Welcome to this tutorial on the role of religion in modern life. Religion is far more than just a historical curiosity or an anthropological and sociological artifact. These disciplines-- anthropology and sociology, which probe into human societies-- speak to religion very much in the present tense. Religion is not just a relic, a leftover belief or object from past times, but still affects modern life.
Despite the claims of secularization theory, religion still plays an important role in modern life-- in almost every aspect of life for some people, from birth to death. Secularization theory was a set of ideas from the 19th century from thinkers such as Freud, Marx, and Auguste Comte that said that as people grew more educated in society, more industrialized, the role of religion would gradually decline.
That doesn't seem to have been the case. The world is still divided socioeconomically and politically along religious lines. Just think about how countries in Europe still have a large Roman Catholic influence, countries in the Middle East and in Indonesia are still largely influenced by Islam. We might add North Africa to that. And we can think about other parts of the world where religion is still important. Even in China, which tried seriously to eradicate religion, religion is still an important force in society.
Religion can motivate, it can direct and inspire, and it can unify in ways that other forces rarely can. Even forces like nationalism, which is the belief that perhaps one nation is superior to another and that people should rally around the flag rather than religious belief-- even nationalism, which is a very strong force in society, doesn't seem to have the potential to unify that religion does.
With that potential for inspiration comes to also the potential for religious conflict and religious violence. It's rarely the case that only one factor influences society. So nationalism and religion can combine. Economics and nationalism can combine, and so forth. So we want to be wary of simplistic explanations. But that potential for violence is always going to be there.
Let's think about objectivity and religion. We often don't think of that word objectivity being used outside the sciences. But in the study of religion, it means refraining from judging those under study. The principle of objectivity, or what we might call the principle of charity, says that we should try to see a position from the point of view of those who hold it before we move to a mode of criticism. So we should try to see the point of view of the religious people we are studying before we move into that critical mode. It's not that we can't offer criticism. We just want to first try to get inside the minds of the people that we're studying.
Thanks for watching this tutorial on religion in modern life. Now we'll just do a quick recap. We said that religion has a tremendous capacity to inspire people, to motivate their behavior, but that it also comes with the potential for violence. We also said that despite the claims of secularization theory, religion still plays an important role in modern life. In fact, the world is still divided both socioeconomically and politically along religious lines.
We also said that in studying religions, we should attempt to get inside the minds of those we are studying and employ the principle of charity to see a position from the point of view of adherents before we move to a mode of criticism. Thanks for watching.
Relating to the combination and interaction of the disciplines of anthropology (the observational study of humankind) and sociology (the scientific study of humankind).
The belief that either a particular nation merits a higher position than other nations or that citizens’ lives should be structured around the needs of the state or society.
A leftover belief or object from past times.