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‘Religion Today Is More About Believing Than Belonging’. To What Extent Do Sociological Arguments And Evidence Support This View Of The Relationship Between Religious Beliefs, Religious Organisations And Social Groups In Society Today?

1388 words - 6 pages

Believing without belonging is a term used by Davie to describe the fact religion is becoming more privatised, as people have more choice in religious practices that they felt obligated to follow in the past. Many sociologists, such as Davie, argue that religion is not declining; it is just taking an alternate form – such as believing without belonging. Spiritual shopping, a term used by Hervieu-Leger, and ‘Jesus in Disneyland’ are two other ways in which religion is taking on a different relationship within society today. However, other theorists argue that the belief in religion is in fact declining in society, as illustrated by structural differentiation. Weber and disenchantment also ...view middle of the document...

This illustrates that vicarious religion is one privatised adaptation traditional religion has transformed into within modern day society to fit in with people’s attitudes.

Furthermore, Hervieu-Leger has a similar idea to Davie, stating that people are now able to ‘spiritually shop’ around for the religion that suits them. Individual consumerism, where people feel like they have a choice on what religious practices they adopt and believe, has replaced collective tradition. Hervieu-Leger admits that institutional religion, where religion was involved in every aspect of people’s lives, has declined, but this form of ‘pick and mix’ religion remains popular in today’s society, allowing people to practice religion on their terms and in their own time. In support, the idea of late modernity argues that trends within society have accelerated. For example, the decline of tradition and the increase of individualism, showing the explanation behind the weakening of religious institutions such as the church. This demonstrates how spiritual shopping is a new way in which people can carefully pick and choose different elements of religion in order to suit them, without the deep commitment past institutional religion involved.

Moreover, Lyon argues that religious consumerism is a major part within a postmodern society. Religion has now relocated to the sphere of consumption, as many people have ceased to belong to religious organisations but not fully given up religion. Meaning that, people are now choosing which parts of religion to follow in order to get the most use out of religious practices. Ammerman found that many people within her study of American Christian fundamentalism used the churches, but without pledging any loyalty to them. By having all this choice, there has been a loss of faith in ‘meta-narratives’ – theories that claim to hold the absolute truth, such as traditional religion. Due to this lack of monopoly and confusion of the truth, traditional religions have died down, making way for new religious movements for individuals to pick from. However, Bruce argues that the consumerist religion that Lyon describes is weak religion. He states that it has little affect on its followers, indicating the rise of secularisation. This shows how people are able to easily choose their beliefs through the emergence of new religions as traditional religions decline due to their strict rules and claimant of holding the absolute truth.

On the other hand, structural differentiation shows how religion no longer has any sort of relationship with social groups and society. It is the process of specialisation, which occurs, with the development of industrial society, meaning that separate institutions now carry out functions that were previously carried out by the church – such as education and welfare. Parsons argues that this had led to the disengagement of religion, where its functions have been transferred and its purpose in society is rendered...

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