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Text Review

2224 words - 9 pages

Text Review 2 (Religion: The Social Context ch. 5-ch. 8)
Upon gaining a basic understanding of religion and the sociological perspective, it becomes possible to gain more in-depth knowledge concerning religion and its interactions with social aspects. First, surveying religious groups in relation to their social environments provides a basis from which to stem. With this root for understanding, McGuire can then begin to explore other topics, such as religion and social cohesion, religion and social conflict, religion supporting the status quo, religion promoting social change, and secularization. Chapters 5-8 of McGuire’s text, Religion: The Social Context, explores and expands upon these ...view middle of the document...

Still, though, church-sect categories are still questionable for their usefulness outside of the Christian context. More importantly, while surveying this subject McGuire notes the importance of refraining from using such categories rigidly. Rather, it is more useful to view such groups on a changing continuum, where stances may include at some point, the church stance, the sectarian stance, the denominational stance, and the cultic stance, depending upon the amount of tension or lack thereof with society and whether such a religious group claims unique legitimacy (McGuire 2008: 156-157).
According to McGuire, the theme of social cohesion is central to sociology (McGuire 2008: 196). Truly, society is a complex concept describing more than simply people who happen to coexist. According to integration theories, “societal cohesion and stability are ensured by the functioning of institutions,” (McGuire 2008: 196). With this in mind, McGuire begins to lay out the ways in which religion is an important contributing factor to the phenomenon of the concept of social cohesion. Religion acts to unify people through religious symbolism and ritual, and further impacts society through the imparting of values and norms that play a major contribution to a consensus on moral issues (McGuire 2008: 196). Furthermore, religion promotes commitment through the process of members putting the group’s needs before their own. According to McGuire, Durkheim’s approach to this aspect of society says that religion is the “expression of social forces and social ideals,” (McGuire 2008: 197). In doing so, the idea that “wherever there is social cohesion, it is expressed religiously,” is emphasized greatly (McGuire 2008: 197). Durkheim would argue that religion is in its very essence, social, which may be a bit overstated, as the importance of individual religious experience was later pointed out. In America, the relationship between social cohesion and religion has played out quite interestingly. It has been found that religion is used as a way for people to “differentiate themselves and thus becomes a way for people to define and locate themselves in the larger society,” (McGuire 2008: 199). This use of religion has led many to identify themselves with a major legitimate religion, although they may not practice said religion or even believe its tenets.
In the McGuire text, civil religion is stated as, “any set of beliefs and rituals, related to the past, present, and/or future of a people (‘nation’) which are understood in some transcendental fashion,” (McGuire 2008: 202). Essentially, civil religion is the expression of the cohesion of a nation. In American Civil Religion, many civil ceremonies have religious qualities. All of such examples inspire “awe” and emphasize the collectivity of the nation as “one people.” Civil religion has symbols, such as the American flag, and saints, such as President Lincoln and other key presidents. Truly, American civil religion is an...

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