How to measure Religion in sociology

Topics: Sociology, Longitudinal study, God Pages: 2 (385 words) Published: January 10, 2014
Portfolio task 1: Measurements and indicators word count: 400


The Oxford Dictionary of Sociology defines ‘religion’ as: “a set of beliefs, *symbols and practices (*rituals), which is based on the idea of the *sacred, and which unites believers into a socio-religious community. The sacred is contrasted with the profane because it involves feelings of awe. Sociologists have defined religion by reference to the sacred rather than to a belief in a god or gods, because it makes social comparison possible: for example, some versions of *Buddhism does not involve belief in a God. Religion is also contrasted with *magic, because the latter is thought to be individualistic and instrumental” (Oxford University Press, 1994). Religion is typically measured by its division into specific categories, for example: affiliation (Community & Membership), attendance, practice and belief1. These categories help to break the concept down which makes it easier to analyse. A concept such as religion can be measured in two different ways. Generally it is measured on a cross-sectional basis whereby, data is collected “on a cross-section of the population at a single point in time”2 For example when respondents are asked about their background in order to learn about their past religious history. Although cross-sectional studies are quite economical and quick they can sometimes miss details that other form of measurements can pick up on i.e. a longitudinal study. This type of study is both costly and time- consuming but offers a more thorough analysis as it revisits people over a long period of time. Difficulties may arise with the data collection of such topic for example: questions can be unclear to respondents due to the nature of the concept “most people are able to specify their religious background, but different people will see affiliation in different ways”3, some people will exaggerate their attendance at religious ceremonies in order to ‘look good’...
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