Sociological Perspectives Religion
Religion as a social institution is a powerful. deeply felt. and influential force in human society. Sociologists study the social institution of religion because of the importance that religion holds Cor many people; they also want to know more about thf influence of religion on society. and vice vena. For example. some people believe that the introduction of prayer or religious instruction in public schools would have a positive effect on the teaching of values such as honesty. compassion. courage. and tolerance because these values coulJ be given a moral foundation. However. society
has strongly influenced the practice of religion in the United Stctes as a result of court rulings and laws that have limited religious activities in public settings. including schools. The major sociological perspectives (which are summarized in the Concept Quick Review) have different outlouks on the relationship between religion and society. Functionalists typically emphasize the ways in which religious beliefs and rituals can bind people together. Conflict explanations suggest that religion can be a source uf false consciousness in society.
Symbolic interactionists focus on the meanings that people give to religion in their everyday lives.