Sociological Approach to the Study of Religion

1673 WordsFeb 17, 20117 Pages
Outline and assess one of the main approaches to the study of religions. Religion and ‘The Study of Religions’ has many approaches which try to investigate the core of what religion is and what it means to the people who practice it. Sociology is one such approach that this essay will be looking at through its founding fathers Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Karl Marx. Sociology in general looks at people’s dynamics and explains a group’s influence. It demonstrates how religious belief and practices have become so important over time and emphasises their role and significance throughout. Each of these three sociologists has a link to these ideas which will be the main thesis in this essay. Emile Durkheim looks at religion from a…show more content…
Marxism disagrees that religion can bring about social change, this, however can be disputed. This is mainly due to the fact religious leaders have challenged the status quo in order to bring about change in their societies. Two main examples being Father Camillo Torres Restrepo and Martin Luther King whose works brought about a vast amount of change to Colombia and America respectively. Evidently this contrasts to the Marxists view as it shows that religion can in fact bring about social change and consequently allow for equality. Personally, I feel that the Marxists view limits human nature as it assumes they will simply follow rather than stand up to injustice. More importantly sociology in general claims to work in an objective and scientific way but I cannot see how it is possible with Marxists ideas such as on the religion being a drug and comforting as these ideas are impossible to measure. Max Weber is regarded as a social action theorist due to his claim that religion can shape and define society. He argues that religion can indeed bring about social change; he bases his argument on a Christian group named the Calvinists whom according to him brought about a form of western capitalism. This form of “ascetic Protestantism” (Johnstone, Ronald L. 2004:196) allows for the growth of capitalism because of their belief on disciplined hard work which to them emphasised the Glory of God. This “spirit of capitalism” (Furseth, Inger and Pal Repstad 2006:36) did not
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