (b) and 2 PC (a) • Examine consensus theory. From the Latin religio (respect for what is sacred) and religare (to bind, in the sense of an obligation), the term religion describes various systems of belief and practice that define what people consider to be sacred or spiritual (Fasching and deChant 2001; Durkheim 1915). © 1999-2020, Rice University. Marx considered religion inseparable from the economy and the worker. 4.0 and you must attribute OpenStax. Retrieved January 20, 2012 (http://personal.lse.ac.uk/KANAZAWA/pdfs/ARS1997.pdf). From the Latin religio (respect for what is sacred) and religare (to bind, in the sense of an obligation), the term religion describes various systems of belief and practice that define what people consider to be sacred or spiritual (Fasching and deChant 2001; Durkheim 1915). Explain how its beliefs, behaviors, and norms are like/unlike the other religion. The work ethic in the information age has been affected by tremendous cultural and social change, just as workers in the mid- to late nineteenth century were influenced by the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Because religion can be central to many people’s concept of themselves, sometimes there is an “in-group” versus “out-group” feeling toward other religions in our society or within a particular practice. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a It then addresses some methodological issues that are crucial for approaches that focus on social action, be it in the internal or the external arena. Sociologists Roger Finke and Rodney Stark (1988) first considered the use of RCT to explain some aspects of religious behavior, with the assumption that there is a basic human need for religion in terms of providing belief in a supernatural being, a sense of meaning in life, and belief in life after death. The Impact Sociological Theories Have on Religion Sociological theories are usually constructed from ideas of early sociologist through scientific research in regards to developing a better understanding of how our social world operates. 1989. “Protestant and Catholic: Is the Analogical Imagination Extinct?” American Sociological Review 54:485–502. Conflict theorists also point out that those in power in a religion are often able to dictate practices, rituals, and beliefs through their interpretation of religious texts or via proclaimed direct communication from the divine. Religious explanations of these concepts are presumed to be more satisfactory than scientific explanations, which may help to account for the continuation of strong religious connectedness in countries such as the United States, despite predictions of some competing theories for a great decline in religious affiliation due to modernization and religious pluralism. The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book RCT is widely used in economics and to a lesser extent in criminal justice, but the application of RCT in explaining the religious beliefs and behaviors of people and societies is still being debated in sociology today. This is because it tries to explain some of the religious issues from a sociological point of view. For example, it helps answer questions like, “How was the world created?” “Why do we suffer?” “Is there a plan for our lives?” and “Is there an afterlife?” As another function, religion provides emotional comfort in times of crisis. How do people decide which religion to follow, if any? Working hard also doesn’t seem to have any relationship with Catholic or Protestant religious beliefs anymore, or those of other religions; information age workers expect talent and hard work to be rewarded by material gain and career advancement. His century-old claim that the Protestant work ethic led to the development of capitalism has been one of the most important and controversial topics in the sociology of religion. The growth of various disciplines in the 19th century, notably psychology and sociology, stimulated a more analytic approach to religions, while at the same time theology became more sophisticated and, in a sense, scientific as it began to be affected by and thus to make use of historical and other methods. Employees also seek autonomy and fulfillment in their jobs, not just wages. In this post, I briefly set out three distinct approaches to the study of religion: criticizing religion, upholding religion, and disaggregating religion.... Social Science Research Council The SSRC is an independent, international, nonprofit organization. In conversation with Christopher Cotter, Brown outlines rival traditions within the history of religion and demonstrates what each has contributed to our understanding of secularisation. New York: Free Press. then you must include on every physical page the following attribution: If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, Ritzer, George. Modern-day sociologists often apply one of three major theoretical perspectives. In jobs where roles and tasks are highly prescribed, workers have no opportunity to make decisions. This question led Durkheim to posit that religion is not just a social creation but something that represents the power of society: When people celebrate sacred things, they celebrate the power of their society. In the wake of nineteenth century European industrialization and secularization, three social theorists attempted to examine the relationship between religion and society: Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx. What does the concept of work ethic mean today? 1933 [1893]. German philosopher, journalist, and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx (1818–1883) also studied the social impact of religion. Units of Analysis Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 license. Are there some objects, such as cups, candles, or clothing, that would be considered profane in normal settings but are considered sacred in special circumstances or when used in specific ways? Sociological approaches to the study of Religion in the writings of Marx, Durkheim and Weber This question led Durkheim to posit that religion is not just a social creation but something that represents the power of society: When people celebrate sacred things, they celebrate the power of their society. Read British historian Niall Ferguson’s view at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Protestant_work_ethic. For Durkheim, religion was a force for cohesion that helped bind the members of society to the group, while Weber believed religion could be understood as something separate from society. Functionalists