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RELIGION is a fundamental feature of any society, and in many cases is central to a

definition of that society.

What is religious in a society is what is regarded as sacred, as distinct from
those aspects of a society that are seen as profane.
Concern with examining religious practice towards what is regarded as
sacred, and its organization within the church and the contribution they
make to the maintenance and survival of that society.
Phillip Hammond: not all is sacred is necessarily religious, and a fully secular society
could nevertheless contain things that are sacred.
Weberian view
Religion is any set of coherent answers to human existential dilemmas, which
make the world meaningful.
Peter Berger: religion is the human enterprise by which the sacred cosmos is
established by sacred is meant here a quality of mysterious and awesome power,
other than man and yet related to him, which is believed to reside in certain objects
of experience.
Steve Bruce: Religion consists of beliefs, actions and institutions which assume the
existence of supernatural entities with powers of action, or impersonal powers or
processes possessed of moral purpose.
Charles Glock & Rodney Stark: however religion is defined, its study should include
the different levels of belief that exist at individual and group level, the involvement
of individuals in acts of worship & celebration, the sense of the supernatural &
spiritual, the breadth & depth of knowledge & understanding of religion, and how all
of these aspects affect peoples daily lives.
The five great religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and
1. Judaism
Based on the first 5 books of the Old Testament/Pentateuch
The core of government practice in Israel
2. Christianity
Emerged from Judaism
Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Division of Catholicism and Protestantism
3. Islam
Prophet Mohammed
Hijri calendar
Five pillars: Shahadah, Salat, Sawm, Zakat, Haj
4. Hinduism
Brahman as central figure
Four goals in life: Moksha, Dharma, Artha, Karma
Reincarnation and caste system
5. Buddhism
Based on the teachings of Siddharta Gautama

Four Noble Truths: Dukkha, Samudaya, Nirodha, Marga

Do not worship a God
The importance of religion lay in its division between the sacred and the
profane. Sacred objects were created in society in such a way that society
itself became sacred.
Religion has a role in maintaining mechanical solidarity. It is a disguised way
for people to worship society itself.
Other functionalists have examined religious rituals and ceremonies to see
their significance for individuals. Acts of collective worship are supposed to
reinforce social values, so just by being there you are taking part, consenting
to the consensus.
Critics: Modern industrial societies are multicultural, meaning the moral codes may
be in conflict. The church may lose is power & therefore its functions in society.
Religion is in the ideological and legal superstructure of society. It assists
ruling class ideology. It stops the development of proletariat., and keep
revolutionary class consciousness by its laws and promises.
Religion is opium; it muffles and deadens the harsh experiences of workingclass life, and makes it slightly more bearable.
Both functionalist and Marxist theories are forced to see church as a conservative
Religion may promote social change.
The Protestant Ethic: socio-economic structure of society often coincides
with the deeply felt beliefs and meanings, which individuals hold about their
experiences. Capitalism flourished with religious justification.
The process of the decline of religious influence upon social life
Bryan Wilson
Used hard social data, statistics, to prove his thesis that secularization is
indeed taking place
Criticized by David Martin: decline of religion cannot be measured in
statistical terms
He analyses ix different usages and points out weaknesses in a review of the
literature on secularization: decline of religion, conformity with this world,
disengagement, transposition of religious beliefs and institutions, desacrilisation,
and the move from sacred to a secular society.
David Martin
Impossible to develop criteria to distinguish between religious and secular
Secularization concept has become a tool of counter-religion ideologies to
attack religion
Peter Glasner
It has become mythicised, no longer related to empirical evidence,
confusing, and ideological.
Industrialization contributes to secularization. (Alan Gilbert)

The counter-argument: the religiosity of earlier periods of history cannot be taken

for granted. In Britain the organized church does still play a high-profile role in British
life. Outside Britain, organized religion continues to play a major role in shaping
post-war world events.
Wilson argues that the new religious movements are profoundly anti-cultural. He
sees them as forces making for the destructuring of society and personality rather
than playing the traditional role of agencies of socialization and social control. Other
sociologists have argued that what unites groups such as those of Eastern Europe
and others who have turned to religion is that it has been used as a form of cultural
Ernest Gellner sees no necessary contradiction between the revival of
fundamentalist Islam and modernization.
Steve Bruce says the rise of the New Christian Right is another example of cultural
It could be argued that religion doesnt die out in importance in society but simply
evolves and changes its form.
In a post-modern era, it is no longer possible to define and measure the existence of
religion. At the most profound level, metanerratives or grand attemps to provide allencompasing answers have been exposed for what they always were: story-telling.
The hybrid characters of new religious movements bear the hallmarks of postmodernism. Religious identity is becoming a matter of individual choice.
Globalisation and new technologies allow widely dispersed memberships for new
religious & new age movements without the need for a geographical base.
Paul Heelas: new age movements work with concepts of absolute truth against
which other ideas and beliefs are judged.
Bruce: theres little comfort here for anyone hoping for a revival of traditional
Cause of secularization could be increasing in cultural diversity, competing religious
ideas and greater democracy, which brought about indifference to religion.
Call for a return to certainty and tradition, the sanctification of politics and
the return of community and strong commitment and engagement from its
A feature of the modern/post-modern world
Address the need to overcome rising uncertainty and fear and the loss of
Usually linked to Islam
Davie highlights the existence of essential truths and their application to twentiethcentury realities.
Ilyas Ba-Yunus: no Islamic grouping describes itself as fundamentalist, and the term
isnt used within Islam. It has become pejorative rather than descriptive in its use,
often carelessly confused with militant political action that isnt necessarily linked to
advancing the cause of the Islamic faith.

Shlomo Avineri: the underlying assumption has always been that Islam was
primitive, underdeveloped, retrograde, at best stuck in the memory hole of a
medieval splendor out of which it could not disengage itself without a radical
Bruce: clear signs exist in Iran that the need to establish social order alongside the
religious culture will lead to greater demands for personal freedom and more liberal
approaches to issues.
The concept of fundamentalism is therefore unhelpful in understanding the debate
between modernists and post-modernists.
Gracie Davie: it is equally possible to argue that the re-emphasis of this kind of
religious life both within and without the mainline churches is an ongoing part of