Sociological Evidence For Religion's Influence Over Individual Consciousness

1442 words - 6 pages

Sociological Evidence for Religion's Influence Over Individual Consciousness

Statistical evidence suggests that in terms of institutional religion,
membership is in decline in Britain and in much of the rest of the
world. Church attendance figures show a continuing drop in attendance
throughout the twentieth century particularly in Anglican, Baptist and
Catholic Churches. It has also been found that the number of children
being baptised has dropped from 65% of the British child population to
only 27%.

Many sociologists use these statistics as support for their hypothesis
in the secularisation of our society. However an equal number
disregard these facts as evidence of secularisation, arguing that for
our society to become secular there must be a decline in religious
belief not just Church membership. Institutional religion can be
defined as a large organisation, that has particular codes of conduct,
values and morals which members are supposed to follow. Private belief
is when an individual has their own set of beliefs and moral
guidelines to follow, worship and abidance to these rules are
conducted personally and internally. An opinion poll conducted in 1991
called the British Social Attitudes Survey found that only 10% of the
English population and 1% of the people in Northern Ireland denied the
existence of God outright. This suggests that Britain has a religious
population supporting the idea that religion still has major influence
over religious consciousness. It is therefore necessary to explain
what has caused the decline in popularity of institutional religion if
it is not a decline in religious belief itself.

It can be argued that for a society to be truly religious, religion
must play a part in every aspect of life. This religious 'Golden Age'
was present in Britain in the Medieval Ages where the Church held most
of the power, wealth and status. Today the Church has less wealth and
plays little part in the running of the country (there is little
Church representation in the Government), Martin (1969) calls this
process the disengagement of religion from wider society. However many
sociologists would dispute that the 'Golden Age' of religion does not
automatically indicate an enhanced religious thinking but actually a
lack of spiritual freedom which can lessen religious conviction. With
an increasingly diverse ethnic mix present in British society there
are more religions. Religious pluralism has made people aware that
spirituality can be an individual journey and that they are not
required to share the same beliefs as everyone else to be religious.
This is verification of the idea that institutional religion is in
decline but not of secularisation, as although religious beliefs have
changed they are still inherently spiritual.

The sociologist Bellah defined...

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