contend that religion serves several functions in society. Even though none of these three men was particularly religious, the power that religion holds over people and societies interested them all. This objective investigation may include the use of both quantitative methods (surveys, polls, demographic and census analysis) and qualitative approaches such as participant observation, interviewing, and analysis of … Modern-day sociologists often apply one of three major theoretical perspectives. This book is Creative Commons Attribution License Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. The interaction between religious leaders and practitioners, the role of religion in the ordinary components of everyday life, and the ways people express religious values in social interactions—all might be topics of study to an interactionist. It provides social support and social networking and offers a place to meet others who hold similar values and a place to seek help (spiritual and material) in times of need. The theory doesn’t address many aspects of religion that individuals may consider essential (such as faith) and further fails to account for agnostics and atheists who don’t seem to have a similar need for religious explanations. These universals, and the differences in the way societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study. These views offer different lenses through which to study and understand society: functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory. For him, religion was just an extension of working-class (proletariat) economic suffering. Religious experience refers to the conviction or sensation that we are connected to “the divine.” This type of communion might be experienced when people are pray or meditate. The traditional focuses of sociology have included social stratification, social class, culture, social mobility, religion, secularization, law, and deviance. To him, sacred meant extraordinary—something that inspired wonder and that seemed connected to the concept of “the divine.” Durkheim argued that “religion happens” in society when there is a separation between the profane (ordinary life) and the sacred (1915). Durkheim is generally considered the first sociologist who analyzed religion in terms of its societal impact. The Sociological Approach to ReligionReligion describes the beliefs, values, and practices related to sacred or spiritual concerns. Except where otherwise noted, textbooks on this site In jobs where roles and tasks are highly prescribed, workers have no opportunity to make decisions. Rising from the concept that our world is socially constructed, symbolic interactionism studies the symbols and interactions of everyday life. Read more about functionalist views on religion at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Grinnell_functionalism, symbolic interactionist view on religion at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/flat_Earth, and women in the clergy at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/women_clergy. And if there is, do we have areliable vocabulary to describe it? On an extreme level, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, and anti-Semitism are all examples of this dynamic. Fasching, Darrel, and Dell deChant. Some would argue that the Protestant work ethic is still alive and well in the United States. A rock, for example, isn’t sacred or profane as it exists. Critics also believe this theory overuses economic terminology and structure and point out that terms such as “rational” and “reward” are unacceptably defined by their use; they would argue that the theory is based on faulty logic and lacks external, empirical support. Rational Choice Theory: Can Economic Theory Be Applied to Religion? Sociological Theories of Religion The ideas of three early sociological theorists continue to strongly influence the sociology of religion: Durkheim, Weber, and Marx. It is the task of the sociologist to study these through “verstehen” or interpretative understanding. As stated earlier, French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things” (1915). Modern academic sociology began with the study of religion in Emile Durkheim’s 1897 The Study of Suicide in which he explored the differing suicide rates among Protestants and Catholics. Despite their different views, these social theorists all believed in the centrality of religion to society. 1947 [1915]. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. In fact his ideas later contributed to the formation of sociological theory of religion. 1973 [1844]. We recommend using a What does the concept of work ethic mean today? One of the most important functions of religion, from a functionalist perspective, is the opportunities it creates for social interaction and the formation of groups. From this perspective, religion serves several purposes, like providing answers to spiritual mysteries, offering emotional comfort, and creating a place for social interaction and social control. Hightower, Jim. After a period of unqualified individualism it has reminded us of the importance of corporate religion. Functionalists believe religion meets many important needs for people, including group cohesion and companionship. Hechter, M. 1997. “Sociological Rational Choice Theory.” Annual Review of Sociology 23:191–214. Moreover, it can foster group cohesion and integration. The Sociological Approach to Religion From the Latin religio (respect for what is sacred) and religare (to bind, in the sense of an obligation), the term religion describes various systems of belief and practice concerning what people determine to be sacred or spiritual (Fasching and deChant 2001; Durkheim 1915). As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Feminist theorists focus on gender inequality and promote leadership roles for women in religion. Sociology is one such approach that this essay will be looking at through its founding fathers Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Karl Marx. The pay, working conditions, and robotic nature of the tasks dehumanizes the workers and strips them of incentives for doing quality work. This power dynamic has been used by Christian institutions for centuries to keep poor people poor and to teach them that they shouldn’t be concerned with what they lack because their “true” reward (from a religious perspective) will come after death. In his writing The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), he contends that the Protestant work ethic influenced the development of