Putting It Together: Religion

In this module, you learned about religions around the world and the role that religion plays in┬ásociety.┬áReligion is a way to organize our values and beliefs, forming our world view, and often helping us to understand the difference between right and wrong. In some instances religion functions as a vehicle for social change.┬áReligion is also a powerful force of contestation and of deciding which group is the “in-group” and which group is the “out-group.” Geographical boundaries have been drawn and redrawn, and nation-states created over religious differences; wars and atrocities have been perpetrated under the mantle of religion.

Understanding religion also helps us to understand our social world. In this module, we used our sociological imaginations to examine religions historically and in their many variations. For example, most people know about a major world event like the Holocaust, but understanding the variety of Jewish people around the world can help us avoid stereotypes. Not all Jews wear yarmulkes (a small head covering) and while many do not eat pork, that is not all there is to being kosher (i.e., observing the dietary restrictions outlined in the Torah). Recent attacks on synagogues in the United States (Pittsburgh, PA in 2018 and Poway, CA in 2019 are just two recent examples) have reminded people all over the world of the dangers of anti-Semitism.

Islamophobia is also a concern in an increasingly polarized United States. A recent survey of 5,000 respondents showed that many do not consider Muslims to be sufficiently “American,” with 67% of Democrats and only 36% of Republicans agreeing with the statement that “Muslim Americans want to fit in as American citizens.” These skewed prejudices reveal a lack of understanding about religions.[1]. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, there is a greater need to better understand different religious perspectives and backgrounds. It is important to understand how religions norms and customs influence society, and to think critically about the intersectionality of religious background, gender, race, and other categories.

  1. Sides, John and Dalia Mogahed. 2018. "Muslims in America: Public Perceptions in the Trump Era," Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publication/muslims-in-america.