Some time ago, evangelists who came to spread the gospel visited my community. Preachers were at first scorned at; many people from the community adhere to the religion other than Christianity. However, they were persistent in their attempts to talk with as many individuals as possible. They argued that Jesus Christ is God. Their efforts were rewarded as they neared the last days of their trip. Small groups of idle youths, who were awaiting registration at a local university, were the first to show interest in the religious meetings.
Children from local primary schools soon followed them after school hours. Almost immediately, various members of the community began to attend the daily three hours of religious service held at the town hall. Workers even left their workplaces early in order to be on time for the meetings. To some members of the community, Christianity became a trend the youth suddenly found fashionable for some reason. In a short span of time, the evangelists had established a church, and the visiting preachers were training pastors.
Questions that the Sociologists would Have Asked
Karl Marx’s sociological theory attacks any belief system that inverts the material world from being the primary reality. Marx asserted that “Religion is the opium of the people” (McLellan 396). He would have wanted to discover what unfair or unaddressed issue had caused the community to “need” the emotional benefits brought by such an open acceptance of a religion by people, who previously did not believe in the said religion. Marx was sure that religion does not benefit society in any way. It merely succeeded in giving a false assurance that only do well in blinding the ordinary citizen from a lack of his or her real needs.
According to Marx, the significance of the analysis of religion is that it transforms the intellectual debate. This allows people to consider the troubles of the material world, in which man exists, and not a mystical or spiritual world that is unrelated to the community’s problems and overall constitution. Marx’s conflict viewpoint of sociology concentrated on an ever-changing character of society. Marx also believed that wealthy and powerful individuals inflict various social orders on the underprivileged or weak in society.
Marxism holds that the community’s economic structure decrees various activities possible in any given society. Therefore, economy can supplant an individual’s free will. Any person or belief system is thus inconsequential in the face of dominant communal forces. Marx would have asked, “How did the religious experience affect the working hours of the people, and how did they compensate for their frequent absences when they were in prayer meetings?”
Emile Durkheim was consumed with social cohesion in the course of his academic occupation, and mainly focused on religion as a practical source of social unity. He is known for having declared, “God is society, writ large” (Lukes 589). Durkheim claimed that religion was a source of harmony and classification for people within the society: particularly as a constituent of involuntary solidarity systems. Durkheim would be concerned with how the new religious enthusiasm spreading through my community provided a new meaning of life for the members. He would also be interested in how the new religion reinforced the ethics and societal customs held jointly by all the different ethnicities in the community. Instead of dismissing faith as sheer fantasy, in spite of its natural sources, Durkheim perceived it as an important element of the society. Durkheim might have asked, ‘If the religious action had not happened, would the society and everybody else bond like they did as a result of a religious event?’
Max Weber is another sociologist who supported religious faith. He believed that many religious faiths gave cultural structures that sustain growth of other social facets like the financial system. Weber even declared that Protestant principles promoted a closely controlled work-and-save approach in society, which would speed up the process of creating wealth. Weber perceived prophets in religion as the archetypal religious principals that encourage positive change in the society. He pinpointed the importance of emissaries and exemplary categories of prophets. A typical emissary prophet is referred to by various examples in the Hebrew Bible, who is given messages by God for certain communities that are being exhorted to live differently.
An exemplary prophet encourages individuals to adopt ascetic and active lifestyles. Weber observed that such a trend could result in modern capitalism. He observed:
For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. (Weber and Fischoff 214)
As it is obvious, Weber’s approach to community changes and religious belief involves a certain perception of the association between inspirational ideas and interests. Weber’s sociological approach seeks to establish how changes brought about by religious changes, as observed in my community, fulfill economic and moral objectives of key organizations in the society.
Weber believed that religion could be a source of social change, as opposed to either a source of (oppressive) stability or a reflection of material causes of change. Weber would have asked, ‘What can be learned from religions as a broad range of actions in relationship to the whole array of social actions?’