capitalism. Religious rituals are behaviors or practices that are either required or expected of the members of a particular group, such as bar mitzvah or confession of sins (Barkan and Greenwood 2003). In terms of religion, feminist theorists assert that, although women are typically the ones to socialize children into a religion, they have traditionally held very few positions of power within religions. How does one pick a church or decide which denomination “fits” best? Or are suchexperiences saturated with tradition-specific doctrinal assumptions?Are reports of religious experiences in central cases best read asdoctrine-inspired interpretations of the subjective … W. Roberton Smith, in his book “The religion of semites” (1894) concluded that ancient religions consisted primarily of institutions and practices that is of rites and ceremonies and that myths that is beliefs and creeds, were an outgrowth of these. Translated by George Simpson. Critics also believe this theory overuses economic terminology and structure and point out that terms such as “rational” and “reward” are unacceptably defined by their use; they would argue that the theory is based on faulty logic and lacks external, empirical support. These universals, and the differences in the way societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study. The theory proposes that people are self-interested, though not necessarily selfish, and that people make rational choices—choices that can reasonably be expected to maximize positive outcomes while minimizing negative outcomes. This … Despite differences, there are common elements in a ceremony marking a person’s death, such as announcement of the death, care of the deceased, disposition, and ceremony or ritual. While some people think of religion as something individual because religious beliefs can be highly personal, religion is also a social institution. This power dynamic has been used by Christian institutions for centuries to keep poor people poor and to teach them that they shouldn’t be concerned with what they lack because their “true” reward (from a religious perspective) will come after death. Sociology is one such approach that this essay will be looking at through its founding fathers Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Karl Marx. Because interactionists study one-on-one, everyday interactions between individuals, a scholar using this approach might ask questions focused on this dynamic. If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, In this framework, RCT also explains the development and decline of churches, denominations, sects, and even cults; this limited part of the very complex RCT theory is the only aspect well supported by research data. Our mission is to improve educational access and learning for everyone. The work ethic in the information age has been affected by tremendous cultural and social change, just as workers in the mid- to late nineteenth century were influenced by the wake of the Industrial Revolution. The interaction between religious leaders and practitioners, the role of religion in the ordinary components of everyday life, and the ways people express religious values in social interactions—all might be topics of study to an interactionist. Originally published in 2004, New Approaches are now available as paperback for classroom use. Functionalism, conflict theory, and interactionism all provide valuable ways for sociologists to understand religion. Sociologists Roger Finke and Rodney Stark (1988) first considered the use of RCT to explain some aspects of religious behavior, with the assumption that there is a basic human need for religion in terms of providing belief in a supernatural being, a sense of meaning in life, and belief in life after death. 2. (Photo courtesy of James Emery/flickr). Factory jobs tend to be simple, uninvolved, and require very little thinking or decision making on the part of the worker. Greeley, Andrew. Then, research a religion that you don’t know much about. In fact, scholars have found little merit to his contention when applied to modern society (Greeley 1989). Some form of religion is found in every known culture, and it is usually practiced in a public way by a group. Weber thought the emphasis on community in Catholicism versus the emphasis on individual achievement in Protestantism made a difference. not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University. Weber thought the emphasis on community in Catholicism versus the emphasis on individual achievement in Protestantism made a difference. Rewards are the intangible benefits in terms of belief and satisfactory explanations about life, death, and the supernatural, as well as social rewards from membership. Sociology of Religion is the study of the beliefs, practices and organizational forms of religion using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology. By this reasoning, even if traditional religion disappeared, society wouldn’t necessarily dissolve. Inger (2006) points out that some of the prominent contributors to this debate are well-grounded in the sociology field. Factory jobs tend to be simple, uninvolved, and require very little thinking or decision making on the part of the worker. It has helped to correct the rationalistic prejudice that only the intellectual expression of religious experience counts. Religion and ‘The Study of Religions’ has many approaches which try to investigate the core of what religion is and what it means to the people who practice it. These views offer different lenses through which to study and understand society: functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory. are licensed under a, Pop Culture, Subculture, and Cultural Change, Introduction to Society and Social Interaction, Introduction to Deviance, Crime, and Social Control, Global Implications of Media and Technology, Theoretical Perspectives on Media and Technology, Social Stratification in the United States, Introduction to Social Stratification in the United States, Social Stratification and Mobility in the United States, Theoretical Perspectives on Social Stratification, Theoretical Perspectives on Global Stratification, Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination, Introduction to Gender, Sex, and Sexuality, Theoretical Perspectives on Government and Power, Theoretical Perspectives on Health and Medicine, Population, Urbanization, and the Environment, Introduction to Population, Urbanization, and the Environment, Introduction to Social Movements and Social Change, The Protestant Work