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Sociology of Religion

MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Q. 3. Critically discuss Durkheim’s perspective on religion.

Ans. Religion: A Functionalist Perspective: Religion, in the view of functionalist, contributes a lot in society and help in maintaining social solidarity which in turn help in maintaining harmony and integration between the different parts of the society.

Private Limited Religion helps in the integration of people and brings about a feeling of belonging in them.

Because rituals are performed in a collective group, religion brings about a feeling of having something in common between different groups in the society.

The belief in people is also common in nature. Also, the values and ideals are common in nature. According to a functionalist, religion is a social phenomenon or institution that helps in performing these functions.MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment


Durkheim tried to define religion by dividing it into two directions.

Firstly, appositive direction in which he made number of observations and secondly investigative direction in which he reduced the religion into elementary parts and tried to find out what is common in all religions.

Durkheim’s definition of religion from Elementary forms is as follows:
“A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a ‘church’, all those who adhere to them”.

This is a functional definition of religion, which means that it explains what religion does in social life: Essentially it unites societies.

Durkheim defined religion as a clear distinction between a sacred and profane in effect this can be paralleled with the distinction between God and humans.

Nearer to the end of the book, Durkheim revises and secularizes his definition as “first and foremost, a system of ideas by which men imagine the society of which they are members and the obscure yet intimate relations they have with it”.


Durkheim’s sociology of religion is associated with certain critical remarks. Some of these are: MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

• Ignoring the role of the individual religious leaders and the way the religion functions in social conflict and asymmetrical relations of power.

• Stressing more on social psychology. MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

• Durkheim centralized his study on a single tribe in Australia and ignored the neighboring Australian tribes and made arbitrary speculation.

• According to some theorists, there is no evidence that the Australian totemism is the earliest totemism.

•Some scholars even suggest that the Australian data was introduced only to illustrate Durkheim’s theory. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022
MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Q. 4. Examine Marxian approach to the understanding of religion.

Ans. Marxian Notion of Religion: After analysis religion to a deep extent, Karl Marx said that religion is also dependent upon material and economic aspects.

As per Marx, religion is functional in nature and is an illusion full of reasons and excuses. Religion, according to Marx is irrational as it hides the underlying reality, also religion is alienating as it alienates people from their ideals and forces them to worship an alien and unknowable being i.e. God.

Religion is hypocritical in nature as it professes valuable principles and also sides with the oppressors.MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

As per Marx, religion is an illusion for the poor. Since the poor are deprived of the economic realities, they find little true happiness in their life.

Religion helps them find true happiness by reasoning that it is not correct or true because in their next life they will find the true happiness, Religion hides the realities of the social life by providing temporary relief to the suffering person.

Religion helps in forgetting the pain temporarily.
Marx believes that there will be a time when beings will not need religion as a medicine to reduce the pain created by the economic conditions in the society.

Religion brings a set of beliefs in man which are contrary to their interests. To create a free society, religion as a tie to the past must be eliminated.

Marx concluded by saying that religion as an illusionary mask to the social reality and social injustice.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022


Karl Marx had a theory of religion which everyone knows about from his phrase “opium of the people.”

Even with this negative view, the social theory of Marxism would eventually intertwine religion and economics from that point afterward.

Marx never bothered with a true theory of religion, since it was going to be naturally eliminated anyway.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

It rested on a foundation which was going to be removed anyway, thereby taking religion right alongwith it.

Starting out as a Young Hegelian, where idealism reigns, he would later turn to materialism. The idealists saw a two story universe, where the material world on earth was made to function by the thoughts and ideas from the World Spirit.

John Locke actually had a concept of consciousness which made him an idealist. Marx turned this on its head, with his transformative method” or direct inversion of the idealist position. Materialism believes in a one story material universe, like Hume.

The ideas and thoughts from the brain were just that, results of material forms, without any spirit or soul involved.

This very thinking led to sociology, and Marx applied it to the workers of the Industrial Revolution going on at the time.

The economic basis of human life were social processes in themselves, the distribution of materials and goods. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

A hierarchy emerged between social functions of base and those of the superstructure. Base or substructure functions included physical necessities like food, clothing, and shelter.

This went against the prevailing thoughts of the day, where spirit was the real necessity, and physical aspects were on the level of the animal.

Superstructure functions were more like add-on features, dependent on the base, but not truly necessary.

Art, philosophy, culture, and religion are such examples which Marx deemed as less important.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Since Marx saw human history as the struggle between workers and owners, the latter could use the superstructures to create an ideology which they effectively used against the workers.

It was similar to the medieval divine right of kings, where the subjects had no choice but to put up with the natural power of the ruler.

