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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Labeling Religion

Since humanity’s earliest hour religion has played a vital role in the politics, societal impacts, and cultures of each civilization. However, religion is something which scholars had had the utmost difficulty in pinpointing a certain label. With this, there have been three different positions with religion. Functionalists believe that religion is a tool to maintain social functions as well as observance as to how faith impacts societal structures. Materialists on the other side repudiate the spiritual aspects as only what is material and capable of human understanding is

truth. While those who are following the faith perspective show and argue the benefits and goods of a religious system.

Religion is a basis of self-functionality for many, while faith has been around for the longest time, many had imposed a single view of religion, they never saw it as a piece of culture that had evolved with the times and continuously changed. Professor Christopher Queen had argued that the teachings of faith, the devotion to deities, and places of faith would lead to a change of individuals as well as the societies in which they pertain (Fisher, 2017). Thus, with such an evolutionary spirit, religion will of course branch, and people will, of course, attempt to find a meaning for it.

With this, one of the noticeable theories on religion is that of the Materialist. Those on this side argue that religion has always been around us, however, that these ideas were created by the human consciousness, and in fact, there is nothing more than the world in front of us. This argument has managed to garner much steam in our modern society as atheism begins to garner a stronger hold within societies, however, materialists still lack a consensus. The German philosopher Karl Marx considered religion a tool of the elites as a way of keeping the working class down on their misfortune, while the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach believed that we projected human qualities and worshiped them, rather than looking at them ourselves for our own salvation (Fisher, 2017 ). Looking at Feuerbach’s argument we have seen examples of his argument, such as with the Greek and Roman religious principles in which deities were added, cut, and copied at the behest of leaders or societal change which certainly makes such debates compelling.

A theory that is the opposite of the materialists is that of the functionalists who observe religion as a means of maintaining social cohesion, the survival of the society, and garner at least minimal understanding towards our own existence and roles. This theory has been promulgated as a means for maintaining traditional societal norms and has been espoused by figures such as Emilie Durkheim who argued that humans require structure and with that faith helps teach compassion, justice, and societal harmony (Fisher, 2017). Although there is positivity from this argument, within the functionalist perspective it has also been countered by those who expunge it mainly with the critique that religion leads to a path of blood and despair, as when there are varying faiths which all vie to been seen as true and legitimate it will only instigate tragedy. It is a very fine line to walk, as many arguments regarding religion always maintain a positive and negative approach, the dogmas of faith and scripture are dramatically impacted within the ways religion is wielded.

Having seen the ways that a materialist and a functionalist views religion, one may see a considerable dissimilarity between form and function, but there is also the side of those who lay their opinion on the faith perspective. While materialists focus more on creation and existence being only present in our material world, and functionalists establish religion as a glue that is more significant to society, those who lay with the faith perspective are very different. Within this argument, it is established that there is a reality that is beyond our own perception and our own reality. Many come to this conclusion due to sacred texts, by word, or due to their own conclusion, however, many debates how one may be able to reach such a conclusion, how is it that one may know this, moreover how can one reach such a conclusion? The father of the protestant reformation, Martin Luther, argued with his own doubts to find the answer (Fisher, 2017). To many, being able to comprehend the faith perspective requires an understanding of materialism and functionalism as once you are capable of such understanding, then being able to think of what lays ahead may be impacted by one’s own ideas and theories about if there is something beyond this.

Many like to think of religion as one singular thing, but what makes it fascinating is how it changes based on its environment, society, and the ideas of individuals. Many throughout humanity’s history have pondered the significance of religion, its values, its worth, and its benefit. Some argued that it is a scourge upon the earth, others believe that it is necessary to shape our modern world, while it is seen by others to lead to something yet seen. However, despite our differences, it is clear that the impact of religion will continue to be seen.

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