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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

The development of applied anthropology and social impact assessment are working for the
Mame Reply
sociology definition
Gunjan Reply
scientific and systematic study of society comprising of social Institutions, norms, values, structures and individuals.
SHIVAM
what is society
rascal Reply
society is a group of people who live in a particular territory, are subject to a common system of political authority & share a common culture.
Godson
simply society is a group of who share terrirory and common culture
Mohamed
society is aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered communities.
Khuzaifa
society is a group of people with common territory,interaction and culture.
Khuzaifa
What is motion
Fiko Reply
imagining sociologically, describe the current global pandemic?
Yasir Reply
I really want to know about what is " राज्य- राष्ट्र" ...please don't take it as nation state ।t is state- nation... could anyone explain this
Ritu Reply
imagining sociologically describe the current global pandemic
Yasir
what is state- nation not nation- state ... I have learned about nation state and I know very well but about "state-nation" I have learned a name only and there is no definition or clearfication about this in Google or other websites
Ritu
oh sorry I ask a question to you that imagining sociologically describe the current global pandemic?
Yasir
yet I've no enough idea about your question in which I can explain ....
Ritu
who coined the term sociology?
Chano Reply
discuss about the Marxian approaches of development.
Chano
how sociology bring development?
Mwita
i need the answers please
Mwita
auguste com't he who coined the term sociology
AMINU
Development sociology is the study of the causes and consequences of economic change in society. ... Economic sociology consistently turns to economic development as the natural setting for tests of its theories. Development Sociology investigates the practices and processes of social change.
AMINU
The emergence of sociology traces back to the eighteenth century up to present day. Johnson (1998) suggests that in summary, the rise and development of sociology is based on political, economic, demographic, social and scientific changes
AMINU
theories of development in sociology The main objective of this document is to synthesize the main aspects of the four major theories of development: modernization, dependency, world- systems and globalization. These are the principal theoretical explanations to interpret development efforts carried
AMINU
theories of development in sociology The main objective of this document is to synthesize the main aspects of the four major theories of development: modernization, dependency, world- systems and globalization. These are the principal theoretical explanations to interpret development efforts carried
AMINU
basic tenants of islam
Raksha Reply
what are forms of governments
Nyiko Reply
if you kill someone in self defense is it a crime
Clara Reply
no its a self defence if u kill someone in self defense by mistake its a self defense but if you kill someone in self defense and you defense your self then if u kill him its a murdered ..... and murder is a crime... 😊
Hassan
4. Explain in detail the various factors those may affect rural development under local cultural settings. any buddy know this answer plz sent mein
Hassan Reply
hi, is this to get help with exam questions?
Bri Reply
Yap
Mustafa
what is basic structure of culture
Yasir Reply
(1) group of people (2) similar historical experiences (3) consensus on values, rewards and punishments (4) identification of their group as distinct from others
Sourabh
1
Nyiko
The structure of culture follows that of human life in its evolution, activities, and interests. ... It would seem that the forms of communication dictate the structure of culture, language being naturally the most privileged but not exclusive means by which the communication process can work.
Ritu
the social sciences, social structure  is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent  from and determinant of the actions of society .Likewise, society is believed to be grouped into structurally-related groups or sets of role, with different function, meaning and purpose.
Sonam
Through which sociological perspective we can analyze the pakistani society
Salman Reply
It is used within a paper to clarify or expand on a point made, or to give credit to the sources used to support that point. A. Notes B. Thesis C. Article D. None of these what is the answer.?
Sikandar
Article
sayan
agree , people often think of street crime
Anastasia Reply
absolutely right
Ritu
may be they think only what they want to think or see..
Ritu
4. Explain in detail the various factors those may affect rural development under local cultural settings. any buddy know this answer
Hassan
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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