use Durkheim, Marx, or Giddens’ definitions and theories to think about what kinds of organizations can be categorized as religions.

This assignment was written by C. Bradly of the University of Georgia and adapted for our course. 

Remember: Discussion posts are still academic assignments.  Use correct grammar and appropriate evidence.  Cite any outside sources.  Be respectful of your classmates and of the people and practices you discuss in your posts.  Even if you disagree, remember your response should NOT be a personal attack but rather an evidence-based presentation of a different perspective on the same subject.

What is religion?  

Sociologists have offered several definitions for “religion.”  Your textbook describes both Durkheim’s and Marx’s perspectives.  A more contemporary sociological definition comes from Giddens (2006):

Religion: a cultural system of commonly shared beliefs and rituals that provide a sense of ultimate meaning and purpose by creating an idea of reality that is sacred, all-encompassing, and supernatural.

Key elements to this definition include:

1. Religion is a form of culture- shares all characteristics of culture such as shared beliefs, values that create an identity

2. Religion involves beliefs that take the form of ritualized practices- all members engage in behaviors that identify them as members of the community

3. Religion provides a sense of purpose- feeling that life is ultimately meaningful

This week, you’ll use Durkheim, Marx, or Giddens’ definitions and theories to think about what kinds of organizations can be categorized as religions.  A PDF document in Moodle (above) profiles three groups or practices: the Church of Body Modification, Satanism, and Scientology.  Read over the descriptions and choose ONE group to write about for your post.

First Post

  1. Identify the organization you chose to write about. Is this organization a religion according to the sociological definition? Why or why not?  (Note: you may use Durkheim’s definition from the textbook or any other sociological definition.)
  2. What type of religion is it (ecclesia, denomination, sect, new religious movement)? If you decided that it is not a religion, what type does it most closely resemble? Explain your choice.
  3. How would a functionalist theorist understand and discuss this organization?
  4. How would a conflict theorist understand and discuss this organization?

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