Beliefs and values of religion guides human action, both at the individual as well as from the society level. Thus religion and social dimensions are corollary to each other. The interest of sociologists in studying religion can be attributed to the increasing importance of it in motivating people. Further it is studied to understand the influence of society and religion on each other. Theories related to religion are also very crucial. Attempts to explain religion, its role in the society and at the individual level had begun in the nineteenth century and twentieth century. Writers such as Marx, Weber, Freud, and others had expressed their opinion through various theories (Swatos, n.d). In this light the paper would focus on the impact of sociological theories, functionalism, conflicts, and interactionism on religion. In the last two centuries the topic which has attracted the attention of the scholars is the nature of religion. Definition and any sort of discussions of religion have been based upon a close understanding of “humanity” and “human nature.” Hence most of the theories in the 19th century have an influence of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Here it is important to note that such theories are not unmotivated. Instead their existence is there because of a particular social context and as a response to a particular scenario they are written (Kunin, 2003). Impact on religious institutions and individuals Religious institutions perform a religious mission which is backed by faith. The existence of such institutions lies in the fact that their main work is to serve the vulnerable. A potential source of social platform is provided by religious institutions (Pearce & Denton. 2011). Sociologists while writing anything about religion are not concerned with the fairness of the religion. Their main concern is what the religion can do in future. The sociological theories also have impact on individuals who together constitute a family. Family is an institution and sociological theories affect it significantly. Functionalism in case of family implies that there is a head of the family responsible for earning income. The members are interdependent and they develop a “psychological bond” which gives them the required social support. Sociological theories by eminent sociologists attempted to explain their views about religious institutes. The existence of such institutions will be there as long as they are defended and not out of any “functional necessity or human need” (Edbaugh, 2005 p.416). Impact on social change Weber’s social theories were based on the fact that there was need to break away from the “materialistic” and “idealistic” methods of explanation. His views were neither scientific nor revolutionary. They were basically an outcome of the political scenario in Germany (Deflame, 2004). However the theories do form a basis for running a State irrespective of the fact that which country was kept in mind while it was formulated. Functionalism Functionalism has been a popular theory of religion in the 20th century. It has been of immense importance to social scientists. The term was “coined” by Bronislaw Malinowski but Emile Durkheim is considered the founding father of functionalism. It provides a guideline for those who study cultures and even religions. He wanted scholars to interpret the beliefs and rituals in terms of the function that they fulfill. In other words he wanted scholars to emphasize what the beliefs do for the culture. Purpose is not the function according to the functionalists. For example,
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