Religion As a Social InstitutionReligious institution is the basic social institution found in all societies of the world. Religious beliefs and worships are as old as prehistoric period. Religion is an institution to answer the questions that no other institution can give about our source of coming into the world, our destination after death etc. According to A. Wallace, research the concept of religion existed one lac years before. Modern industrial Society has affected religion along with other fields of life by promoting secularism and reducing religion as a personal and family matter.
Emile Durkheim was the first sociologist to describe the detailed description and explanation of religion by accepting the facts that worldwide the definition of religion was not possible.
Definitions of ReligionEmile Durkheim :
“A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things.”
Religion is a set of beliefs and values commonly shared by a special community and focusing on the sacred and supernatural powers."
Structure of ReligionIt consists of the following elements:
1. The Sacred :
These consist of those elements, away and remote from life attached with behaviour of fear or related with supernatural. Such things are called sacred like revealed books, mountains, water or symbols etc. in islam, The Holy Quran, Ghar-e-Hira, Ab-e-ZamZarn, in Hindu religion; Geeta, Ramaina, Ganges, gods and statues etc.
2. Beliefs :
These are integral part of religion and belief of believers of that religion. Durkheim has defined beliefs as:
“Religious beliefs are statements to which members oi‘a particular religion adhere.”
These beliefs are dramatically different in different religious. For example, belief of Awagon holds the birth of man in different shapes in different ages whereas, according to Muslims, a man’s birth is for once. He will be resurrected on Doomsday and will be held answerable for his good or bad deeds in his worldly life.
Belief is divided into two parts for explanation :
i. Religious Values
i. Religious Values :
There are such common concepts, regarding goodness or badness of an action or thing and come from religious belief. These values guide the followers in their personal and collective behaviours and social life like to whom to marry and how many, approval and hated means of economic sources etc.
ii. Cosmology :
The cosmological knowledge of religion is about questions and answers about universe like God’s uniqueness reality, angels, paradise, hell, life, death and punishment after death. The religious position of this knowledge has the status of religious beliefs. The followers of religion believe in these and these are a part of
their religious beliefs:
3. Religious Rituals :
Religious rituals are the expectations or necessary activities from individuals of a religion, wholly for the sovereignty of a power or in obedient of the power. it has norms like that of other social institutions to socialize the behaviour of its follows and establishes through religious sanctions, a system of punishment and reward to continue the religious rituals and recreations. ln lslam, Nimaz, fasting, Zakat, Hajj, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha are religious rituals, whereas in Christianity, Church service, rituals, Christmas and Easter likes are religious rituals and recreations are a source of continuity and communication of religious education.
4. Experience :
it means those feelings and perceptions through which an individual contacts with ultimate reality. It can be ordinary of special type of hearing something or finding the solution of some problem or guidance for some aim. The observation in this type can only be felt, not be described. it is part of all religion and Muslims establish a direct contact with Allah Almighty, whereas in Hinduism it is called Gain or deep attention done by religious leaders.
Functions of ReligionAll religions have latent and manifest functions. A religion explains abstract ideas commonly not intelligible. It has also social functions, important from sociological point of view. The detail is given below:
1. Social Solidarity :
A religion is a social cement to join and to keep it joined with society. it collects its followers for rituals and recreations, makes their relations strong and changes it with a collected and united class through common beliefs, rituals and values. In spite of geographical distances, religion joins its followers to have love and unity just as, Islam has finished caste differences to unite people. Islam gives a lesson of brotherhood and sympathy and dispenses with sectarianism and thus promotes unity.
2. Social Control :
The values and norms pertaining to human life, sexual behaviour and property are the most important. Religion is the first institution to take care of these precious inheritances by devising norms and sanctions. The education of all religions stresses on the rights of people. Religious sanctions, regarding hell and paradise, depend upon the correct social functions doing and showing respect to human beings which is an affective control of social discipline and for which feeling and belief are necessary instead of any human force like police and judiciary etc. Religion makes social control helpful through values and norms. According to Durkheim, where social controlling institutions cannot interfere, religion does this function in the name of respect for human rights. The respect and regard between children and parents, husband and wife and other relatives is only possible by religious beliefs and values.
3. Provision of Meaning of Life :
Religion is the only institution that gives meaning to life, explaining the existence of human beings, providing spiritual peace and reducing mental disorder. It promotes mutual respect, strengthens of relations and keeps the society line from disorder. ll religious element is finished. peace will be difficult to maintain and burden will increase. There will be greed, disease, selfishness and weakness in relations making life dull and sad. It is only religion that provides hope in sadness and produces a desire to live life boldly.
4. Psychological Support :
Religion provides a psychological support to an individual. Whenever an individual faces an unexpected situation, full of sadness and failures or is involved in bad circumstance or is rejected by the world. only religion provides support and makes one hopeful, relieves from fear, makes one’s thinking positive and saves one's personality from dispersion and provides an aim. We divert our attention to God for the fulfilment of our hopes and thus get a psychological relief. If there had been no religious support, our personality would have suffered psychologically, socially and economically because of becoming unbalanced.
5. Moral Leadership :
Religion is a source of moral leadership through education in such a way to provide leaders who prevent individuals from bad acts and persuade to do good acts, remind God’s commands, prevent from waywardness, persuade towards fulfilling norms and social values. This moral leadership provides guidance
towards respect for humanity by giving stability to the society.
6. Religion as Ideological Fuel :
Religion provides fuel to social and political movements because of an emotional attachment with religion of individuals of a society. This attachment increases the intensity of a movement. A religious element in a movement, enhances its intensity and its success is insured. Pakistan movement was successful, because the greatest cause of its success was Islamic view and identity at its base. All Indian Muslims gathered in the name of religion. Same is the case with existence of Israel, otherwise Jews were scattered in the world and they could not be united except with force of religion. Iranian Islamic Revolution was also due to religious thinking and emotions and the political movement succeeded with the help of religion.
Other Related Concepts1. O Ecelease : A religious organizations, including all members of society like, Catholic Church in Spain, Islam in Saudi Arabia and Buddhism in Thailand.
2. Sects : Relatively small religious organizations to review what it views as the original version of the faith.
3. Cult : Generally small, secretive religious group that represents either a new religion or a major innovation of an existing faith.
4. Fundamentalism : A commitment to, and reliance on, the traditional basis of religious doctrines