The essay is a critical analysis of why religion plays such an important role in any given society. It has been showed that religion or worship is a significant part of the life of every person in this world. For this reason, religion can be defined in various ways depending on personal beliefs as well as cultural views.
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For the purpose of this paper, religion will be thought of as “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden-beliefs and practices which united in one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them” (Spilka, Hood & Gorsuch 47).
I content that the major reason why religion plays such an important role in the society rests on its various contributions to shape the society. Ideally, religion is one of the most significant aspects controlling the whole mankind. It is worth noting that although the issue of religion include the definite attitude towards various such themes as wars, disagreement and tension, it has provided mankind with something to rely on when the person has some troubles or hesitates how he/she should act when some difficult situation occurs.
Ideally, almost every religion is based on some holy book or doctrine which defines its rules and guides its flock. Examples include the Bible, Koran or Talmud which provide the followers with instructions for living their life according to the stated norms. The most common points which are discussed and examined in many religions are compassion on people who need to be supported in a trying moment, understanding of what is good and what is bad and being kind in response to animosity.
According to two of sociology’s greatest thinkers, Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim, religion is a vital aspect of society. They both believed it to be socially constructed; man created religion, religion did not create a man. Society created religion to meet certain needs of its members (Johnson 44). Religion is a significant aspect of our lives even in the modern society since it can become the only thing that can console and give a person an opportunity to reflect on the things that happen in his/her life and restore his/her balance. Additionally, society consists of the people.
That is why, it is important to understand that we form this society, all its values and even its system of beliefs on our own. Religion is what determines the norms which a society should follow (Spilka, Hood & Gorsuch 89).
Role of religion
Someone is watching
Spilka, Hood & Gorsuch 129 argued that religion played a significant part in any society since there is a belief that someone is watching all of us, so people should be responsible for their actions. They believe that when one leads a good life, he or she will be rewarded while those who make a lot of mistakes will be punished. It is important to bear in mind that all followers of every religion will do their best to present their system of beliefs in the most favorable light.
Mankind was not brought on earth to float unconsciously but to fulfill great as well as small missions as it is dictated by the various types of religious doctrines. Moreover, due to its norms and rules, religion gives us an opportunity to improve ourselves to become kinder and more compassionate on people as well as enrich our inner life. It thus follows that if individuals become better, then the world that we live in will also improve and become a place we are dreaming of.
In addition, mankind contents that various problems encountered can be successfully handled if the religious moral codes are followed. Without religion, a powerful tool of self-development, we would turn into animals. Having adopted religion since the times of Adam and Eve, the same has been transmitted from one generation to another (Carter 203). To support this point, it is evident that religion continues playing a significant role in any society.
For instance, in America, the first inhabitants were Christians who were very eager to find the answers to their actions in their religion. These people saw themselves as active agents of divine providence. This strong faith reflected in the next generation. It is for this reason that we still see people attending or visiting a place of worship over the weekends which is an index of religious practice all over the world (Spilka, Hood & Gorsuch 61).
Ability to solve current social problems
It is a fact that religion is based on certain philosophies, for example, the one developed by Emmanuel Kant who advocated for an action that may become a universal law. Religion has an enormous ability to tackle such present social problems, as prostitution, corruption, wars, political injustices, discrimination among other issues of concern (Johnson 42).
Various scholars have shown that when people indulge in religious practices, there are higher chances of such activities as “sexual permissiveness, teen pregnancy, suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism, increased self esteem, family togetherness, general well-being of the society among others” (Johnson 39). Additionally, sociologists have established that religion plays even a bigger role in ensuring that families remain intact despite the presence of external and internal forces that could tear it apart.
With the understanding of these issues, societies have tried to transmit the same to the coming generations. It is worth mentioning that majority of people in the society have increasingly criticized the current life with increasing violence as well as lower level of ethical standards. This makes individuals ask themselves if they need to accept or decline its religious influences. Leaders in political arena associate themselves with one section of religious activities, so that they can give their followers direction.
Although there are countries such as the United States where the government does not fund development and construction of religious buildings, there are other countries such as Singapore where the government funds construction of the mosques (Carter 128).
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Religion and politics
It is shown again and again that religion has both the positive and negative influence on politics, environment, social as well as economics. Since people identify themselves with a given religious background, this has brought problems in the society. It is worth noting that the current fights where hundreds of people are killed and more are injured, for instance, in Nigeria stem from the concept of religion.
It is evident that Muslim and Christian are at loggerheads over the leadership of the country to control its vital resources such as oil. Because of religion, it is easy for tension to develop particularly when it comes to issues relating to leadership. When one group takes the rule over the country, the other feels sidelined and starts strategizing on how to acquire the leadership since it perceives to be discriminative, which may not be case.
It is religious influence that makes some countries in the Middle East have a very negative attitude towards western counties and particularly the United States of America. Policies have been put in place to target at certain religious groups which in turn make them feel discriminated (Johnson 26). The result of such an action is that the group, which feels sidelined, will grow stronger in their faith and try to fight for their rights.
This stems from the belief that religion gives people a sense of identity. It is also important to note that religion plays an important role in the process of policy making. Most of the constitutions in the world are arrived at after consulting the religious sectors. There are some religious leaders who have managed to use people’s faith to their own advantage enriching themselves and satisfying their own needs. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that there is an evidence of religious prejudice in judiciary systems, educational institutions as well as financial establishments.
There are also cases where individuals who try to challenge such myths are condemned. Moreover, there are countries where religion plays a very significant role in the legislature having a great influence on the political, economical and social life of some state. While in the name of upholding morality, religion has prosecuted men and women based on their sexual orientation racial preferences among others.
Religion as a sense of identity
As suggested by Carter (78), individuals or society cannot be detached from religion. Religion has been found to act as a source of solidarity and identity for the people who live within a given society. Ideally, religion provides a meaning for life, offers those under it authority to figure out and more importantly reinforce the morals and social norms held by a given society.
It is worth stating that in addition to providing people with support they need in a trying moment, religion also brings people together, unite them when they gather in the holy places for some assemblies and services. People are connected emotionally and can later talk of other important issues relating to environment, politics and economy due to such religious practices.
As put forth by sociologists, religion provides its followers with the place where they can feel a part of something great and whole as well as interact and reaffirm the social norms. In addition to providing individual and a group of people with identity, religion helps individuals to change socially in situations where various norms are critically analyzed (Carter 46).
From the review of why religion plays such an important role in any society, it is evident that it is not easy to detach society from religion. Similarly, religion is as old as the mankind. The reason why religion plays an important role in any society indeed rests on the major roles it plays in society.
In this paper, it has been found that the belief that someone or something is watching us from above, the ability to give mankind a sense of belonging and identity and solve societal problems in the present century, and the influence on politics, economy and society make religion play a significant role in any given society. It is worth noting that religion has brought both the positive and negative aspects to the society. It is contented that religion may take a variety of forms and will continue giving meaning of life.
Carter, Stephen. The Culture of Disbelief. New York: Anchor Books, 1994. Print.
Johnson, Paul. “God and the Americans.” CommentaryMagazine.com. Commentary, January 1995. Web.
Spilka, Bernard, Hood, Ralph & Gorsuch, Richard. The Psychology of religion: An Empirical Approach. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1998. Print.