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Conflict theory

Conflict theorists view religion as an institution that helps maintain patterns of social inequality. For example, the Vatican has a tremendous amount of wealth, while the average income of Catholic parishioners is small. According to this perspective, religion has been used to support the “divine right” of oppressive monarchs and to justify unequal social structures, like India’s caste system.

Conflict theorists are critical of the way many religions promote the idea that believers should be satisfied with existing circumstances because they are divinely ordained. This power dynamic has been used by Christian institutions for centuries to keep poor people poor and to teach them that they shouldn’t be concerned with what they lack because their “true” reward (from a religious perspective) will come after death. Conflict theorists also point out that those in power in a religion are often able to dictate practices, rituals, and beliefs through their interpretation of religious texts or via proclaimed direct communication from the divine.

About a half-dozen older men wearing Roman Catholic priestly garb are shown from the shoulders up.
Many religions, including the Catholic faith, have long prohibited women from becoming spiritual leaders. Feminist theorists focus on gender inequality and promote leadership roles for women in religion. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The feminist perspective is a conflict theory view that focuses specifically on gender inequality. In terms of religion, feminist theorists assert that, although women are typically the ones to socialize children into a religion, they have traditionally held very few positions of power within religions. A few religions and religious denominations are more gender equal, but male dominance remains the norm of most.

Rational choice theory: can economic theory be applied to religion?

How do people decide which religion to follow, if any? How does one pick a church or decide which denomination “fits” best? Rational choice theory (RCT) is one way social scientists have attempted to explain these behaviors. The theory proposes that people are self-interested, though not necessarily selfish, and that people make rational choices—choices that can reasonably be expected to maximize positive outcomes while minimizing negative outcomes. Sociologists Roger Finke and Rodney Stark (1988) first considered the use of RCT to explain some aspects of religious behavior, with the assumption that there is a basic human need for religion in terms of providing belief in a supernatural being, a sense of meaning in life, and belief in life after death. Religious explanations of these concepts are presumed to be more satisfactory than scientific explanations, which may help to account for the continuation of strong religious connectedness in countries such as the United States, despite predictions of some competing theories for a great decline in religious affiliation due to modernization and religious pluralism.

Another assumption of RCT is that religious organizations can be viewed in terms of “costs” and “rewards.” Costs are not only monetary requirements, but are also the time, effort, and commitment demands of any particular religious organization. Rewards are the intangible benefits in terms of belief and satisfactory explanations about life, death, and the supernatural, as well as social rewards from membership. RCT proposes that, in a pluralistic society with many religious options, religious organizations will compete for members, and people will choose between different churches or denominations in much the same way they select other consumer goods, balancing costs and rewards in a rational manner. In this framework, RCT also explains the development and decline of churches, denominations, sects, and even cults; this limited part of the very complex RCT theory is the only aspect well supported by research data.

Critics of RCT argue that it doesn’t fit well with human spiritual needs, and many sociologists disagree that the costs and rewards of religion can even be meaningfully measured or that individuals use a rational balancing process regarding religious affiliation. The theory doesn’t address many aspects of religion that individuals may consider essential (such as faith) and further fails to account for agnostics and atheists who don’t seem to have a similar need for religious explanations. Critics also believe this theory overuses economic terminology and structure and point out that terms such as “rational” and “reward” are unacceptably defined by their use; they would argue that the theory is based on faulty logic and lacks external, empirical support. A scientific explanation for why something occurs can’t reasonably be supported by the fact that it does occur. RCT is widely used in economics and to a lesser extent in criminal justice, but the application of RCT in explaining the religious beliefs and behaviors of people and societies is still being debated in sociology today.

Questions & Answers

what is the generally accepted definition of marriage
Onyeka Reply
marriage is the legal union between two people
JAYz
according to beathis(1980) marriage is the union between a man and women such that the children born to the woman are the legimate offsprings of both partners
Bamshak
what about socratic method
VICTOR
Victor I don't understand your question
Bamshak
I mean the current authorities who defined the Socratic method?
VICTOR
social stratifaction
Alabi Reply
definition of culture
Hassan Reply
what are the effect of poverty in education
Chileshe
poverty effects education and our children. Children living in poverty tend to be exposed to more stress, more intense & longer lasting stress that negatively impact attention, focus, cognition, IQ and social skills.
Sonasa
underachievement
Sarmin
living Style of the people is known as culture
Qudrat
Why we need social interaction?
Qudrat Reply
what is norms and beliefs
Aabid Reply
what is norms
Prince
behaviour and attitudes which are considered normal
Chileshe
what are the causes of poverty?
Chileshe
capitalism
Sarmin
what is social stratification?
Keeper
what is the difference between values. norms. and belief
Qudrat
which is most desiminated religion in the world
ahmed
Trust me I'm not too sure about the "most disseminated religion", but for my money Christianity somehow dominates...
Athenkosi
Why study sociology
mohamed Reply
I need an enlightenment on the course the military and the state?
onoja Reply
what does the open system approach in education looks at as whole?
Beau Reply
it is the vave of feminism in which feminist want to equal education for male and female
Muhmmad
of what relevance is sociology towards understanding African social thought
Abubakar Reply
What is population studies?
onoja Reply
it's the study of population the population can be family, fertility, mortality e.t.c
Abubakar
What are the subjective reality of mass communications
isah Reply
preconditions that give rise to deviance behavior
James Reply
what is group
Nazir
a collectivity of people that are United for one common purpose
Asif
what do you mean by "power to constraint"?
Chisom Reply
can someone please elaborate the main elements of ethnicity.
Tinya
What is social thought? And the difference between social thought and sociological thought
onoja Reply
social thought : these are those thoughts which belongs to the practical life of an individual mean : A man is a social animal . he learn from the society sociological thoughts : it means theoretical thoughts which are related to a book or which are taken from a book<> 📖 or which are taught in
Qudrat
social thought: has do with. our daily exchanges of ideas from one person to another. while, sociological thought: derives from the attributes of social thought and social ideology.
Keeper
Please some one should explain this theories for me.. Functionalism,, conflict theory and symbolic interaction
onoja Reply
functionalism: interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of the individuals in that Society
Lisa
conflict Theory: the way inequalities contribute to social differences and perpetuate difference in power
Lisa
Symbolic: one to one interactions and communications
Lisa
Can this theories be criticise?
onoja

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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