Almost everybody has a grip what religion is even though they have never joined any religion group or has any affiliation with this people. Religion on a shallow view is organised in such a way that it extends its impacts not only to the official members but also to the non members, various kinds of humanity and even to the different social institutions like schools, families and many more. Therefore this paper has discussed in details the definition of sociology, the various sociological assumptions, the definition of magic and religion and even their differences, not forgetting their similarities in relation to the sociological perspective. The paper has also detailed the theory and practices of various religious groups in accordance with their religion norms and beliefs.
Sociology is the study of how people relate and interact with each others in groups and the impact of this interaction on the human being character and behaviours. Therefore its main goals are to understanding the components of group life in relation to the types of groups, how they function, operate and their differences from other groups. It also helps the in understanding of the impact of groups on the individual behaviour and the total behaviour in the society. Therefore the central sociology has many assumptions which includes, the assumption that human action is directed towards problem solving, human character assumption and the fact that all sociological phenomena are interrelated
The human nature assumption mainly addresses the neglect on the definition of human behaviour.
The underlined assumptions on the definition of human nature include the biological organism human assumption, the distinctive ability to express human nature to symbols and others. The biological human organism stipulates that human beings are biological in nature with physiological capabilities, wants, drives and disadvantages. Therefore religion is one of the socializing agents which transform the biological human character. On the other side, the unique ability of people to symbols, stresses that human beings have the capacity to temporarily attach certain meanings to sounds, words and even things, but only to the one which people have created. This has enabled people to communicate ideas, and transmit knowledge from one person and place to another. The sociological assumptions also states that people become human only in groups, meaning that social groups are very instrumental to all human survival.
All the actions exhibited and taken by human beings are aimed at solving problems. This assumption works on the principle that every human action is in some form and degree for a problem solving mechanism. Human beings are engaged in the process of problem solving almost in every activity they undertake for example, working getting married, planning a party and even genuflecting.
Therefore religion behaviour is also a problem solving mechanism just like other activities since it involves praying, attending church services, observing religious laws and having accumulated experiences. Though religion solves and creates problems but people engage in the religious activities in their belief that such behaviours can solve problems or assist in avoiding such problems.
The final sociological assumption is based on the fact that all social phenomena are within a given group or society and the regions are interrelated. All social phenomena are continually interrelated and every part is connected to each other. For example a religion is influenced by many factors and it also influences many activities and even people’s behaviour hence the activities, the people and the religion are interconnected.
It is an open fact that religion is a social phenomenon; therefore religion has many meanings in relation to various scholars and sociologists who defined it and came up with two main definitions which include the substantive and functional definition.
Religion has many characteristics which differentiates it from other social groups .The main distiquishing characteristics include the fact that religion is a group phenomenon because it involves the concept of fellowship. Religion is the first group phenomenon and physical in nature because there are many places of worship almost everywhere around us and. For example we have clear mental picture of the groups of people assembling together in prayers, praise and songs in those local places. This is also evident as we see thousands of people kneeling down in prayer while facing Mecca on the floor when they are in their mosque.
Therefore religion is a group phenomenon even though sometimes it begins with an individual who perhaps had a vision to accomplish of feels has a special insights t share with peoples. Therefore religion is composed of a group of people who organise themselves into groups and respects what groups holds to be true. The religion is a group phenomenon since it shares the major characteristics of groups which includes, two or more people who have established certain pattern of interaction and group of members including communication with one another. The religious groups also share a major common goal hence that is why they come together for religious services. The group is also guided with the shared norms and every member of the group has a role and they function in accordance with the status systems and lastly group members feel and express a sense of identification with the group.
The second and the most important of a religion is that it implies body of belies, which are norms and therefore have implicitly been incorporated in the already discussed characteristics of a group. All major religions in the world and some inferior ones have their holy books that states the basis of explaining the beliefs various religion groups holds, for example the Holy bible which expounds the belief held by Christians, the Koran which explains the belief held by Muslims and many more. Religious groups have additional beliefs apart from the one stated in the holy books which include the extensions and interpretations of the lesser prophets and successors to the founder of the religion.
Religion, universally involves a set o specific practices which constitutes the spelling and explanation of some normative expectations. For example the religion consist of behaviour rather than, altitudes and perspectives which include the performance of rituals and hosting of other activities required and dictated by the belief of the religion, the gathering to worships, the rain dance, the sacrifice of animal or a person, the ceremonial foot washing and many more, all constitutes the religious set of practices.
