“Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion” by Ronald Johnstone


The most important chapter in this context is chapter one. Apparently, all people have some familiarity with the religion, although they may not be affiliated with any religious group in particular. However, religion plays a crucial role when it comes to the field of politics (Dawson, 2011). Probably, terrorism has some indirect links to politics; for instance, the event that took place on 11th of September 2001 led to the emerging concerns and fame of the Islamic religion (Putnam & Campbell, 2010).

The actual perpetrators and players involved in the attack were linked to this religion, and this sparks my concern for the role of religion in preserving human life and dignity. Religion is rampant, and most people are for the recognition of God as the Supreme Being. Moreover, the strong presence of religion prevails even among people who claim not to be affiliated to any religion or even to recognize God, but in one way or another, from their expression, they tend to recognize the existence of a supreme being.

The aspect of religion exists to uphold some beliefs and practices (Blasi, 2007). Principles such as recognition of human rights, justice to all people, equity, and freedom from oppression prevail among all religions despite their differences in faith. Despite many religions in the world today, upholding these principles shows that human beings are not defined by religion, rather religion is a basis of a person’s faith while at the same time in respect of one another by virtue of being human (Dillon, 2003). This paper reflects on various issues in connection to sociology and the study of religion, as highlighted in chapter one of this book by Ronald Johnstone.

Roles of sociology in connection to religion

Sociology aims at defining the way people interact, especially when in groups, and how the two parties get to influence each other as they keep on interacting. In my opinion, this aspect depicts that a sociologist is in a position to explain the different behavior of different individuals in a group. Sociology is quite crucial in finding solutions to problems that may arise in an organization or even a small group of people (Johnstone, 2007).

This assertion holds because different people behave in a different way and human beings are subject to influence each other if care is not taken during socialization. This same case happens with religion, which is usually organized in groups. For instance, there are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and many other religious groups currently existing globally. The strong influence exerted upon people by a particular religion makes him or her remain or join a particular religious group (Dawson, 2011).

The influence is derived from individuals’ perceptions of the group’s doctrines and teachings that lead to strong beliefs and faith in the religious group. Religious groups have such a strong influence, as they are likely to determine a member’s behavior at his or her place of work, home, and other social places. This aspect holds because that member tends to behave in a way to obey the group’s teachings and doctrines (Johnstone, 2007). The displayed behavior is likely to attract others into joining or rejecting a particular religious group.

Sociologists’ assumptions on religion

Just like many other theories and concepts, sociological concepts and views on religion have assumptions behind them. By virtue of being a biological organism, human beings are subject to a variety of needs, potentials, and limitations, and this aspect makes us prone to influence, although limited by biological factors. Religion is one of the agents through which human beings tend to socialize (Johnstone, 2007).

For instance, people from different households meet for a common purpose on a certain day as long as they share a common religious group and faith. This element is not limited to households, but the socialization of this kind can extend to people from different regions globally. Religion plays a crucial role in defining how the mode of behavior, especially when it comes to sexuality (Dawson, 2011).

Different religious groups have different views when dealing with human sexuality; however, there exists a common aspect that all of them regard and concur that it should be treated with the dignity of high caliber. For instance, Christianity is for the view that sexual intercourse is only a preserve for the married and polygamy is not allowed as God created one man and a woman; therefore, marriage should be preserved for two people. However, this belief is not the case with Muslims who allow polygamy, although they strictly discourage sexual activities before marriage. In both religious groups, sex before marriage qualifies for fornication, which is sinful before God. This aspect depicts the fact that religion has a strong influence on this biological aspect of human beings (Dawson, 2011).

Human beings have the ability to attach some meaning to objects, sounds, and symbols, among others. Arguably, the creation of consensus on the intrinsic meanings has helped members of a group to communicate and gain adequate knowledge (Johnstone, 2007). Different symbols and words are used to denote different things or pass a variety of knowledge and ideas among different religious groups.

The religious aspect for some people claims that a divine message has been revealed to them. However, if this message is not expressed in a way that can be understood by people, then that message tends to lose meaning and become useless. This assertion is an issue that needs to be addressed as it seems to be recurrent and religious leaders involved do not seem to take any step to correct the issue (Furseth & Repstad, 2007).

For instance, in a prayer meeting, people tend to deliver messages in tongues that cannot be understood by the people present. The message loses meaning since the intended recipients cannot understand. Arguably, people become human when in groups. I agree with sociologists to some extent for a human being cannot exist on his or her own. Human beings are dependent on each other, and thus can hardly survive independently. However, I challenge this point for courtesy of biological makeup, people are human beings. For instance, they are human for they have higher brain capacity than all animals, and they are organized in a unique way when it comes to the body structure.

