In most of the societies that we have in the world today, the aspect of religion is present. It is worth noting that although the nature of worshipping may be different, one thing in common; they all believe that there is a supernatural being that is responsible for the current state of the world today. That is the reason why sociologists have endeavored to get the finer details of such religions so that they can have a chance to compare them and get some of the striking features that are common amongst them.
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What makes the sociological approach to the study of religion distinctive?
The sociological approach to the study of religion is unique in itself. This is because it tries to explain some of the religious issues from a sociological point of view. Inger (2006) points out that some of the prominent contributors to this debate are well-grounded in the sociology field. They include Marx Muller, James Frazer, and Herbert Spencer. He argues that Muller propounded the naturalistic theory, in which he argued that religion originated from people’s universal experience of being confronted by the infinite. He pointed out that people named these powers in a connoting manner, and it is after they meditate upon such powers that a name such as God is brought forth. Therefore, the rest is left to sociologists who have the mandate of digging more information on this area as they seek to understand a people’s way of life.
Ronald (2006) states that James Frazer looked at the peoples’ thoughts on the origin of religion from a sociological point of view. According to Frazer, people used to solve their problems using magic, an act that had been accepted in society. Later on, they moved to religion when magic failed to answer some of their pertinent questions. With time, he postulated that people would abandon religion and move to science as they seek more explanation of the current situation in the world. Therefore, Ronald (2006) asserts that sociologists look at some of these issues because they are affecting the society that sociologists are keeping an eye on.
Malcolm (2001) points out that Herbert Spencer looked at the peoples’ interpretation of dreams. Spencer had noted that in their dreams, people experience ghosts that appear and disappear at will. As a result of this, Spencer argued that such ghosts could be worshipped as people tend to treat such ghosts with much reverence. Malcolm (2001), therefore, argues that sociologists would go a step further and carry out a thorough analysis of such communities, whose religion is based on a belief in ghosts worship.
Difference between the sociology of religion and other disciplines
According to Nick (2008), the philosophy of religion has zeroed in on some of the pertinent questions like the existence of God, His nature, and the relevance of his existence to mankind. Therefore, we can say, unlike the sociology of religion that tries to look at the origin of religion, the philosophy of religion seeks to answer the above-stated points regarding God. Richard (2002) claims that theology, on the other hand, is concerned with understanding a religion. He notes that theology is mainly a reserve of Christians, while Sociology of religion focuses on all forms of religion we have in the world today.
According to Richley (2003), anthropology concerns itself with the comparison of religious organizations based on the culture of the entire society. He says that unlike the sociology of religion that focuses on all religions, anthropologists focus on a particular religion in relation to the culture of that society.
In regard to the sociology of religion and psychology, Edward (2007) points out that psychologists attempt to explain the behaviors of people in relation to their region. He claims that psychologists concentrate on a particular group at a time to make a keen study on them. This is in contrast to the sociology of religion that tends to focus on people’s understanding of the origin of religion.
Religion plays an important role in the life of mankind. Therefore, every attempt should be made to enhance peaceful coexistence amongst people from different religious backgrounds, as this is known to be a source of conflict in a number of countries.
Edward, T. (2007). The Psychology of Religion and the Subconscious. New York: Routledge. Web.
Inger, F. (2006). An introduction to the sociology of religion: classical and contemporary perspectives. Aldershot: Ashgate Published Limited. Web.
Malcolm, B. (2001). The sociology of religion: theoretical and comparative perspectives. New York: Routledge. Web.
Nick, T. (2008). The end of philosophy of religion. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. Web.
Richard, H. (2002). Religion, theology, and the human sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Web.
Richley, H. (2003). Anthropology of religion: the unity and diversity of religions. Pennsylvania: McGraw-Hill. Web.
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Ronald, L. (2006). Religion in society: Sociology of religion. Michigan: Prentice Hall. Web.