Sociological Perspectives on Religion
Religious beliefs and practices are an important part of many people’s lives. They help them find meaning in their lives, cope with difficulties, and give them a sense of purpose. They also provide a moral framework that guides their choices and actions. For example, religions often encourage their followers to choose good over evil, right over wrong and truth over lies. Religion also plays a large role in the social life of most people. It provides them with a community of like minded people, and offers them support when they need it.
Sociological perspectives on religion aim to understand the functions it serves, the problems that it can cause and how it interacts with other aspects of society (Emerson, Monahan & Mirola, 2011). The functional perspective focuses on the ways that people use religion to create solidarity, reinforce and maintain social order, promote physical and psychological well-being, and motivate individuals to work for social change.
The axiological perspective views religion as an orienting system that provides guidance for living and dying. The belief in an ultimate good and the fear of punishment for doing bad things form the basis for this view.
Substantive and functional definitions of religion are not universal, as some scholars have argued. For example, Emile Durkheim defined religion in terms of its function of creating solidarity, and Paul Tillich defined it in terms of whatever dominant concern organizes a person’s values (whether or not those concerns involve belief in unusual realities). More recent attempts to define religion have included polythetic approaches that take the classical view that any instance that accurately fits a concept will share a number of features akin to those found in other examples of that concept.