This reminds me of the Great Chain of Being, not the Great Being of Comte. Religion was used as a justification of the owner’s theft of the worker’s labour, since the promise of future salvation was to compensate.

Thus, a docile and compliant worker would not complain or change anything, exactly like the Great Chain.

Political order and class structure was not something to be changed, without dire consequences. Religion was not revealed according to Marx, so its own account of its very own origins was not viable.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

A book by Ludwig Feuerbach was soon published called The Essence of Christianity, with which Marx wholeheartedly agreed. Religion was a human projection of its highest qualities; wisdom, justice, and mercy. MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

Religion was thus an illusion, an opiate of the people. This theory was not enough for Marx, as he wanted to further examine the social function of this illusion, in order to expose religion and lead it to a downfall.

His transformation method led to another inversion. The abolition of religion was needed since it was the illusionary happiness of the people instead of genuine true happiness.

The demand to give up this illusion, involves a demand to give up on a condition, which demands illusion. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Yet like we mentioned already, Marx saw no need to directly attack the epiphenomenon (secondary) of religion.

When the base functions were transformed by placing the proletariat in power, the old European religion would naturally collapse along with it. Frederich Engels saw religion as a step in the right direction, so it was beneficial at times in history.

This reminds one of Comte, who saw the theological stage as a sign of progress towards the other subsequent stages.

The Book of Acts pointed him towards how people lived in early Christianity, sharing property and private things. MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

Religion undid the damage from the previous treatment of property as something private Slaves were also to be treated decently nointing to religion as being something for the power, the old European religion would naturally collapse along with it.

Frederich Engels saw religion as a step in the right direction, so it was beneficial at times in history. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

This reminds one of Comte, who saw the theological stage as other subsequent stages. The Book of Acts pointed him towards how people lived in early Christianity, sharing property and private things.

Religion undid the damage from the previous treatment of property as something private. Slaves were also to be treated decently pointing to religion as being something for the oppressed people of society.

It was a march up to the slave and worker’s paradise. This was perverted by missionaries which led it to be something for kings and commoners, instead of the very lowest.

Thus, religion was changed by those upper classes into something used to keep down the lower, working elasses.

Antonio Gramsci attempted to organize the Italian peasants against the land-owning classes, yet realized that religious elements had to be approached if Marxism was to succeed. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

He knew it would be futile if he simply demanded the peasants to stop attending church, so he turned to the Old Testament prophets.MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

Justice was the main theme, where the poor were to be cared for. He rails the rich as the oppressors which they are, turning religion into a positive force, as an amphetamine of the masses instead of an opiate.

These Marxist critiques run into obvious trouble since the Marxist theory was an actual experiment in 20th-century government.

The melt down of the Soviet Union leads to a bankrupt theory in historical respects, but not all. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Religion can still be critiqued as a theory outside of the governmental aspects, Richard Comstock reports that a simple inversion of religion, will still end up looking like religion.

Charles imagines a negative photograph, where we still know who the person in the image is. Using the transformative method on Marxism, one can see a movement towards a final paradise of sorts, where the workers are governed via a proletariat dictatorship.

This may be related to Marx’s Jewish upbringing, where there is a trajectory towards an end paradise.

Marx used the transformative method on the idealist world to the material, but there was still very much a religious feel to the materialist world.

James Boon points out that the distinctions between base and superstructure are blurred. The ideas and concepts are in the superstructure, but the religious practices and rituals of the people are in the base.

The economic landscape also enters into the picture, to the degree that if religion were removed, there would be drastic economic repercussions.

This implies religion is not necessarily all superstructure. Rodney Stark argues against Engels’ view that religion was intended for the slaves.

The Roman Christians were a middle and upper class who did not need any such opiate, thereby disproving the Marxist analysis. Marxism is still compelling since religion does affect material wealth and comforts. MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

Certain upper classes have been shown to use it to their advantage over the lower. Liberation theology with its combination of Marxism and the justice of the Old Testament.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Marxism does show that religion cannot be separated from economic reality


Marx pointed out the difference between ideologies and science. As per his analysis ideology is illusionary and non-verifiable in nature whereas science is real and verifiable.

Moreover, ideology is a negative concept as it involves distortion in the form of contradictions.

Also ideology is a restricted concept as not all kinds of errors and distortions are covered in it. Let us now see how Marx was influenced by the religious conceptions of Feuerbach.

Influence of Feuerbach on Karl Marx

Marx got influenced by two important works on religion i.e. “The Essence of Christianity” which focuses on the essential; elements of human nature and “Lectures on the Essence of Religion” which talks about the sources of religion in human dependence on nature.

