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Write a short paper (500 words) in which you explain what makes the sociological approach to the study of religion distinctive. Be sure to show how the sociology of religion differs from normative approaches such as philosophy and theology, and from other social scientific approaches (anthropology, psychology). Illustrate your essay with examples of different approaches to understanding the origins of religion.

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There exist five major forms of religion all over the world, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. For studying these religions, sociologists Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim differentiated them through experience, rituals, and beliefs related to each of them. Religious experience is basically described is the conviction or sensation which connects an individual to the ‘divine power'. This type of thought or feeling has been experienced when people do the prayer or meditation. Religious rituals are considered as the practices or behavior which are either required or expected by the members of a particular religious group (Furseth, &Repstad, 2017). Finally, the religious belief is defined as the specific ideas being considered to be true by the members of the religious group. For instance, Jesus Christ is considered the son of God by the Christian community.

Sociological approaches

According to sociologists that are basically three concepts for studying on religion:
• First, understanding the role of religions in society.
• Second, analysing the significance and impact of religion on human history. Based on the existence of God, Hindus, Jews, and Buddhism believe the distance of a universal spirit. On the other hand, Christians and Muslims have faith in the existence of God with absolute certainty.
• Third, understanding the related social forces as well as influences that modify the shape of a religion.

Among the different sociological approaches for differentiating religions include (Bowen, 2017), first one is "functionalism". According to this perspective, religion serves several purposes like emotional comfort, a place for social interaction, and answers to spiritual mysteries. In addition to this, the religious community also promotes social control and integrity, by reinforcing appropriate dressing style, law, and sexual behaviour. For example, certain communities of Islamic religion believe to wear ‘hijab'. The second approach is linked with the concept of "critical sociology". According to these sociologists, religion is considered as an institution that helps in maintaining patterns of social inequality within the society. For example, India comprises of various religious groups and also have an uneven social structure based on those religions. Similarly, under the socio-economic influence of Christianity, the Catholic Church, as well as Evangelical churches, are growing at a fastest rate in North America and South America. Lastly, the approach include "symbolic interactionism". In accordance to the arguments made by sociologists argued that beliefs and experiences are not sacred until it is regarded by a religious individual. In the case of Judaism, the Star of David is considered as their holy symbol. Similarly, the cross symbol in Christianity and the crescent-star symbol Islam are also viewed as sacred symbols.

The social theory takes the form of a reflexive theory which further tries to actualize the normative and socio-scientific approach. The normative approach for spirituality studies believes it as symbolic production (Pargament, Oman, and Pomerleau, 2017).


Religion describes the beliefs, practices, and values with respect to spiritual and sacred concerns. The functionalism, interactionism, and critical theory provide a valuable path for the sociologist to have a deeper understanding of various religions (Fuchs, &Rüpke, 2015).

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