The role of religion has had a significant impact on the society. There has been a tremendous change in society and religion. Religion causes society to change in different forms. But before we could discuss further, one needs to understand the word theology. The name “theology” originates from two Greek words, theos meaning ‘God’ and logos meaning the study of God, theology is the art and science of knowing and understanding about God in a coordinated and reasonable manner.
According to Bible.org, (2018) they define theology as a set of deep and emotional commitments, justified or not, about God and man which dictate one’s opinions and actions. Neither the word itself is irrelevant, nor the concepts which it seeks to articulate. It is the first pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. It was known to be the primary objectives pursuance of information because it was understood that all other things are linked to it. The handmaiden was identified as Philosophy, and it is held in high esteem because it provides a foundation for the word philosophy and worldview (Bible.org, 2018).
The word philosophy comes from the Greek roots Philo- meaning “love” and -Sophos, or “wisdom.” Therefore, philosophy is the study or understanding why and how individual react towards certain things and how an individual was meant to live a good life; In other words, they want to know the meaning of life (Oxford Dictionaries English, 2018).
Sociologist study religion as a professional not as believers or non-believers, but they are concerned if religious belief were true or false. Using the sociology tools and method to gather fact and information on how religion is organised and how it is related to the society with their success and failures. The use of qualitative approaches method which includes (interviewing, historical documentary materials, participant observation and archival analysis) quantitative method like census, analysis, demographic, polls and survey are all included in the objective investigation. On the other hand, philosophy and theology can be subjective, while sociologist is supposed to be more objective with their research.
Theology, by contrast, is mostly studies about God. This come as objective field related to religious studies which is trying to comprehend different religious principles and behaviours apart from a specific religious view. The reason for such is because theology tends to focus more on the Protestant and Roman Catholic sector as opposed to religious studies embracing all religions. As such, religious studies also work hand in hand with other fields like sociology, anthropology, philosophy, history of religion, and psychology (Differencebetween.net, 2018).
Religion is part of the culture or a way of life of the society, it assists in maintaining cultural traditions. The sharing of the people’s common belief about right or wrong can lead to the survival of the society. The functionalist examined religion in the society, they analysed it primarily contribution which religion makes in other to meet the society needs there understanding towards the society are positive, they believe the society needs a certain degree of value consensus, social solidarity, integration and harmony between its parts (Haralambos and Holborn, 2008).
In view of society, Durkheim (1912) explained that religion connect society together, it joins the people together and persuade them to accept the basic social values. He believed that in other to achieve social life there should be shared values and moral belief which will create collective conscience, in absence of these view the society will not exist or may become dysfunctional society, therefore, religion reinforce collective conscience. The society worshipping together as one strengthens values and beliefs which forms the basis of social life in terms of socialisation. Identifying them as sacred, religion provides authority to direct human action. The attitude they put upon sacred were the same attitude they extend towards obligation and social duties. In worshipping society, they recognise the importance of social group and they are dependent upon it. Durkheim further identify the importance of coming together to worship, this enables members to express their faith in common values and belief, this way society will be strengthened and they all can communicate and understand the morality of the bond uniting them in terms social cohesion. An example is a monogamous marriage, seen as a God given, and the ten commandments with rules and regulation such as murder, stealing, adultery and list goes on, all these are ways to reinforce society norms. likewise, if the rules of the adultery, killings and stealing are broken people involve will experience guilty conscience for doing something ‘wrong’, this is a control influence and socialising power over people (Haralambos and Holborn, 2008).
According to Stephen Mestrovic (1997) a postmodernist argue that Durkheim’s idea cannot be applied to modern society, because increasing diversity has fragmented the collective conscience, so there is no longer a single shared value system for religion to reinforce (Browne, 2000).
According to Marxist (1964) approach in the 19th century, he identifies religion is an illusion that eases the pain which was created by the ruling class (bourgeoises) to exploit and oppress the low class (proletariat). He describes religion as the opium of the people. Marxist explain that religion act as an opiate which dull the pain produced by oppression. Marxist identifies religion as a false consciousness, that is religion can make a person become obedient by bringing them true happiness and fulfilment in after life. Marxist identifies religion as a social control tool used by the ruling class to oppress the low class. Marxist explained that religion is used to justify the disparities of power and wealth in the society, by clarifying that God as willed the position of the poor and the rich. For instance; the Hindu system, they provided explanation as regards to the differences within the Indian cast system. Marx also believe that religion also create comfort for the poor and divert their attention from the present misery on the injustices and inequalities of the world, on the other hand promising them future and an incredible life after death. Therefore, the poor are encouraged to put off the search of better life, but expect their reward after death in heaven. Marxist also believed that religion is a form of alienation, that is; people create an imaginary being, in other to be control.