Feuerbach’s other aspects of religion also influenced Marx.
These are: MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

• Religion is created by humans as per the image created in their own mind.

• Humans remain connected with the religion till the illusion of their dreams stick to them.

•The self-conscious efforts of a human being gave rise to religion.


For Marx, societal superstructure rested upon production relationships, i.e., class relationships.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

The superstructure was not an autonomous entity. It followed class developments and the conflicts of therein. Religious institutions, being part of the superstructure, were no exception to this rule.

And of course, if we look to history, this fact has proven to be true. Within feudal Europe, the church as an institution held vast land estates. It was the pope who crowned the kings of Europe.

Kings Justified their rule through divine right–that is to say, God granted them the right to rule.

Within the feudal superstructure, religion developed with these legal and political institutions, but in the end, rested upon the relations of that day.

This changed during the French Revolution. The bourgeoisie revolted in France, refusing to acknowledge the divine right of the king and demanded legitimacy of their 3rd estate. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Religious hierarchy splintered into groups that sided along with their class interests. Bishops, archbishops, etc., sided with the former feudal powers.

Parish priests on the other hand, sided with the growing bourgeoisie because they more closely identified with them.

It is no coincidence that when Napoleon was crowned emperor, he crowned himself in front of the Pope, refusing to allow the pope to crown him. Religion shifted with the entirety of the bourgeois superstructure.MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

Now, look at present times. Small priests that grow up around impoverished people are some of the most vocal advocates of egalitarian change.

Liberation Theology has gripped poor countries on multiple continents.

If, hypothetically, a proletarian-dominated economy developed that suppressed bourgeois society and bourgeois superstructure,

how is it not logical under Marxism to assume that religion, as a cultural institution would not also shift with the changing production relations?

MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022
MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Q. 5. Explain the role of priests and prophets in Nuer society.

Ans. Priests and Prophets: Priests are required at the time of the sacrifice made for a particular sin committed by the Nuer. ‘Kuaar’ is a leopard skin priest.

These priests are considered as strangers. The priests are of two types i.e. Goatleak and Jimem.MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

In case of a fight, if a man is killed by another man, then the priest is required to make the arrangement of an animal for sacrifice.

This is done to eliminate the sin committed by a man by killing that person. The role of the priest is to act as a middle man, whose words are final.

His judgment is final and cannot be questioned. The people of Nuer consider it a crime if a man has actually killed a person but denies it and does not confess for his crime.

Thus, confession is very important in the Nuer society, in the case on has committed the crime. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

An ox is used for sacrifice in case a person has committed a sin. The leopard skin priest acts as a medium in conducting the procedure of the sacrifice.

Similar to priests, the role of prophets in the Nuer, religion is very important. Pritchard says that in Nuer religion, a prophet is a person who is possessed by a spirit of the air.

Pritchard has made a few comparisons between a prophet and priest:

• Priest is a traditional functionary, whereas prophet is developed recently.

•The role of the priest is mainly at sacrificial functions whereas the prophet’s roles are indeterminate.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

•The powers of the prophet are an inspiration from self or in other words charismatic whereas a priest gets the power from the first priest i.e., social heritage.

• A priest possesses no cultic features whereas a prophet has cultic features.

The priests and the prophets are regarded as different types of persons in the eyes of Nuers. The inspiration of the prophet gives him the power to healthy people by rubbing bis spittle on them or by sprinkling watermark or butter on them.

In the case of sacrificial ceremonies, a Nuer depends upon the leopard skin priests.

The role of priest is required when a sacrifice is made if a person has committed a sin. Priests do not possess politico-administrative rights and are linked with the earth.

A priest sacrifices on earth on behalf of man. Everybody has to have faith in the judgment of the priest and his verdict is unquestionable. The leopard skin priest plays a very important role in the Nuer society.

Prophets also play an important role in the Nuer society. As per Pritchard Prophets have spiritual powers. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

A prophet is a recent development whereas a priest is a traditional functionary. Priest holds an office whereas a prophet’s virtue resides in himself.

The priest has no cultic features prophet has cultic features. Prophet can be considered as an interpreter of the spirit.MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

The role of priests is mainly in case of sacrifice but a prophet helps in healing by sprinkling water, milk or butter on them.

Q. 6. Discuss the main reasons that contributed to the wide spread of the cult of Sai Baba of Shirdi.

Ans. Early Teachings of Sai Baba: As told earlier, Sai Baba’s teachings were pure and simple that helped the devotees to gain peace of mind.

The devotee’s faith in Sai Baba helped them believe that they will have a peaceful without any calamity.

Baba said that if someone wants to search him, then one should search within oneself. If a person does inner inquiry, then all the doubts will be removed and in the process will achieve oneness with him.

