According to Johnstone, religion is a phenomenon that is sacred, holy and one that has a supernatural bearing. Its subject matter involves the provision of answers to all questions for its members (13). Religion is a strong element of human character. According to Johnstone, religion is a phenomenon that actively shapes the life of a human being by changing his lifestyle and behavior patterns.
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In the study of religion, it is important to look at the reasons underlying the groupings in religious circles and the theory that strives to explain the emergence and development of new religious bodies from the existent ones. In addition, it is important to highlight the way in which one becomes religious and the reasons why religion arouses conflict (Jansen 12).
According to Johnstone, religion exists as a group phenomenon because it a result of social organization. Religion brings together individuals closer to one other. Religion has the effect of strengthening and addressing religious sentiments through fostering social group unity.
Religious bodies acquire their strength and recognition through the numbers of their members. On the other hand, members derive psychological strength from their religion. Here, religious bodies cannot exist without the sheer numbers of the members that form the group (Jansen 15). In addition, religion is a group phenomenon because religious organizations tend to organize themselves in groups known as congregations, fellowships, dioceses, and denominations (Johnstone 3).
Church sect theory is a theory used throughout the course of history by sociologists. The theory is a tool that advances various explanations in sociology regarding the development of religious movements. Applying the church sect theory provides insights regarding the emergence of religious movements that broke away from the main churches (Jansen 19).
It advances the idea that religion has a greater or lesser degree of tension with the secular world. Religion therefore exists to reduce these tensions that result to religion conflicts, changes as well as innovations. According to Johnstone, these tensions have resulted to establishments of new forms of religion and organizations that broke away from the main churches.
Such sects come up in an effort to purify religion (62). Over a long period, they gradually become recognized churches. However, to maintain their identity they have to struggle to preserve the tension that led to their establishment. The church sect theory explains the emergence of movements within the catholic and Methodist church. In addition, the theory strives to explain the development of religious bodies that are non-denominational as well as post denomination (Johnstone 64)
According to Jansen, a religious person is one who adheres or observes laid out doctrines. These doctrines dictate their behavior and lifestyle. In other words being religious involves living up to certain standards established by man (9). These standards have rituals and regulations that determine how one should lead his life.
Here, to become religious one has to invest time and sacrifice some tendencies. Religion is an aspect of self-development that allows one to belong and associate with a certain religious group. A person becomes religious when raised in a religious setting. The religious views of the parent influence the children. Children can become victims of indoctrination instead of education depending on the religious affiliation (Jansen 17).
According to Jansen, many people have regarded religion to be a source of conflict. Historically, religion has been among the leading factors that have fueled wars, divisions, hatred, violence, and persecutions (18). Conflicts among most ethnic groups are of religious nature. Members in a pluralist society identify a Deity that they worship and recognize as the highest authority.
Conflict arises because not all groups share the same sentiments regarding the highest authority. Religion presents different faces in various circumstances. For instance, when there is peace and prosperity the religious bodies preach harmony and tranquility.
In turn, the believers accept one another despite the religious boundaries that separate them (Jansen 18). Denominational boundaries are not significant in these cases. However, religion presents another face when there is rise in tensions. The believers give up their free will to follow the sacred cause. Here, the members may even give up their lives in pursuing the sacred cause.
According to Jansen, the motivation to pursue the cause comes about because of the religious faith and the religious seal of approval. A sacred or religious seal approves and justifies actions that are in pursuance to the sacred cause. In addition, the religion finds ways to justify actions that resulted to conflict and bloodshed against people in other denominations. The conflict in religion comes about because every religion has a perversion.
In conclusion, religion has the capability of driving its followers in two directions. The followers can choose to be evil or good doers. According to Jansen, human beings have the capability of misusing religion to serve their selfish interests. Here, the believer has the option to choose his own way (49).
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Jansen, Henry. Religion, Conflict and Reconciliation. New York: Macmillan, 2002. Print
Johnstone, Ronald. Religion in Society, Sociology of Religion. Pearson: Prentice-Hall, 2007. Print.