Sociological Perspectives on Religion

Religion is an organized belief system that teaches human values and provides a model for understanding the world. It also gives strength for people during their lives’ transitions and tragedies.

Sociology has several perspectives that examine the role of religion in society. These perspectives aim to explain the functions that religion serves and the problems it can reinforce or perpetuate (Emerson, Monahan, & Mirola 2011).

Functions of Religion

According to sociological perspectives, religion plays an important role in social cohesion, promoting behaviour consistency (social control), and offering meaning and purpose for life. Studies have shown that religious beliefs and practices improve the health of individuals, families, states, and nations. It is also good for improving learning, economic well-being, self-control, and empathy.

Defining Religion

There are a variety of definitions of religion that scholars have developed over time. Among the most common are the monothetic approach, which determines membership in the category in terms of the presence of belief in a distinctive kind of reality; and the polythetic approach, which recognizes a number of properties that make up a religion without determining that it has an essential essence.

Defining Religion Functionally

Durkheim, for example, defines religion as whatever system of practices unite a number of people into a single moral community (whether or not those practices involve belief in any unusual realities). This functional definition names the inevitable emergence of a form of life that organizes people’s values and provides them with orientation.

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