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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 role does globalization play in modern slavery?
Kay Reply
what are the characteristics of scientific methods?
Brandina Reply
its emirical, systematic
gift
can someone please help me? What is social statistics?
Moses Reply
Difference and realtionship between sociology and economivs
Temjensangla Reply
Conclusion for difference and realtionship between sociology and economics
Temjensangla
What is economics
Temjensangla
In conclusion, I could said that sociology it's a study of man and his habits, behaviours and interactions between humans and the environment where he lives.
Pascal
sociology could embrace many domains of the human culture.
Pascal
In a second time, economics could be define as a study economics structures in order create wealth.
Pascal
Nowadays, sociology and economics are completely integrated and linked. Why? Because, sociology try to study economics structures in order to help firms... to develop and conquer markets by understanding attitudes, behaviours of the costumers.
Pascal
In regard on what I had said before. Sociology makes a study of economics and economics takes also advantages of sociology as a tool. economics depends more on sociology even if there are complementary.
Pascal
what is the origin and development of socialogy
Talha Reply
Explain how man harnessed of nature for his own use
Cali
How? I think that man realized that there is natural elements that he could dominate and that he could not. A this moment, man start a reflexion in order to take a full profit of nature by a meticulous study of these different elements. (1)
Pascal
(2) And now we could see that after this meticulous study of the nature man had also observe nature. Man harnessed of nature for example by creating air planes, houses, cars...
Pascal
sociological reference and examples of each section
Alex Reply
Discuss the following isolated case Anna Case,Isabelle case,Genie case
Alex
who where the fathers of sociology and thier works
Kudzaishe Reply
Auguste Comte
Yuki
make psychology a science developed the first psychology lab
Cheolyn
also establish the first journal to publish psychological research
Cheolyn
can i pliz have their names
Kudzaishe
for psychology is wilhelm wuldt
gift
sorry I forgot
Cheolyn
comte was the first to propose positivism
Cheolyn
its alright
gift
I think Ibn khaldon in his "introduction " and after he is Augest comt, Dorkheim, wiber
Amazigh
Durkheim, Weber. although you have the patriarchs and matriarch of the theories. Foucalt, Marx, Pearson's, Merton and Mead and Martineau.
Ai
Discuss the following isolated case Anna case Isabelle case,Genie case
Alex
Outline the five main ideas of functionalism
Salient Reply
what are the key factors which influenced sociology...
Alexy Reply
Needs, mentality, etc
divya
What is the perciational
Gohar
Father of Socialogy?
Mohsin Reply
Auguste Comte known as the father of sociology.
Ankita
what is the main aim of sociology
Kingsley Reply
Growth of life style and sociology tell us what's impact of social relations in life...
divya
who is the father of sociology
Sudam Reply
August comte
kadambini
I have a mid term coming up i should know this already 😑
Yuki
what is a social groups?
mart Reply
what is a culture?
mart
culture is a collective body of behaviours, practices and artifacts which are preserved by a people and is passed over from one generation to the next.
Mr
what is a religion ?
Sudam
According to Emily Durkheim, whatever is worth holding… Everything, sanskar, whatever is acceptable and acceptable, is riligion... In simple language,… religion is a way of life.
Ritu
so what is the meaning sanskar
Kingsley
what is social statistics?
Moses Reply
what is social statistics in sociology?
Moses
What is social statistics in Sociology
agustina
who is the supporter of the concept of humanity?
Surjo Reply

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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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