Sociological Perspectives on Religion


Religion gives people a sense of purpose and helps them cope with the stresses of life.

Religion is an important part of many people’s lives, but it’s also an area of great debate. While many people misuse it for their own selfish ends, there are a number of saints and religious figures who have made significant contributions to society and humanity.

Sociological Perspectives on Religion

Ideally, religion serves several functions for society (Emerson, Monahan, & Mirola, 2011). These include giving meaning and purpose to life, reinforcing social unity and stability, serving as an agent of social control of behavior, promoting physical and psychological well-being, and motivating people to work for positive social change.

There are three main sociological perspectives on religion.

Conflict and Symbolic Interactionist Approaches

The conflict perspective emphasizes the negative effects that religion can have on individuals and society, including inequality, discrimination and violence. Inequality is an important factor in social conflicts, and religion can help to promote or reinforce this inequality.

In contrast, the symbolic interactionist approach emphasizes the positive aspects of religion. This includes a sense of connection and communion, trancelike states, emotional and psychological wellbeing, and a feeling of oneness with others.

Functional Definitions of Religion

In the twentieth century, three different approaches to defining religion emerged–the substantive definition of “belief in an unusual kind of reality”; the functional definition that drops the substantive element and instead determines membership in the category by a distinctive role that a form of life can play in one’s life; and the monothetic-set definition that treats the concept as referring to a multifaceted or multidimensional complex.