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A photo of thousands of people in a stadium during a megachurh ceremony
Religions come in many forms, such as this large megachurch. (Photo courtesy of ToBeDaniel/Wikimedia Commons)

Why do sociologists study religion? For centuries, humankind has sought to understand and explain the “meaning of life.” Many philosophers believe this contemplation and the desire to understand our place in the universe are what differentiate humankind from other species. Religion, in one form or another, has been found in all human societies since human societies first appeared. Archaeological digs have revealed ritual objects, ceremonial burial sites, and other religious artifacts. Social conflict and even wars often result from religious disputes. To understand a culture, sociologists must study its religion.

What is religion? Pioneer sociologist Émile Durkheim described it with the ethereal statement that it consists of “things that surpass the limits of our knowledge” (1915). He went on to elaborate: Religion is “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say set apart and forbidden, beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community, called a church, all those who adhere to them” (1915). Some people associate religion with places of worship (a synagogue or church), others with a practice (confession or meditation), and still others with a concept that guides their daily lives (like dharma or sin). All these people can agree that religion    is a system of beliefs, values, and practices concerning what a person holds sacred or considers to be spiritually significant.

Does religion bring fear, wonder, relief, explanation of the unknown or control over freedom and choice? How do our religious perspectives affect our behavior? These are questions sociologists ask and are reasons they study religion. What are peoples' conceptions of the profane and the sacred? How do religious ideas affect the real-world reactions and choices of people in a society?

Religion can also serve as a filter for examining other issues in society and other components of a culture. For example, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it became important for teachers, church leaders, and the media to educate Americans about Islam to prevent stereotyping and to promote religious tolerance. Sociological tools and methods, such as surveys, polls, interviews, and analysis of historical data, can be applied to the study of religion in a culture to help us better understand the role religion plays in people’s lives and the way it influences society.

References

Durkheim, Émile. 1947 [1915]. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life , translated by J. Swain. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Questions & Answers

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Ali
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Mohamed Reply
Alote of knowledge
Buhari
sociology enable us to understand the society and the people behaviour
Ameh
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EDOR
having study the method of social control critically discuss how they could be applied in resolving any deviant act of choice
Precious Reply
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Srijana Reply
Sociological theory according to Robert K. Merton (1967) refers to logically interconnected sets of propositions from which empirical uniformities can be derived
Ameh
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Onoyima
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mohammad Reply
way of living
Sultan
culture is the way people live their life's....
Noah
The beliefs, values, behaviour and material objects that constitute a people's way of life.
young
culture is the sum total of knowledge , attitudes and habitual behavioural pattern shares and transmitted by members of the society.
AHUMBE
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Muluken
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AHUMBE
★ Define family and marriage and identify their different historical types.
Abir Reply
family is a group of people who share or have common kin connection. Marriage is when two people share kin connection and have a sexual approved union between them.
Stanford
Family group of people that are by all means related by blood from two sources and they also have many things in common life face resemblance and manny more.... Marriage is simply a connection between two people of different genthers with the soul aim of building a family in a life time
Dura
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Sonia Reply
sociology is a social science and also a mirror through which human beings look into the societies. In addition it's a study of the society.
Ameh
Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior.
young
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AHUMBE
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Precious Reply
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Waseem Reply
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Ameh
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what are the specific characteristics contributes to the inequality that is inherent in capitalism as an economic and social action? according to Karl Marx
Mokgohlwe Reply
Practice Key Terms 1

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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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