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'Religion may be losing its power at an institutional level, but it still retains immense influence over individual consciousness.'Evaluate the sociological evidence for and against this point of view.

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Introduction

20th January 2004 'Religion may be losing its power at an institutional level, but it still retains immense influence over individual consciousness.' Evaluate the sociological evidence for and against this point of view. Statistical evidence suggests that in terms of institutional religion, membership is in decline in Britain and in much of the rest of the world. Church attendance figures show a continuing drop in attendance throughout the twentieth century particularly in Anglican, Baptist and Catholic Churches. It has also been found that the number of children being baptised has dropped from 65% of the British child population to only 27%. Many sociologists use these statistics as support for their hypothesis in the secularisation of our society. However an equal number disregard these facts as evidence of secularisation, arguing that for our society to become secular there must be a decline in religious belief not just Church membership. Institutional religion can be defined as a large organisation, that has particular codes of conduct, values and morals which members are supposed to follow. Private belief is when an individual has their own set of beliefs and moral guidelines to follow, worship and abidance to these rules are conducted personally and internally. ...read more.

Middle

For example today it is impractical for all workers to rest on the Sabbath therefore it is no longer considered unholy to work on a Sunday allowing many to conduct their own worship in their own time. Consequently it is impossible to use research on the Church and other institutional religions as evidence of secularisation. Individuation is the natural evolution of religion whereby religion has not decreased but simply changed to become more personal to the individual. Bellah can be faulted however for his lack of evidence in individuation in wider Western society and also for his definition of religion being too vague Parsons argued that through generalisation religious teachings have become an integral part of our society. Rather than there being a number of different teachings and values in one society, the institutional religion (in Britain it is Christianity) doctrine has become more generalised and embedded into modern culture. Parsons uses the example of healthcare. When the Church was at its height of power it was responsible for the running of the Hospitals, rather than the State. Religion was a major part of caring for the sick. ...read more.

Conclusion

Weber argued against individuation also, claiming that the supernatural belief has been banished from our society and all meanings and motives are governed by rational belief instead. Weber called this Desacrilisation. Wilson developed the argument for desacrilisation citing four reasons for the dissolution of supernatural conviction. Firstly the rise in Protestantism, which Wilson argues encourages rational thought and behaviour. Secondly the rational organisation of society, this can be related to the fact that with a greater equilibrium in society this has lessened ????????????/. Finally the development of rational ideologies such as Communism have highlighted negativity within religious institutions (for example Marx's claim that 'Religion is the opium of the people'). Desacrilisation can be denounced for its lack of hard data, it almost appears that much of the theory is based on the impressions of particular researchers. When looking at society from a different perspective it is clear to see that the supernatural does play a significant role in our lives. An example being belief in superstitions such as walking under a ladder or making a wish when you break a wish bone or blow out candles. To imply that supernatural belief has been banished from our society would eradicate all superstitious related actions, yet they are still prevalent in our society. ...read more.

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