UPSC Sociology Mains Syllabus
Religion and Society:
(a) Sociological theories of religion.
(b) Types of religious practices: animism, monism, pluralism, sects, cults.
(c) Religion in modern society: religion and science, secularization, religious revivalism, fundamentalism.
- From the Latin religio (respect for what is sacred) and religare (to bind, in the sense of an obligation), the term religion describes various systems of belief and practice that define what people consider to be sacred or spiritual.
- Religious experience refers to the conviction or sensation that we are connected to “the divine.”
- Durkheim defines religion as ‘a unified system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things, that is to say – things set apart and forbidden, beliefs and practices which unite
them into a single moral community, for all those who adhere to them’.
FUNCTIONS OF RELIGION
- Social change – Social change can be brought about by religion by new principles, new ideology etc. Buddhism and its challenge to orthodoxy of Brahiminism is such an
- Social control – Every religion has the concepts of sins, virtues, heaven, good and bad. They guide the behavior of those who follow the religion.
- Integrative force – As stated by Durkheim, religion unites all those who believe in it.
- Intellectual function – It provides answers to many questions which are not answered by other bodies of knowledge. For example – process of life and death.
- Normative role – It is an ensemble of beliefs and practices which often act as moral guidelines as well.
- Solace and comforting function – Comforting people through illness, death, and other crisis. Malinowski saw religion as assisting the individual to cope with situations of stress or anxiety.
- Stabilization – Religion can change the social order or religion can stabilize the social order. Some sects in past have done this – for example Veershaiva Movement led by Baswesvara in Southern India led to a struggle against the unreasonableness of Brahmins.
- Ritual role – Religious conventions and practices also direct marriages, mutual relations of family members and so on. According to Hindu philosophy, ‘Kama’ is one of the four Purusharthas.
DYSFUNCTIONS OF RELIGION
- Conflict theorists like Marx also argue that religion acts as opium of masses and justifies the dominant ideology and exploitation.
- Religion hinders Social progress and impedes social changes – Religion makes people dogmatic.
- It promotes evil practices like sati and human sacrifice.
- Religion makes people fatalistic. Instead of human effort and worship they start believing on God’s desire and believe that everything is predestined. This kind of thinking make them idle.
- Religion promotes communalism by creating intolerance, mistrust, hatred and jealousy among people.
Religion is a social institution because it includes beliefs and practices that serve the needs of society. Religion is also an example of a cultural universal, because it is found in all societies in one form or another.