According to Marxist approach toward religion “The real ‘opium of the masses” is not religion as Karl Marx has said, rather, a belief in nothingness after death. This belief is certainly easier to accept and less frightening to people than the belief, that their betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders and other assorted sins will be seen by all when their life on earth has ended. -Czeslaw Milosz
Czeslaw Milosz: “Religion used to be the “opium of the people”. To those suffering humiliation, pain, and illness, a reward of afterlife was promised by religion. But now, we are witnessing a transformation, a true opium of the people is the belief in nothingness after death, the huge solace, the huge comfort of thinking that for our betrayals, our greed, our cowardice, our murders, we are not going to be judged.”
Marx view on religion as a tool for social control, according to Halevy (1972) explained how Methodist religion prevent a revolution by the working class in 19 centuries, informing people rather than revolting to seek spiritual enlightenment against the ruling class (capitalist) just like other European countries back then. Marxist explains that religion is used to justify economic and social inequality and disguising the true nature of exploitation. However, religion can serve as a social instrument in supporting an social change and also promoting traditional values. which is against Marxist believe.
Max weber (1958) explains that some circumstances of religion can lead to social change through but a social group can be integrated through shared religious belief contrary to Marxist ‘s view. He examines the relationship between rise of Calvinism by John Calvin lead to social change and the rise of western capitalist industrials in the 17th centuries.
Weber identifies that the new capitalism is different from the past capitalism in the aspect of greed for wealth which are sometimes spent on luxury consumption, On the other hand the modern capitalism was different, Weber identify them as the “spirit of capitalism”, rather than spending unworthily on irrelevant things, the save up and invest back into the business. Calvin believes they are the elect chosen by God and their reward is in heaven and those who are not among the elect have no place in heaven (Webb, 2009).
According to Weber’s new modern capitalism, which was criticised simply because capitalism was unable to advance or develop in some other country, where Calvinist can be located. For instance, Calvinist population was very high in Scotland but the development of capitalism was very low. Although it was agued by Gordon Marshall (1982) that it was because of lack of skilled labour and capital investment (Webb, 2009).
Another criticism towards Weber’s approach was RH Tawney (1926) who argues that the birth of capitalism was caused because of technological change but not social change, and establishment of capitalism lead the high class(bourgeoises) to adopt Calvinist beliefs to legitimate their pursuit of economic gain (Webb, 2009).
Wilson (1996) defines secularisation as the ‘process whereby religious thinking, practice and the institutions lose social significance’ with the society an example is church attendance in England and Whales had fallen to 40% of the population. Another definition by Bruce (2002) point out; there is no one secularisation theory. Rather there are clusters of descriptions and explanations that cohere reasonably well
Durkheim a functionalist did not see religion as hopeless. He looked more at its function within society. He saw religion as maintaining social cohesion, a main part of society where religion brought people together. However, he anticipated that religion was on the decline of social significance. This is because in an industrial society where there was a highly specialised division of labour, religion would lose a part of its power for integrating society (Holborn, 2009).
Durkheim predicted that religion would be re-positioned to the corner of people’s lives and marginalized through industrialisation. This could be due to the fact businesses are structured for profits and not the workers live. He believed religion would be forced to be a private matter for people, leading to privatization. On the other hand, he did not see the decline of religion as an irreversible trend; he saw that all societies must have some sort of sacred symbols and communal ritual if they are to continue. This may show how even though Durkheim believed religion would become less main-stream in people’s lives; it would become a private matter, but still strong enough to exist in a new form
Webber on the other hand, identify rationalisation as the major focus for a decline in religion. Weber believed this would steadily replace faith. He believed that as the world is demystified of its magic and mystery, religious beliefs are taken away. This is where things are made rational and justified instead of ‘acts of God’ and linked to religion. Webber also saw a progressive reduction in the importance of religion. He thought people would focus on the rational pursuit of goals and answers, and focus less on emotions. He believed rationalization would inevitably wash away religions influence. He predicted that a wide spread of scientific knowledge and higher levels of education would lead to a more rational thinking world.
Marx looked at capitalism as processing the root of secularisation. The capitalist society produces a materialistic society in the world. This is where its aim is to manufacture good and produce profits. This leads to the social order being based on contracts rather than being made by god, as the religious beliefs point to (Roberts, 2005).
Marx did not see that industrial capitalism as such would messenger the decline of religion, but he did believe it would put in motion a chain of events that would eventually lead to its disappearance (Marx and Engles, 1950a). Marx looked at religion as if it was there to justify an inequality of the class communism, and religion would stop to have any social purpose.