Faith and Sociology

From the moment I began doing sociology at AS level I have often asked myself this question. Does sociology affect your faith? We often had heated debates about this in class which lead to a range of different responses. Those who have studied Sociology at some stage are likely to have an instant response of ‘Yes! It does’. Where as others, will remain adamant that it does not and it is in fact dependent on the person and the strength of their faith in the religion that they believe in.

Before you make your mind up imagine that you are learning about these topics on a daily basis and you are forced to ingest them in preparation for gruelling exams; you then begin to actually think about what you are learning on a deeper level and try to make it make more sense to you. But when you pick up the text book and read things like ‘Marxists argue that religion is a tool which is used to control and oppress the lower classes’ and ‘Feminists argue that religion reinforces and legitimates male patriarchy and is simply another way for men to control women’ it begins to sink in to the point where you are debating with yourself whether these statements are true or not. The three ‘founding fathers’ of sociology; Durkheim, Marx and Weber all agree that religion was a ‘fundamental sense of illusion’ So basically implying that none of it is real but it is just moulded by humans into whatever they wants it to be like. For example the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach believed that we humans project what we lack unto a higher being and worship them so would idolise someone who portrays an image of perfection which could not be like us in any way because we always tell ourselves that nobody’s perfect… Sound like a convincing argument to you yet?

Karl Marx probably produced the most radical theories about Religion arguing that religion simply kept the working classes under the control of the higher classes so that they could exploit them and keep them in their ‘place’. Also stopping them from addressing questions regarding their lack of finances or social class as the answer would just be that it is God Given.

Feminists come a close second with their ideology that religion only benefits men and women are rarely praised for their hard work within this sector and are also not seen as capable of being authoritative figures such as females pope’s or Imams. And the funny thing about sociology is that it directly has correlations to everyday life and society so this is another factor that could sway your views on certain topics.

So after reading this have your views changed? Are you now puzzled over unanswered questions that still remain a mystery? This is what sociology aims to do, stimulate the mind. But the question is whether or not this is such a good thing or not. Nevertheless after years or deliberation over this topic, I am still in two minds. On one side it can be said that if someone believes in something strongly enough then nothing can change their mind about it. Afterall, for centuries there have been sceptics of religion who throw fierce criticisms at it, yet believers always fight back with an intellectual answer. Which just goes to show how powerful the human mind can be once a belief is strong, which in many ways is quite uplifting to know.

Whether or not you hold a specific view on his argument it really does get you thinking. Sociology seeks to answer questions but some questions are just harder to answer than others, especially for us human beings who do not know everything but continue to search for the answers to the questions we so desperately want answered. Nonetheless whatever your faith whether you’re atheist, agnostic or a theist stay true to what you believe in but don’t be afraid to explore outside of the bubble of belief, this can be a healthy way of strengthening your beliefs.


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