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What Is the Sociology of Religion?

By Meghan Perry
Updated May 23, 2024
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The sociology of religion is the study of religion from a sociological standpoint. In other words, this branch of sociology studies how religions affect society and the individuals within a society, as well as how these elements affect religions. It focuses on how religion functions in society and the role that it plays on an individual up to a global scale. In the past, religion was considered inseparable from society, so the sociology of religion was a natural course of study.

To study this field, sociologists take an objective view. Some of the methods they may use to gather information could include interviewing people or conducting surveys, which are called qualitative methods. They may also perform experiments and use statistics to draw conclusions. This type of research is quantitative in nature. Using both methods provides a fairly well-rounded approach.

One thing that is important in the study of the sociology of religion is the history of religion and how it has affected society. It investigates how different religions started and have evolved throughout history. This can help sociologists draw conclusions about the current role of religion in society and may even help them predict future religious trends.

Professionals and students of this science also study religious beliefs in the context of society. They look at how people live, according to their beliefs, as well as the different ways that they worship. In many religions, worship is a time when people in society come together for a single purpose, and the sociology of religion looks at what kind of impact that has. The role that people's beliefs play in their personal relationships as well as the role religious beliefs play in the larger society are studied.

The role religion plays in worldwide conflicts is another area that sociologists of religion explore. They also look at the effects that the media has on religious beliefs and vice versa. How religion influences social issues, such as homosexuality, racism, or gender inequality, for example, are also areas of interest within the branch of sociology of religion.

One of the difficulties in the sociology of religion is the definition of religion itself. Many people have viewed the sociology of religion in vastly different ways, including the people who are often considered the founders of this branch of sociology: Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim. Their ideas, though different from each other, still influence the study of the sociology of religion today.

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Discussion Comments
By literally45 — On Jul 02, 2014

Do sociologists also look at religious books to understand the sociology of religion?

I think they should because there are a lot of clues in the Torah, Bible and Qur'an about what religion is, how it came about and how people became divided and separated.

I'm of the view that there is only one religion and we all belong to it. I don't believe that there are different religions, just different groups who differ on certain aspects of religion. So in my opinion, the cause of there being various "religions" is conflict -- social conflict.

By bear78 — On Jul 01, 2014

@ddljohn-- I'm not sure that that's true. Some people claim that the US is becoming more religious. I'm not an expert on this topic either. It's necessary to look at recent research on this topic.

There is no doubt that religion has always been influential on society and I think it will continue to be. Religion is one of the primary things that bring people together. Society organizes its relationships and lifestyle according to religious beliefs. It brings people together and helps people form bonds. At the same time, differences in religions and religious beliefs also set people apart and divide them.

I'm certain however that sociologists will always need to study religion in order to understand society.

By ddljohn — On Jul 01, 2014

We live in an era when secularism is becoming more prominent than religion. In the past, religion was a way of life for most cultures. Now, we prefer separating church from state. I think that the effects of religion on society is slowly decreasing although I'm sure that it also varies from one society to another.

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