He taught the two mantras “Sai Sai” or “Om Sai Sai” for which no particular meditation posture was prescribed by him. And therefore, can be repeated by his devotees anytime and anywhere.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Sai Baba’s spiritualism continued to help and guide the devotees in the number of ways even after he left his body in 1918, but his work and influence continued even after he left the body. MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

Sai Baba did miracles for the people who were suffering from any kind of illness. Sai Baba believed in giving equal treatment to his devotees no matter what or who the person was.

He used to respect all the devotees equally. Baba’s teachings helped in raising spiritual consciousness in people and the rise of devotion, at the same time the need for material things and possessions would reduce gradually.

To get enlightened, the devotees of Baba are doing prayers and meditating, and also by gathering information on Babas leelas and miracles, remove the curtain of ignorance.

A detachment from worldly affairs and activities will help the devotee come closer to Sai Baba and to achieve this all the barriers to devotion must be broken down.


We will now study the assurances given by Sai Baba to his devotees. Following are some of the assurances

(a) No harm shall befall him who sets his foot on the soil of Shirdi
This assurance means that whosoever comes to Shirdi will maintain good health, happy mood would be safe and sound on the sacred soil of Shirdi.

Another version of the above-mentioned assurance is that Sai Shirdi provides protection to his devotees. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

This assurance proves that Shirdi is a spiritual place and is still the home of Sai Baba. Because Sai Baba stayed in Shirdi for about sixty years, his spiritual powers are gone in the soils of Shirdi. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Shirdi is a holy village and holds the town and whosoever comes to Shirdi will be benefited spiritually. Those who visit Shirdi will gain good and happy fortune.

(b) He who cometh to My Samadhi, his sorrow and suffering shall cease
This assurance means that when a devotee visits Babals Samadhi,

the vibrations of the saint get connected with that of the devotee. Because Samadhi has baba’s spiritual powers and mortal remains of the Baba lie there,

the Udi or sacred ash creates an environment that makes a devotee release all the emotions of love near the Samadhi. Thus the ambiance near the Samadhi leaves a positive impact over the devotees.

(c) Through I be no more in flesh and blood, I shall ever protect my devotees:
This assurance is a spiritual statement of Baba in which he promises that though one day he will leave the earth and his body will be put into Samadhi,

he will still be spiritually proactive and will keep protecting his devotees. The spiritual body of Baba help, energizes, advice and bless his devotees.

Thus even if Sai Baba’s physical body does not directly prevent the devotees, his spiritual body will protect and help the devotee.

(d) Trust in me and your prayer shall be answered Baba says that one should have trust in the Guru if the prayers need to be answered. Sai Baba, in this case, is Guru and devotees go to him with a number of problems.

Those who use the sacred ash with trust have discovered that their problems are solved. Again a link between the Guru and the devotee is created through the vibrations which help in curing the problems. MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

Trust in Guru helps in solving the problems of the devotees.

(e) Know that my spirit is immortal, know this for yourself
A devotee must realize that the spirit of the guru is immortal and does not perish with the body. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Sai Baba says that it is the personal experience that help a devotee to know the immortality of spirit.

Meditation by chanting the mantra Om Sai Sai’ or visiting Shirdi will help in realizing the faith in immortality. Faith, devotion, dhuni, Udi, etc. help in having faith in the immortality of the spirit.

(f) Shows unto me he who sought refuge and been turned away.
Sai Baba is a compassionate and affectionate guru and those who visit him with faith, trust, affection, love, and devotion will be positively benefited.

Those who approach Baba with the right spirit, Baba opens up the door of love and affection for him which helps in solving the problems and difficulties.

(g) In whatever faith men worship Me, even so, do I render to them.
The purity of intention of the devotee is very important for the solution of the problem of the devotee.

Sai Baba believes in spiritual benefit but the devotees who are interested in material benefit will be benefit materially.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Sai Baba fills the life of a devotee with true happiness and joy. Devotees approach Sai Baba with different attitudes and intentions, but no one is turned away or looked down upon and are benefited positively.

Devotees come with purity in turn receive purity.

(h) Not in vain is My Promise that I shall ever lighten your burden.

According to this assurance, a devotee’s burden becomes lighter and lighter as his clouds of sorrow and misery go away. MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

The guru cleans all the negative thinking and evil tendencies by following kirtan, Bhajan, meditation, and prayer.

A devotee believes that Sai Baba is looking after him and blessing him. Some devotees have experienced miracles from diqu BhuniaA devotees Sorrows and sufferings are reduced and the burden becomes lighter and lighter.