Religion also involves moral prescription in the entire moral dimension. Moral prescription refers to the judgement done by religious groups or systems on whether certain thought, actions and ideas are important and worthwhile or not and whether these thoughts, actions and ideas should be encouraged, and be positively reinforced. It also focuses on whether these good ideas and thoughts should be encouraged. Religion advocates for certain behaviours with the aim of encouraging following to the selection of such behaviours in everyday situations. For example you should do something or desist from it because God accepts or condemns it, a particular group says so, or in accordance with what the group leaders say. Therefore the religion invokes the divine in order to shape the behaviour of people in both situations or those defined as religious but are ordinary in our daily routine.
Religion involves the sacred. Religion has universal tendency to encourage awe, holiness and even fear with regard to some things, human beings and situations hence tries to differentiate them from the ordinary. For example the old Jews removed their sandals, upon entering the temple, many Christians especially Catholics make a sign of cross while praying to God; Hindus provide the cow the right way and the respect. Therefore various people in groups usually identify certain beings, events and even objects as sacred.
Another important aspect of religion which cannot be forgotten is the magic, which can be explained best by the clear understanding of the Mana which is common in traditional religion and religious systems of modern societies as well. For example it is noted that Mana appeared in various religion and it is given many names such as, Darshan in the Hindu religion, divine grace in the Christian community and Manito in some American Indians and many more. Therefore Mana is an essential component of magic upon which those who believe in it, proclaim that they stay in the world and everything they do Mana has a hand. Even though Mana exists in people, things, animals and many more; it remained impotent until it is evoked by something so that it can function well.
Therefore in order to define religion formally, one must understand the components of religion collected so as to have a comprehensive definition of this term. Therefore religion is a set of beliefs, and rituals in which particular group of people seeks to understand, explain and cope with a complex world, eventualities and mystery by identifying a divine canopy to explain and affirm to cope with current situations ,complex problems and other prevalent difficulty in the modern society.
Religion and magic for a long time been assumed to be the same but the two have various differences which is evident in the way they shape the human character and behaviour. First and foremost religion is future oriented, while magic is merely concerned with the current situations at hand. Religion is also alignment towards a supernatural being while magic is less of manipulative and suggests pride than that of humility. Another deference between magic and religion is that religion is concerned with the group activity with many people collectively participate in the activity such as rituals and worshiping whereas magic is entirely a personal affair of the magician against the world. . Religion in most cases focuses on issues such as salvation, meaning of life and death, whereas magic is more employed in the situations, and even emotional situation which offer no solutions to various problems faced by mankind
Though there exists many differences between magic and religion, the two have some profound similarities which cannot go undefined. To begin with, both religion and magic are serious attempt to deal with and find solutions to various problems people experience in their daily lives. The two are also based on faith existence and ability of power which is invisible and can only be seen in result manifested by these powers. Both religion and magic are important members of the large culture of the groups and have well laid down norms and taboos which have to be followed strictly to the later, these two also grow out of situations of emotional distress such as divorce, anger which has been turned to hate, life crisis, deaths and many more life endeavours. In addition both lay, how to escape from
The sociology of religion has developed for a long period of and the main factors which facilitated this development were numerous and some of the identifiable factors include: the everywhere existence of various forms of religion and various widespread of religious behaviours and practices. Therefore many scientists and others who were interested in studying religion could not succeed because the difficulty of scrutinizing all the religions which were widespread. Second factor which significantly made it almost impossible to the study and development of religion was the close relationship between religion and philosophy made. Therefore it was practically impossible and difficult for most sociologists to thoroughly understand and learn more on religion.
Some scholars especially those who were teaching in state universities feared of lowering their positions and status if they had to overstep the boundary separating religion and state hence could not study religion hence negatively influenced the development of religion. Many people were also discouraged by the mere assumption that religion was on its stages of extinction therefore had no interest and decided not to waste their time in such activities which led to underdevelopment of religion. Finally sociologists, scholars and others who had early rejected the religion were reluctant to maintain any contact with the church therefore lost interest in religion and its study as well.
Despite all these difficulty experienced in the development of religion it still managed to develop and be where it is today. This is attributed to the fact that many scholars and even sociologists developed interest in the religion and explored more on the religion. Some other factors which facilitated the growth and spreading of religion include the persistence of religion in its various forms finally forced sociologist and other scholars to renew their efforts which were contrary to what had been initiated by their early fathers hence studied more on religion which increased the development and spread of religion. Therefore according to Johnston, religion consists of beliefs, taboos, norms; moral practices which are held in sacred by particular group of people. The religious moral practices and prescription are only accepted within a particular group.
Johnstone, Ronald. “Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion”. eighth edition, Pearson, Prentice-Hall, 2007. ISBN: 0131884077.