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Social Institution: Religion - Admission/Application Essay Example

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The definition of religion is therefore divided in two major distinctions: substantive and functional. Substantive definition revolves around finding the meaning or the essence of religion – the very substance on which it is built and followed. This approach is about finding that essential element that constitutes a specific religion. For example, Islam is based upon the Oneness of God, whereas Buddhism hinges upon reincarnation, and reaching the state of Nirvana. Interestingly, Scientology, which is religion to some, is substantially based upon following the so-called ‘scientific’ way of living. Edward B Taylor (1873/1958) defined religion as ‘belief in spiritual beings’. The functional definition of religion is based upon finding the role that religion plays in societies; pointing out those functions that sets it apart from other social institutions and give it the coherence particularly found in religions. Milton Yinger (1970)2 argued that a social institution must be given the status of religion as such when it fulfills the manifest functions of a religious social institution. He argued that finding meaning in life was one of the paramount considerations of an individual and if a theory that sets out concrete guidelines on how to discover that meaning, then that theory could be thought of as religion. Secondly, if a religious theory attempts to solve problems of human life – the ultimate problems of human life, according to Yinger, are to find what death, injustice, evil, life and suffering mean – then that’s religion. According to this proposition, the definition of religion is expanded and quite a variety of forms of ‘religions’ could be accommodated. Similarly, Robert Bellah (1970c) proposed a definition of religion that was similar to Yinger’s as it was based upon discovering whether a certain religious theory addresses the questions material to human life: those relating to “ultimate concerns’’ of life. Now, that it is clear that all encompassing definition of religion is an impossible task, it is pertinent to evaluate how Functionalism, Conflict theories and Interactionism view of religion. Functionalism is a structural perspective that sees society as an interdependent system, where each social institution - education, religion, family, media, government – perform distinct roles to achieve greater harmony and solidarity. It assumes that society is a system that’s inherently stable with a tendency to create equilibrium by itself, thereby, creating harmony and integration. Thus, religion too for Functionalists perform that very function, it acts to bring the community closer, making it more inter-dependent on each part of the system and contributes towards maintaining stability and equilibrium. Emile Durkheim researched the Australiam aborigines and South Seas Islanders, in his The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912) he argued that the main purpose of religion, especially in primitive societies, was to bring them close to each other. The purpose was not to connect with a spiritual being or a higher Diety but to feel the oneness among them. Therefore, religion infused social cohesion and increased the sense of collectiveness among the individuals. In modern societies however, religion is used to overcome the crisis of modernity. The increasing isolation of the individual from his family, peers and ...Show more
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This approach is about finding that essential element that constitutes a specific religion. For example, Islam is based upon the Oneness of God, whereas Buddhism hinges upon reincarnation, and reaching the state of Nirvana…
Social Institution: Religion
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