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Role of Religion in Society

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Religion has the power to influence and change the society. It can shape one feeling, give hope and something to believe in. Spiro cited in Albaugh (2007) defines religion as an institution consisting of culturally patterned interaction with culturally postulated superhuman. The sociological tradition of Marx, Weber and Durkheim view religion totally different, yet they both agree that religion is very important aspect of society. Both argue that religion is the creation of the society. The society create religion to promote a set of shared values and beliefs in some form of god. It can also be noted that some theories of religion gives a positive view on religion whilst others argues on the negative lenses of religion. It is in light of this paper to examine the role of religion in society using classical sociologist.

Classical sociologist offers a divergent of perspective on the role of religion in society. Comte, Durkheim, Weber and Marx as classical sociologist offer a wide array of thoughts and ideas regarding religion. Firstly Marx chose to view religion as a tool used to justify and preserve the class system. In Marx lenses religion play a significant role in the beliefs and values that encompass any social order (Olson 2004). Religion is used by those in power to justify their position so that people will never question their authority. However, Durkheim also argue that religion brings social order, the society will be guided by norms and values that a society instils and the society will adhere to these norms and values. Beckford and James (2003) posit that Durkheim believed that, religion was a socially constructed institution, serving the needs of society by socialising members into the same norms, values and beliefs, therefore reinforcing the collective conscience upon which the stability of society rests. In light of the above both Marx and Durkheim believe that religion is a social construction that aim to serve certain interest.

Furthermore, is used by oppressors to make people feel better about the distress they experience due to being poor and exploited. Religion can be seen as the opiate of the people. Here, Marx is suggesting that just like opium, religion is trying to relieve people of the pain and suffering in their lives. Hamilton and Malcolm (1995) argue that religion also helps in preserving the existing social order by making life more bearable, and by justifying exploitation and the class system that results from capitalism. Thus, it can be seen that Marx chooses to adopt a negative view of religion. This is the same view shared by Durkheim that religion brings stability in the society and prevent change and maintain the status quo. According to Durkheim cited in Olson (2004) religion also provides social control, cohesion, and purpose for people, as well as another means of communication and gathering for people to interact and reaffirm social norms.The biggest reason that society needs religion is to regulate behavior. The only different with the view of both school is that Marx puts the role of religion in a negative way whilst Durkheim in a positive way. In

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