The assumption that all actions by human beings are directed towards solving a problem stands to be challenged (Blasi, 2007). Sociologists believe that human beings are presented with problems that they choose to present a solution either immediately or in the future. However, it depends on a person’s discretion to solve the problem or leave it as presented. They also believe that religious behavior aims at solving some forms of problems through prayers, attending church services, and many other ways. Currently, religion has failed to address some contentious issues, and it seems to complicate issues the more.

For instance, it is not biblical to terminate the life of another person. Medically, do the Bible and other religions come in to provide a solution in termination of pregnancy when the mother’s life is at risk? Currently, some people are being sentenced to death by courts for various crimes depending on the magnitude of the crime committed. Does this decision depict a conflict between religious principles and those depicted by systems of justice? Apparently, the same religion advocates justice to all human beings. These issues depict some of the problems that religion has failed to provide a solution.

The concept of religion

Sociologists have offered different definitions of religion. However, there is no clear and concise definition of religion, although it can be based on the role depicted by religion upon the lives of different individuals. The difficulty relies on the fact that there are many mysteries lying behind a religion, most of which are natural and can hardly be explained (Dillon, 2003); for instance, where people go after death and causes of death, floods, fires, and thunderstorms among others.

From these occurrences, people believe a strong force behind them, hence laying a basis of religion. Religion is a phenomenon on a group of people who have similar believes (Dawson, 2011). However, religion is a group phenomenon, although it begins with an individual who has a vision and insights that he or she feels should be shared with other people. Based on this argument, sociologists can derive characteristics depicted by a certain group of individuals who share a common goal (Dawson, 2011).

Currently, there has been the emergence of differences among the member of a certain religion, which has led to divisions being experienced among members of a certain religious group (Putnam & Campbell, 2010). This aspect has resulted in the emergence of several protestant religious groups, especially among Christians. Sometimes, religious practices, beliefs, and doctrines should go hand in hand with logic.

Some religious groups with weird teachings and practices have been on the rise, and to my surprise, people are following them blindly, which shows the extent at which religion has had influence on human beings beyond logic and common sense. However, a religious group should be organized in a way where every member has a role to play with respect to the norms of the group. In addition, as a sign and symbol of unity, group members should work together, as it is also a way of expressing unity and a sense of belonging.

All religious groups have a body of beliefs and set of practices, which they are entitled to in their existence; for instance, holy books, readings and scriptures, in addition to universally accepted principles and practices. These set of practices are upheld on behavior, especially when it comes to performance of some rituals (Blasi, 2007). However, people should be warned against following certain religions blindly.

People should be at a position to evaluate the intrinsic meaning behind some practices by some religious groups, especially with the current emergence of different religious groups, some with religious practices that need close scrutiny. There have even been allegations that some religious groups are linked to devil worshiping. These allegations have gone to the extent of claiming that currently, the practice has been very rampant and are associated with top class people in the society (Putnam & Campbell, 2010).

With the application of common sense and logic, people should be at a position to study the behavior depicted by such groups and make an informed decision before taking any action. Some of these groups tend to lack moral prescriptions as displayed by other religious groups. They have no dignity for human life as depicted by the fact that they make human sacrifices in order to fulfill certain missions. This practice is against universal Christian religion that shuns this kind of practice (Furseth & Repstad, 2007).

Religion and magic

The practice of magic entails exercise of powers that are likely to have control over people. However, this practice happens out of consciousness and is a deliberate practice to interfere with certain events expected to occur in the future (Blasi, 2007). Magic can also be applied to have a change on some events that are deemed inevitable. However, it is only among primitive societies that such practices are prevalent, although some people are ignorant when distinguishing religion from magic.

However, this scenario happens as both involve some faith and beliefs, practices, and tend to provide solutions to problems faced by some individuals. Although there are some similarities between the two, religion supersedes magic in various ways (Blasi, 2007). While religion goes beyond providing a solution to a problem, magic is typically geared towards a problem after which the powers cease to function. Religion is a group affair that involves believing in unseen super natural being whereas magic is an individual affair involving a magician- a fellow human being (Dawson, 2011).


There lays various roles played by the religion in the lives of people as stipulated in chapter one of this book. Religion is crucial in upholding human dignity through promotion of virtues such as equality among others. Currently, there has been the emergence of various religious groups with varying practices. However, every human being has the responsibility of studying the group carefully before making an informed decision.

Reference List

Blasi, A. J. (2007). American sociology of religion: Histories. Leiden, Holland: Brill.

Dawson, A. (2011). Sociology of religion. London, UK: SCM Press.

Dillon, M. (2003). Handbook of the sociology of religion. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Furseth, I., & Repstad, P. (2007). An introduction to the sociology of religion: Classical and contemporary perspectives. Aldershot, UK : Ashgate.

Johnstone, R. (2007). Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion (8th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Putnam, R., & Campbell, D. (2010). American grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.