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Discuss Reasons Why Sociologists Find It Difficult To Agree On A Definition Of Religion (20 Marks)

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Discuss Reasons Why Sociologists Find It Difficult To Agree On A Definition Of Religion (20 Marks) What is religion? How can you define it? Can you give it one universal definition? Highly unlikely, as religion can be, and has been, defined in many ways. It can be called a belief in some kind of supernatural power by one person, then a set of moral values that guide action by another. It all depends on the simple fact of from what viewpoint you are looking at religion from. Durkheim defines religion as shared beliefs and practices that unites communities and creates social solidarity. Durkheim studied Australian Aborigines. The Aborigines each had a totem, be it a plant, animal or object. This totem was a symbol of both their God and their clan. In other words they were worshipping their God on a conscious level and themselves on a sub-conscious one. What he's trying to say is that it's not a belief in supernatural powers, but a certain admiration and respect for what that group of people considers sacred, which could be anything. ...read more.


The Saints didn't answer their prayers so they are punished even though they're considered sacred and superior. Malinowski (1954) studied the Trobriand Islanders. The Trobriand Islanders prayed to and worshipped the sea, in other words if bad things happened people begged the sea for mercy and if something good happened they praised the sea for its kindness, and accept this for the simple reason that 'that's just the way things are'. He found that religion played a big role in promoting social solidarity in times of emotional need and stress, eg, weddings, funerals, engagements. Basically he's trying to say that religion acts as the foundation of a culture, a supporting structure you could say that keeps everything working the way it should be. Parsons (1965) followed on from Malinowski to say that religion is our source of meaning, how we answer the difficult questions such as, 'why do people die?', it's a way for us to forget our problems and load them on somebody else's shoulders, for example, God's shoulders. ...read more.


They believe that someone who is truly liberated has no need for religion. That 'Man makes religion, religion does not make man, in other words religion is the self-consciousness and slef feeling of man who has either not yet found himself, or has already lost himself again.' (Marx). This makes sense when the growing amount of religions over the past few decades are taken into consideration. As you can see, there are many ways to look at religion, all with points that make sense and points that don't. Religions differ from place to place, culture to culture, many have similarities, but, overall, they're not the same. Besides, when looking into religion from a sociological perspective, one answer brings about more questions, this creates criticism for that definition. Because so many perspectives attempt to give a religion a 'personalised' definition they find themselves overlapping, all with a point or no point at all, or maybe a combined point, it depends on how devoted to their perspectives the sociologists attempting to give the definition are. In other words, Marxism, Functionalism, etc, the actual sociological perspectives of each group in society reflects their perspectives on religion, and as they all have different view points and opinions, they cannot agree. ...read more.

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