In ‘The Elementary Forms of the Religious life’ first published in 1912, Emile Durkhiem, a functionalist, presented what is probably the mist influential interpretations of religion. In his ‘Elementary Forms of Religious Life’, Durkheim argues that social life could only exist if values were shared and society integrated into a coherent whole. Religion helps value consensus as it undergoes unifying beliefs and practices which help people involved, attach meaning to the world around them.
The sacred and profane is Durkheim’s distinction between people and society. The sacred is something outside our normal lives, which includes a belief in a supernatural being or force, therefore treated in a ritualized way. For example, for Muslims, going to mosque for special Friday prayers and mass for Roman Catholics is a ritual. Durkhiem tried to explain religion on a study of toteism amongst Australian aborigines. Totems are a symbol that represents a culture, each clan had a totem. Totemic principle means that God is a totem that belongs to a society.Belonging to a church is important in society today because it gives people a sense of security and support. This is important to many people because it helps to deal with everyday problems and issues, for instance, diseases and death.
So religion plays and extremely important role in giving people a “guiding light” to pray for support. With a sense of spiritual protection and security in their everyday life and also the afterlife, people would live their life with less fear of death and more sense of hope.This relates to my aim, because I want to find out about religion is to people in today’s society. However, Marxists argued that religion is an illusion which eases the pain produced by exploitation. In Marx’s words ‘Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people’.
Like Marxists, feminists argue that religion is a source of domination and oppression. However, unlike Marxism, they see religion as a product of patriarchy, rather than capitalism.They argue that religion is patriarchal in that women are exploited by men and seen as subordinate. Feminist sociologists are interested in how women have become subservient and how religion has promoted patriarchy. This view is not just shared by only female feminist sociologists. Anthony Giddens argues that; “The Christians religion is a resolutely male affair in its symbolism as well as its hierarchy. While Mary, the mother of Jesus may sometimes be treated as if she has divine qualities, God is the father, a male figure, and Jesus took the human shape of a man.
Weber believed that religion was a force for change and developed a theory that Protestantism was responsible for capitalism developing in this work ‘The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism’. Weber believed that there was a relationship between religious belief and the ethos of capitalism. Calvinism was a 17th century protestant religion based on the works of John Calvin.
They believed in pro-destination but were not sure that they were part of the ‘elect destined for heaven – this led to a ‘salvation panic’. Calvinism devoted them selves to business because they were treated as social outcasts.They were excluded from holding public office etc. Secularisation is the process whereby religious believes, practises and institutions lose social significance. “Suggested by Brian Wilson (1966), argued whether or not secularisation is occurring, or has occurred, in our society today.
In today’s society religion has less importance in peoples lives. Wilson also argues that the competition between religious undermines their credibility. ‘How Religious are we? Points out how except for occasional ancient ceremony, such as coronation – the church has ceased preside over national life.