Religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices regarding sacred things that unites it’s adherents into a single moral community.
Elements of Religion
1-Sacredness ,which transcends the everyday life.
2-Set of beliefs
3-Rituals to affirm those beliefs
4-Organisation of believers who share the same belief.
Functions of Religion
1-It is one of the cultural universals- globally common patterns and traits-
2-It is an integrative force that has the primary function to preserve and solidify society. It strengthens the collective unity or social solidarity of a group. Sharing same religion increases cohesion and fraternity building moral order that leads to creation of a moral community.
3-Religious beliefs can influence the conduct of those who believe in them. It keeps people in line through folkways and more. It provides a foundation for mores of society.
4-Religion helps in performing ceremonies and rituals related to rites of passage( birth ,marriage ,death and other momentous events) which gives meaning and social significance to life.
5-It is a sense of comfort and solace to the individuals during personal and social crisis such as death of loved ones ,serious injury etc.
6-Religion is an answer to unknown questions. It provides identity and it is an agent of social change.
7-It controls sexuality. The religious control of sexuality is an important vehicle for the production of legitimate offspring in feudalism and capitalism.
Types of Religious Associations
Cults are religious groups often disparaged as being secretive, highly controlling of members’ lives, and dominated by a single, charismatic leader. Some groups that are controversially labelled as cults today include the Church of Scientology and the Hare Krishna movement.
A sect is a breakaway group that may be in tension with larger society. They sometimes claim to be returning to “the fundamentals” or to contest the veracity of a particular doctrine. When membership in a sect increases over time, it may grow into a denomination. Often a sect begins as an offshoot of a denomination, when a group of members believes they should separate from the larger group. Most of the well-known Christian denominations in North America today began as sects.
The History of Religion as a Sociological Concept
Emile Durkheim (1858–1917) and Religion
Durkheim suggests that society is more powerful than any of us and it is beyond our control. We are dependent on it and it demands our obedience. Society itself is a God. Society has the power to guide our thoughts and actions. Society is created by the people but once it is created it takes on a life of it’s own.
Karl Marx and Religion
German philosopher, journalist, and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx (1818–1883) explained social impact of religion. He believed religion reflects the social stratification of society and that it maintains inequality and perpetuates the status quo. For him, religion was just an extension of working-class (proletariat) economic suffering: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
Max Weber and Religion
German sociologist and political economist Max Weber (1864–1920) believed it was a precipitator of social change. He examined the effects of religious belief 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 and other leaders were Protestant. In his writing The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), he contends that the Protestant work ethic influenced the development of capitalism by overturning the traditional anti-materialist Christian values of poverty.
Impact of Religion in Pakistan
Since the inception of Pakistan religion had has played a pivotal role to change and morph the political dynamics, constitutional and democratic norms in the country. There had been a row to build either secular or Islamic Pakistan. Moreover radical religious futile movements started to establish completely Islamic regime. After 1979 religious extremism loomed and sectarian scuffles soared. Gradually religion was maligned by some forces for vested interests to create unrest and Choas. Various religious figures at times challenged writ of the state using religion as a tool. Some fanatic and ignorant followers butchered people over blasphemy and sectarian divide. The true face of religion Islam had has been blurred deliberately and polarized version trickled down to everyone in the society which culminated in intolerant and inegalitarian society. Chomsky also lamented that Pakistan was drifting away from science but urged that science be incorporated into academics and the outlook of the world for the sake of the country’s future.
Religion can also serve as a filter for examining other issues in society and other components of a culture. For example, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, it became important in North America for teachers, church leaders, and the media to educate citizens about Islam to prevent stereotyping and to promote religious tolerance. Sociological tools and methods, such as surveys, polls, interviews, and analysis of historical data, can be applied to the study of religion in a culture to help us better understand the role religion plays in people’s lives and the way it influences society.