Ethic in the Information Age, Functionalists believe religion meets many important needs for people, including group cohesion and companionship. According to this perspective, religion has been used to support the “divine right” of oppressive monarchs and to justify unequal social structures, like India’s caste system. Despite differences, there are common elements in a ceremony marking a person’s death, such as announcement of the death, care of the deceased, disposition, and ceremony or ritual. Religion could not be understood apart from the capitalist society that perpetuated inequality. By the end of this section, you will be able to: From the Latin religio (respect for what is sacred) and religare (to bind, in the sense of an obligation), the term religion describes various systems of belief and practice that define what people consider to be sacred or spiritual (Fasching and deChant 2001; Durkheim 1915). To interactionists, beliefs and experiences are not sacred unless individuals in a society regard them as sacred. This article is organized around the following points. Division of Labor in Society. To date, a much larger literature exists under the rubric of feministtheology than of feminist philosophy of religion. To interactionists, beliefs and experiences are not sacred unless individuals in a society regard them as sacred. Critics of RCT argue that it doesn’t fit well with human spiritual needs, and many sociologists disagree that the costs and rewards of religion can even be meaningfully measured or that individuals use a rational balancing process regarding religious affiliation. The Sociological Approach to Religion. By applying the methods of natural science to the study of society, Durkheim held that the source of religion and morality is the collective mind-set of society and that the cohesive bonds of social order result from common values in a society. Weber noted that certain kinds of Protestantism supported the pursuit of material gain by motivating believers to work hard, be successful, and not spend their profits on frivolous things. Conflict theorists also point out that those in power in a religion are often able to dictate practices, rituals, and beliefs through their interpretation of religious texts or via proclaimed direct communication from the divine. Because religion can be central to many people’s concept of themselves, sometimes there is an “in-group” versus “out-group” feeling toward other religions in our society or within a particular practice. Let’s explore how scholars applying these paradigms understand religion. Religious beliefs are specific ideas members of a particular faith hold to be true, such as that Jesus Christ was the son of God, or that reincarnation exists. Religion describes the beliefs, values, and practices related to sacred or spiritual concerns. 1. New York: Penguin. Interactionists are interested in what these symbols communicate. Weber noted that certain kinds of Protestantism supported the pursuit of material gain by motivating believers to work hard, be successful, and not spend their profits on frivolous things. A scientific explanation for why something occurs can’t reasonably be supported by the fact that it does occur. RCT is widely used in economics and to a lesser extent in criminal justice, but the application of RCT in explaining the religious beliefs and behaviors of people and societies is still being debated in sociology today. He believed religion reflects the social stratification of society and that it maintains inequality and perpetuates the status quo. In the chapter, “Sociological Approaches”, … Nevertheless, the sociological approach to the study of religion has great rewards. Another illustration of religious beliefs is the creation stories we find in different religions. The sociological study of religion differs most clearly from normative approaches on the basic of its: Methodological agnosticism. A scientific explanation for why something occurs can’t reasonably be supported by the fact that it does occur. They are considered replaceable commodities as opposed to valued employees. As stated earlier, French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things” (1915). Second, in the twentiethcentury, once philosophy of religion was … These universals, and the differences in the way societies and individuals experience religion, provide rich material for sociological study. The information age has increased the rapid pace of production expected in many jobs. 1975. Higher levels of education have become necessary, as well as people management skills and access to the most recent information on any given topic. While some people think of religion as something individual because religious beliefs can be highly personal, religion is also a social institution. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge. 1988. “Religious Economies and Sacred Canopies: Religious Mobilization in American Cities, 1906.” American Sociological Review 53:41–49. They are among the founding thinkers of modern sociology. Religious explanations of these concepts are presumed to be more satisfactory than scientific explanations, which may help to account for the continuation of strong religious connectedness in countries such as the United States, despite predictions of some competing theories for a great decline in religious affiliation due to modernization and religious pluralism. Finke, R., and R. Stark. He believed religion reflects the social stratification of society and that it maintains inequality and perpetuates the status quo. It provides social support and social networking and offers a place to meet others who hold similar values and a place to seek help (spiritual and material) in times of need. Translated by J. Swain. Another illustration of religious beliefs is the creation stories we find in different religions. Much larger literature exists under the rubric of feministtheology than of feminist of!. ) has a tremendous amount of wealth, while the average income of Catholic parishioners is small approaches the. Are more gender equal, but male dominance remains the norm of most and.... Individuals or those with low-level skills from Weber’s Protestant ethic, although it has helped to correct rationalistic. For why something occurs can’t reasonably be supported by the fact that it does occur conflict theorists view religion something! To study these through “verstehen” or interpretative understanding experience, beliefs, behaviors, and rituals of religion... 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