About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1235 |
7 min read
Published: Aug 4, 2023
Words: 1235|Pages: 3|7 min read
Religion has often been regarded as what anchors society’s values and morals and is used as a guide to help individuals navigate their life through the chaotic and busy world we live in. Sociologists have attempted to define religion throughout history, but generally, religion can be defined as a sacred set of behaviors, beliefs, and commitments, of the people of a group or society. And the question still stands - how does religion affect your life? While there are many religions practiced across the world, this paper will primarily focus on the theories of religion itself and the practices of Christianity, as it is the religion that I practice. The photo attached, taken when I went back home during one of the weekends, captures an image of a sermon for the youth congregation at my church back in Richmond Hill. While the image may just be a simple picture of a sermon, by using sociological theories of religion, this image paints a much larger picture that demonstrates how the church is an integral part of the community, the impact of the church as we age, as well as the uncertainty for the future of religion. And the question still stands - how does religion affect your life?
It is no doubt that religion has a strong influence over society. As a result of this, sociologists have referred religion as social institutions due to its structured and enduring practices and well-established rules or norms, as mentioned in the textbook. Specifically, we can see the impact of religion as social institutions based on the church’s involvement in communities where churches are further classified as neighborhood institutions. Referring back to the photo, although it is just a glimpse of church activity, much of the people attending live in surrounding neighborhoods and come to this church in search of sanctuary, and wellbeing. As well, there is a want to develop structure in their lives through learning about the norms and behaviours of Christianity. The church serves to transform people to help establish social control in their communities as people are able to apply their learnings and use them to guide their behaviour when in society. We can also see how churches have impacted other communities. In a study on the effects of church involvement in African-American communities and neighborhood violence, conducted by the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, it finds that the church’s integration in these communities helps regulate and reduce neighborhood violence. The churches in these communities work to mentor youth as a way to combat violence citing that, “youth who are more active in church are also less likely to engage in various forms of both serious and minor delinquency” (Pegan, 2016), and that, “the church has a well‐established history of taking responsibility for community members’ overall wellness outside the four walls of the church” (Pegan, 2016). As a result of being a social institution, religion has the influence to instill norms and values into communities and teach people to follow those norms. It is evident that religion, in this case the church, serves to be an important part of communities, through establishing social control over the people, and are well integrated in order to serve and provide for community needs.
While the church is an integral part of communities, we can also see how the church impacts individuals as they age. Based from the readings, there is a sociological theory that a person becomes more religious as they age. The theory explains that during one’s childhood, parents, schools, and churches invest heavily into children in efforts to make sure the child stays in the church at an early age. However, as the child ages into teenager and into a young adult, many young people lose interest in religion and turn to non-religious views as a result of more independence. It is then common for young adults to turn back to religion as they begin to start families since they want their children to grow up in safe communities, but as their children age and eventually leave the house, the middle aged return to earlier, less religious views. Only during the oldest part of a life course is when people tend to be the most religious due to greater uncertainty of life after death. Although it is just a theory, this trend is quite common in my church, and similar trends can be found in other churches as well. Referring back to the photo, we can see the presence of empty chairs and if the camera was able to take a much wider angle, the congregation size is quite small, and has been shrinking over the years. What was once a large youth congregation, with about 200 regular attendees, has now decreased to just under a 100 attendees per week. However, if we were to examine the adult congregations, much of the congregation are made up of expecting parents, or parents already with children, and attendance is stable and constant each week. We can see how the theory is applicable to my own experiences of the impact of religion as we age and wonder if there are ways to encourage youth to continue religious practices throughout their life course.
With a growing decline in youth attendance in churches, there is also a greater uncertainty for the future of religion, particularly the church. From the readings, there is an increase in secularization among people who identify as Christians and is a growing pattern in the US and in Europe as well, where these places are known for its large Christian populations. In an article published by Simon Brauer, a sociologist at Duke University, in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the author discusses about the rise in religious decline in the US. He notes that parents are crucial in maintaining religious practices and cites that, “if the pools of parents and peers become less religious, they might instigate further decline in the following cohorts and generations” (Brauer, 2018), as a potential cause for the decline of religion in western countries. As mentioned previously, from the photo, we can see a decline in youth attendance based on the presence of empty chairs and reduced congregation size. While the adult congregation tend to have a more constant attendance than the youth, it is common for parents to go to church separately from their children, who decide to not attend. Similar to the potential cause of religious decline mentioned in the article, parents play a huge role in influencing their children to engage in religious activities, but if parents do not place a strong priority for religion and do not encourage it, then their children will follow as well.
Despite the decline of religious practices in many Western countries, sociologists believe that it is unlikely that organized religions will disappear due to its strong integration into many communities. Religion continues to serve as a place where people can come together and have shared experiences with one another. Using sociological theories of religion, it is evident that religion has a major impact on individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole.
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