(i) Knock, and the door shall open, ask and he shall be granted.
According to this assurance, if one makes an effort and knock, then the door opens up. They must ask and what they ask will be granted’.

Knocking refers to meditation and chanting of mantras.’ By leading a pure life and helping the poor and needy, one leads a spiritual life.

If a devotee asks Baba with humility and prayer, Baba being a loving and affectionate saint grant him happiness with love.

Sai Baba says that those who knock at the door with meditation and affection and ask with humility will get what they want as the doors will open up for them.

(j) To him who surrenders to Me totally I shall ever be indebted.
As per this assurance, when a devotee surrenders to Baba totally, he becomes an instrument of his knowledge and His mission in life.

Such devotees help Baba in doing good acts and achieving miracles. Surrendering to Baba is through prayers and meditation.MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

The devotee feels oneness with Sai Baba and the burdens get reduced bit by bit and then lightened completely. Thus Baba gets indebted to the devotee surrenders himself to him. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Thus Baba says that devotion helps in gaining oneness with the guru and blessedness helps in building relationships between the disciple and the guru.

All the assurances mentioned above provide promise that no harm will befall anyone who comes to the soil of Shirdi. Samadhi of Sai Baba is important as the vibrations build up the relationship between the devotee and the guru.

Sai Baba is not present in flesh and blood but still protects his devotees. Trust in guru helps in solving the problems of the devotees easily.

The intentions and the purity help in being good and being away from bad deeds.

Thus a devotee with good and pure intentions and with sincerity and one who meditates will remain away from the burdens of sorrows, sadness and will recover from all kinds of illness. Surrender to the guru will help in becoming one with him.

Q. 9. Discuss Peter Berger’s viewpoint on the future of religion in society.

Ans. The Concept of Religion: Berger’s analysis on religion made him have a substantive definition of religion which states that religion is the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established or in other words, religion is customization in a sacred mode’. MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

He said that the objects of human experience are sacred in nature. The objects like rocks, clothes, tools, times and spaces, etc. are all sacred in nature.

Berger agreed with Durkheim on the concept of sacred and profane. Profane is the absence of sacred aspects and is defined negatively.MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

Profane is defined as ‘what is not sacred is profane’. The profane activities can become sacred if they come in contact with extraordinary powers and vice-versa i.e. if a scared object loses its power, it becomes commonplace.

Berger formulates that the sacred emerge out of the chaos as initially the universe was full of chaos and then God controlled everything in the universe, created man and woman by giving them the sacred knowledge and blessing a happy life for them.

On failing to do so, it would result in their end.

According to Berger, religion also possesses some dangerous powers which withdraw their support and power if not treated properly.

If a connection with the sacred is lost, it would result in chaos. The terror runs away by having a faith in magician powers and vice-versa i.e., if a scared object loses its power,

it becomes commonplace. Berger formulates that the sacred emerge out of the chaos as initially the universe was full of chaos and then God controlled everything in the universe, created man and woman by giving them the sacred knowledge and blessing a happy life for them.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

On failing to do so, it would result in their end.
According to Berger, religion also possesses some dangerous powers which withdraw their support and power if not treated properly.

If a connection with the sacred is lost, it would result in chaos. The terror runs away by having a faith in religion.MSOE 3 Free Solved Assignment

Berger’s initial thesis that modernity reduces the effect of religion was later on doubted by Berger himself.

Later, he worked to prove that religion is a strong and potent force that directly or indirectly affects people’s imagination and lifestyle.

This is irrespective of modern science and technology, capitalism, and rational thinking. Following are some of the reasons responsible for his belief in secularization:

•The conservative and evangelical churches are growing in America

• The liberal churches are declining

• Western societies are having a persistent faith in religion

• Religion plays a vital role in other parts of the world.

Berger criticized his own view and view of some other theorists that modernization is interlinked i.e., modernization leads to a decline of belief in religion in society.

In most of the countries the culture of individualization of religion’ started existing. The ‘individualization of religion’ means religion for the individual.

In different countries, varieties of religious beliefs and experiences can be seen.

Churches continue to play an important role both in the United States and Europe but Americans continue their traditional beliefs for churches and call themselves as born-again Christians’.MSOE 3 Solved Free Assignment 2022

Berger analyzed that full of massive religious explosions’ are occurring in modernized society but this does not mean the non-existence of secularization.

The structure and pattern of secularization vary in different parts of the world. According to Berger, in today’s world, it is pluralism that is causing a decline in traditional beliefs and practices.

It is believed that in the future religion will continue to play an important role in society but its version will change. It will be more of a “religion with pluralism’ rather than a religion that is one, unified and monolithic in nature.


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