Religion is a phenomenon that has a great impact on human society. Religion is an aspect that has facilitated changes in families, relationships, communities, and political lives. Religion affects human beliefs and values and triggers them to behave in a certain manner.
According to Johnstone, religion influences human action as it interprets their experiences based on the underlying religious meanings. Sociologists in this case have studied how religion influences different spheres of human life. In this context, we will review how religion has influenced politics and religious fundamentalism. In addition, we will review how social classes and gender differences influence religious expression.
Many religious studies have concerned themselves with secularization. They study how secular institutions such as politics affect society. The relationship that exists between religion and politics presents itself in speeches, roundtables, and congregations all across the globe.
According to Christian, religion relates to politics in more than one way. It has affected political circles by bringing about legitimacy in different regimes. It has also triggered social changes by facilitating understanding in justice systems. However, the relationships that exist between the two social institutions depend on the content and level of the political system and religion. The two social institutions comprise of various subgroups of people who follow certain norms (17).
The functions of the two institutions overlap each other. This brings about a conflict of interest as they both involve same parties. The same parties have expectations in relation to commitment and involvement to their followers. According to Christian, the difference that exists between the two institutions is an aspect of secularization.
The difference between the two has widened with time specifically in the west. For instance, the institutions that were once constituents of religious organizations have separated from the religious groups (15). Religious groups are no longer the providers of health, social welfare, and education. These functions through political influences have become independent. The distinction between secular spheres such as politics and religion results to secularization (Christian 19).
According to Putnam, religious fundamentalism is a phenomenon that has influenced international politics as well as events occurring in the 21st century. Religious fundamentalism is a movement that concerns itself with the religious erosion as well as the role of such erosion in society (4). According to Johnstone, religious fundamentalism involves the protection of certain religious contents or protection of norms associated with religion.
Relative to traditions, fundamentalism does not exist to defend its aspects (57). It accepts and re-modifies some of these aspects. Relative to modernity, fundamentalism accommodates some aspects but refuses others. For instance, it accommodates the technological and organizational aspects of modernization. On the other hand, refuses the ideologies of pluralism as well as relativism.
Religious fundamentalists believe and view the world as an avenue of light and darkness. They believe that they represent the light. They also believe that their world is pure. The world that is outside the group represents darkness. This world accommodates sin and it is contaminated. According to Putnam, religious fundamentalists exist as small sects that do not have connections in politics (9).
According to Christian, the social class has an influence on the religious expressions and involvement. On a sociological point of view, the truth-value of religion is not the only factor that entails belonging to a religious group (17).Lower class persons are less likely to associate themselves with religious groups compared to the upper class persons.
A survey carried out in the year 2005 revealed that the income of the Baptists compared to the Unitarians was less than two thirds. The Unitarians are a denomination popular among the upper class members of the society. In addition, five percent more Unitarians graduated from college compared to the Baptists. This data reveals that a social class has an impact on a person’s religious affiliation (Christian 19).
Gender differences have an influence on the religious expression and affiliation. According to Christian, gender difference exists as a factor that greatly determines a person’s association with religion (16). According to Johnstone, women have a tendency to associate with public as well as private religious practices compared to men.
The magnification of the difference comes about in relation to the age, educational status, and religious denomination. Relative to men, college students are skeptical towards religion and belonging to a religious group. On the other hand, men sought spirituality and religion as they advance with age. In other words, men seek religion and spirituality as they mature and take up permanent roles in the society. For example, family oriented roles trigger men to seek religion and spirituality.
In conclusion, it is important that we acknowledge the impact religion has on the international political scene. Religion has become the basis of most conflicts both at the local and international scene. Religion is a tool that fuels hatred and facilitates violence when exploited maliciously. Usually, this involves protection of political interests. Here, religion and politics integrate to form destructive tools of violence and distraction.
Christian, Smith. Souls in Transition: The Religions and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
Johnstone, Ronald. Religion in Society, Sociology of Religion. Pearson: Prentice-Hall, 2007. Print.
Putnam, Robert. American Grace. How Religion Divides and Unites Us. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010. Print.