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Religion in definition

Categories Religion

Essay, Pages 5 (1206 words)



Essay, Pages 5 (1206 words)


In the world today, there are tons of different kinds of religions such as Traditional African religion, Hinduism and Christianity to name a few. Before we head into the different kinds of religions, we need to understand what religion is.

In the broadest sense of definitions, Weber defines religion as a tool used by people to give meaning to existence and the problems accompanying it such as nativity, passing away as well as aging and the suffering of mankind.

In this essay, religion will at the most extensive way to be defined as well as be conceptualized.

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Functionalist and conflict viewpoints on religion will also be discussed as well as and most importantly, how religion was and is used as an oppressive and a liberation tool in society. All this will be discussed below and will be accompanied by adequate examples.

Religion in definition

As religion is not easy to define due to the many meanings it has attached to it.

Other definitions of religion are, that it is the most in-depth and all-inclusive system of signifying used by mankind. It also identified as a set of beliefs in a supreme deity or with simple terms a God as a way to better explain life and the significance of death.

A pioneer in sociology Emile Durkheim (1915) describes religion as a system of practices and beliefs which emphasize the importance of things which are sacred and overall unite into a single unit called church. Religion was introduced centuries before our 21st century as a concept or idea to best explain the world, its origins and other unexplainable phenomena which have and continue to occur in the world today.

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In Its early beginnings, religion was put into different classes such as Polytheism, which is the faith in numerous Gods, Pantheism, which is the belief that everything is the divine one (God) and Monotheism, which implies that there is only one true God.

In the world today more specially in South Africa there a numerous religions which are drawn from the different classes of religions like Christianity which is a Monotheistic religion which implies that there is only one God which every individual should believe in as well as the Muslim religion which believes in Allah as the only God whom everyone should have faith in. This is religion extensively defined and conceptualized.

Functionalist and conflict viewpoints on religion

Functionalist viewpoint

Functionalists maintain that that religion has numerous functions in society as a whole. Religion is highly dependent on society for its significance and existence. It provides answers to peculiar happenings as well as provides emotional ease while creating social harmony and interaction.

Religion uses the spiritual domain and spiritual beings to provide answers to questions like “Why do people suffer? “What is the purpose of life? And “What happens when we die?” Religion is used to explain strange and unexplainable behaviors which people manifest like seeing the future or losing one’s mind.

Another important function of religion is that it creates socialization and offers comfort and a sense of belonging for those who are lost or feel they have no purpose in life. Religion from a functionalist viewpoint also brings control in society in terms of how to dress, view those older than yourself and appropriate sexual behavior.

Conflict viewpoint

From a conflict’s viewpoint, religion is rather different. It is viewed as an organization that perpetuates the patterns of social imbalance. Religion is no different from a sedative for mankind. People desperately need religion to make the world tolerable and explain their existence (Marx, 1976). A conflict theorist focuses on the repressive, restricting and exploiting nature. Religion is an initiator of a false reality which teaches individuals to accept their suffering. It persuades the oppressed to acknowledge their economic and political positions in society with the promise of a better life in death (Marx, 1976). Marx concluded regarding religion as a force that impedes a revolutionary change.

Religion a tool used to oppress society

Firstly before discussing religion as a tool of oppression, we need to understand what oppression is. Oppression in a definition is a methodical and institutional degrading of others and using coercion to maintain its continuity (Churchward, 1924). Now religion as a form of oppression is when individuals ill-treat others based on their race or place of origin and use religion to justify their actions. It is also by creating laws and persuasive methods to convince the disadvantaged that their situation is a good thing in the eyes of God. In a South African context, for instance, Christianity has been used by white colonizers as a device to subjugate black Africans and defend their cruel actions by using texts from the Bible. Like for instance texts like (1 Corinthians 7:21) which have been used to rationalize slavery in Africa.

Another example would be the Quran, a Muslim holy book which uses this verse (Quran, 2:228) which states that “The men are a degree above women” translated from the Arabic language and many other verses to oppress women and make them feel insignificant.

Religion as a liberation tool in society

In a simple definition, liberation is an individual’s discharge from slavery or imprisonment in any way possible (Chimhanda, 2010). In society, religion is used as a liberation tool in a sense that the alienation and exclusion of a certain group of individuals in society are abolished with the use of that which was used to cause the alienation. In a South African context, churches existed which supported the doctrine used by the apartheid regime and enforced discrimination. As a way to fight this, black African theology was created as a means to make those who discriminated aware of their actions as well the political situations the oppressed faced (Mwambazambi, 2010, cf. Mosala, 1990, p. 1).

Religion was used to produce a new theology by Black South African ministers like Archbishop Desmond Tutu who formalized the beauty of being a black African and formalized that black Africans are also human beings with dignity (Mwambazambi, 2010) In Islam religion, the Islamic Feminism can be used as an example of the liberation against the gender inequality that was in the Quran (4:11) or (4:176) and Quran (2:228). And they do this to address that there is gender equality and gender justice in the Qur’an and also other religious sources support such thing. (Barlas, A & College, I: 2001)


As discussed above there are many religions and defining religion is rather difficult due to it having many meanings attached to it. We also found how religion originated centuries before this and that it started as being divided into three classes which are Polytheism, Pantheism and Monotheism and that 21st-century religions were drawn from these classes. We discussed how the functionalists view religion as essential in society and conflict theorists view it as no different as a sedative for mankind to make the world tolerable. Religion can be used for oppression and liberation in other words to imprisonment and also set oneself free. Religion is a broad concept which is viewed an accepted differently around the world and even though bringing a sense of order in society, should not be used in a way to harm another individual.

Cite this essay

Religion in definition. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/religion-in-definition-essay

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