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Religion Contributes to Social Order. Do You Agree?

By Jammi8 Jan 04, 2013 1689 Words
Religion contributes to social order. Do you agree?
By referring to any ONE (1) Caribbean religious grouping, show how its beliefs contribute to this feature of society. Relevant theoretical perspectives must be employed in the response.
It is in my opinion that religion does contribute to social order. Religious beliefs of one sort or another exist is every known society all over the world. To really define religion you have to look at from either a functional definition or a substantive definition. Functional religion is based on the functions that it performs for society or the individual. Yinger defined religion as ‘a system of beliefs and practices by which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life.’ Substantive religion is more concerned with the content of the religion than the purpose or function. Roland Robinson (1970) defined religion as ‘the existence of supernatural beings that have a governing effect on life.’ I will be focusing on Christianity and how it contributes to social order with a basic functional view based on the definition given above.

Christianity was introduced into the Caribbean and the New World by Europeans as a means civilization for the inhabitants. The growth of Europeans was not only to extract wealth from the region but to also convert the unbelievers. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the churches in Europe where making a significant development to religion in the Caribbean. The most dominant religions were Protestants and Roman Catholicism and over time they made a significant impact of the development of religion in the Caribbean.

Emile Durkheim believed that all society was divided into the sacred and the profane, and that religion was based upon this division. He believed that social life could not exist without the collective conscience. Without the shared values and norms there would be no social order, social control or social solidarity thus religion enforces the collective conscience. By worshipping society we strengthen the beliefs that will form the basis of social life and by defining the beliefs as sacred; it gives them greater power to control human activities. He believed that religion was functional to both the society and the individual.

Individuals benefited from the beliefs that surrounded the religious activities performed and the society benefited from the foundation provided for reinforcements of the values and norms of the society. The individuals when participating in the religious activities will get a sense of belonging in the form of moral cohesion. The members of society communicate and understand the bonds that join them. Thus, religion contributes to social order in the form of the collective conscience. Like Durkheim, Malinowski sees religions as the reinforcing of social views and norms and promoting social solidarity.

Malinowski focuses on certain areas of society where religion is concerned and believes that these situations are of emotional stress and thus threatens social solidarity. In his research he noted that marriage, death, puberty, birth (things he calls the crises of life) are all surrounded by religious activities. In Christianity when a baby is born, he/she is brought before the church to be blessed by the pastor as it was read in the bible. When a person dies, a funeral is performed where it is believed that the deceased has gone to be with Jesus Christ in the bosom of Abraham. These rituals reduce anxiety by providing confidence and a feeling of control, thus contributing to social order. Parsons like Malinowski views religion as being due to particular problems that occur in all societies.

Parson argues that people go about their everyday life without problem. If life was to always be like that then there would be no need for religion since there was no particular strain. Unfortunately, since life doesn’t actual work like that then that the problems that human do face fall into two categories. The first is that human are “hit” with events that are unforeseen example death. The second is uncertainty, this is where a lot of work, effort and skill have been put in but there still may not be a successful outcome or the one that was expected.

He believes that through the religious belief system a foundation is provided upon which stability and social order con be obtained. He also believed that religion helped to provide meaning to life. It provides “answers” to the questions that people have about their different situations and life and it is also a mechanism of coming to term with things that are out of our control. Also, religion is a part of a society’s cultural system, thus religious beliefs provide the guidelines for how humans should act. In a Christian society the Ten Commandments operates in this manner. In this way religion contributes to the acceptance of their situations and ensures stability and social order.

Marx’s vision of the ideal society denounces exploitation and alienation. Members of society feel like they belong, control their own destinies and work together for the common good. In this ideal society there is no religion since the social conditions for it does not exist. He believes that religion is an illusion to ease to hurt and pain humans feel. He defines religion as ‘the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of the heartless world and the soul of the soulless conditions. It’s the opium of the people.’ In saying this, religion only calms the believers but doesn’t really bring them fulfillment and happiness, it does little to actually solve their problems, thus contributing to social order.

From a Marxist’s perspective, religion isn’t just a cushion for the oppressed; it is also an instrument of oppression. It acts as a mechanism of social control, allowing exploitation and class issues, thus keeping people in their places. It offers and illusion of hope thus discouraging people from trying to change their situations. Religion helps to produce a false class consciousness by providing explanations and justifications for social situations, thus distorting reality. Religion serves the function of masking the foundation of power and exploitation in a class society. Marx’s believe that in a truly social society, individuals revolve around themselves and religion and all other illusions and distortions of reality disappear. Conflicting evidence suggests that religion does not always legitimize power; it can sometimes be a vessel of change. While accepting many aspects of Marx’s analysis of religion, Otto Maduro, a neo-Marxist places greater emphasis on the idea of more freedom from the economic society of the bourgeoisie. Feminist theories of religion follow Marxist theories. Feminists believe that religion as an instrument of oppression and domination but unlike Marxism, they see is as a product of patriarchy rather than capitalism. Religion to them only serves the needs of men. The secondary and subordinate roles of women in Christian doctrine are also seen in many other religions. Despite the fact that women have made a huge step in many areas of life, in religion it has been very limited. Women continue to be excluded from the key roles in many religions. They can’t be pastors or ministers and even in some Christian churches aren’t even allowed upon the pulpit, thus contributing to social order. There are various relationships that can be possible between religion and social change. Religion can be the factor than impedes social change, it can cause it or can be said to have nothing to do with it; or there can be said to be a casual relationship between them. From this view it can be said that it’s social change which leads to a change in religion. Marxist, functionalist and feminists have basically denied the possibility that religion can cause a change in society. They believe that religion is a conservative force, and its changes in society that shape religion and not vice versa. Weber argues this point. Weber argues that in certain situations religion can lead to social change while Marxists and Functionalists believe that religion promotes social integration and impedes social change. Even though shared religious beliefs may be integrated into a social group, those same beliefs may have repercussions that may cause a change in society. Weber gives religion credit for shaping a person's image of the world, and this image of the world can affect their view of their interests, and ultimately how they decide to take action.

For Weber, religion is best understood as it responds to the human need for theodicy and soteriology. Human beings are troubled, he says, with the question of theodicy – the question of how the extraordinary power of a divine god may be reconciled with the imperfection of the world that he has created and rules over. People need to know, for example, why there is undeserved good fortune and suffering in the world. Religion offers people answers that provide opportunities for salvation – relief from suffering, and reassuring meaning. The pursuit of salvation, like the pursuit of wealth, becomes a part of human motivation, thus contributing to social order.

Many sociologists have argued that the sacred has little or no place in modern society; they claim that society has gone through a process of desacrilization. This is the belief that supernatural forces are no longer seen as controlling the world, action is no longer directed by religious beliefs and human consciousness has become secularized. Weber’s interpretation of modern society provides one of the earliest examples of desacrilization. He claimed that modern society is governed by rationalization and intellectualization and it is no longer controlled by supernatural forces. The motives that now direct human actions are rational, thus contributing to social order.

It is apparent after going through this material that religion does contribute to social. Whether it’s from the Durkheim who believes that society is divided into two and this division is the basis of religion, or from Marx who believes that religion is for the oppressed and also an instrument of oppression. From any of the sociologist examined above it is apparent that religions do contribute to social order; the difference is how they perceive that it contributes. In conclusion, it is my opinion that religion does contribute to social order.

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