December 18, 2018
Sociological Understanding of Religion
Religion is a prevalent topic in sociology, with Emile Durkheim and his functionalist theory, Karl Marx and his conflict theory, and Max Weber and his symbolic interactionist theory all having their own opinions and perspectives on the topic. While their views on religion do have quite a few differences when compared with each other, there are some similarities among their views and opinions that point towards what the general sociological understanding may be. These similarities are that they all in general believe that religion has a significant role or purpose in society, and that as society continues to modernize, traditional religion will eventually …show more content…
Emile Durkheim was interested in religious behavior within a social context and was known to stress religion’s social impact on society. Emile Durkheim believed that religion serves several important functions for society regardless of the way that it may be practiced or the religious beliefs that a certain society may favor. He proposed that religion has three major functions in society: it helps maintain social solidarity through shared beliefs and rituals by providing social cohesion, it helps to maintain control and conformity in society by giving social control to morals and norms based on religion, and it offers meaning and purpose to answer existential questions. Durkheim believed that these major functions of religion helped to bind the members of society together by prompting them to uphold and share their common beliefs and practices on a daily basis, and that people tend to view religion as being something that is positively contributing to the continuation and health of society in general which may also help to bind the members of society. Durkheim believed that religion is not “imaginary” and that it is very real. He viewed religion as being a representation of our collective consciousness, which is a reality of its own created from the fusion of everyone in a society’s individual consciousness and shared sentiments. Durkheim also noticed that people who were religious would tend to separate things considered to be sacred such as religious symbols or rituals from things considered to profane such as objects and symbols that can be found normally in everyday life. This is because people believe that sacred objects have some sort of divine property to them that separates from objects considered to be profane. Durkheim predicted that as society modernized, the influence of religion would decrease as a result and the concept of “God” would no longer exist.