When one secured admission into any tertiary institution, the first question one would often be asked is “which course are you going to read”? The moment one replies that it is BSc Sociology, the mood of the inquirer changes. He might tell you to be careful, because sociologists do not believe in religion; and many other misconceptions trail this particular discipline.
A friend told me about a random preacher who preached against sociology, and unfortunately, he made such insensitive, unverified claims during a sermon (Khutbah) inside a university mosque. It is understandable if some less or uninformed persons say such things, but not a learned scholar. He should have sought for clarification or invited any of the sociologists he knows for a question and answer session.
Sociology has never undermined religion, and it never will. An outsider that lacks sociological orientation may think thus; a person who is not aware of the famous classical work of Elementary Forms of Religious Life, in which Emile Durkheim explicates the idea of religion in its primitive form, and the relevance of religion in the maintenance of social order. Durkheim says, “Religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices”. Durkheim was not really referring to a specific religion, but any religion that will serve as a unifier of members towards the spirit of affection and tolerance. The sociology of religion concerns the practices, historical backgrounds, developments, universal themes and roles of religion in society. There is particular emphasis on the recurring role of religion in all societies and throughout recorded history.
The sociology of religion is distinguished from the philosophy of religion in that sociologists do not set out to assess the validity of religious truth-claims. It may be said that the modern formal discipline of sociology began with the analysis of religion in Durkheim’s 1897 study of suicide rates amongst Roman Catholic and Protestant populations.
Not only Durkheim, but other sociologists such as Max Weber have written on the topic of religion. Contemporary debates often center on topics such as secularization, civil religion, and the role of religion in a context of globalization and multiculturalism.
The contaminated weapon propagated by people from outside the domain of sociology is almost always aimed at the Marxian viewpoint of religion. Majority of the critics will only allow you to hear the Marxist version of ‘opium of the masses’, without further interpretation of the statement. Marx does not undermine or disrespect ‘all’ religions, he only senses ‘danger’ in the religious belief propagated in the western world in the late 19th and early 20th century. That was when religion was used as a tool to subjugate the masses into ungodly hardship and calm them with prophecies of reward that awaits them hereafter. Such contaminated religion is what Marx refers to as the opium of the masses. And beside that, even if Karl Marx does not have any affiliation with religion, the argument in defense and support of religion by other classical and contemporary sociologists will be enough to free us from laymen subjective propaganda.
Though Auguste Comte did not believe in any religion, but he was able to, towards the end of his life proposed a hypothesis called the ‘Religion of Humanity’, in other word ‘Secular religion of Love’. In his religion, he is not preaching Islam or Christianity, rather preaching for the sake of humanity, as science failed to solve the problems of humanity in the Western societies of his time.
Comte tells that religion provides the basis for social solidarity, the spirit of mutual support, morality and cooperation. Religion of humanity should concentrate on socialization and education of people in order to embrace the idea that humanity is the basic component of reality.
Despite Nigeria being arguably a secular state (constitutionally), the dominant religious beliefs are Islam and Christianity. And in each of these is referred to as religion of peace and for peace. While in our routine activities, we all the time do away with the peace notion and go for violence, unnecessary segregation, and intolerance.
It is high time we refer to our respective religions to learn how to live with our fellow brothers in humanity. In contemporary Nigeria, we tend to use religion as a weapon of mass destruction, accomplishment of selfish mission, hate campaigns, and political hideouts. We should refer back to our religious teachings in order to learn sociability, tolerance, cooperation and objective judgments (or conclusions) in replacement of subjective and selfish judgments.
Nigeria is highly in need and thirsty of a form of religion of humanity. It is already there prescribed and dictated in our various religious books and teachings better than Comtean utopian RELIGION OF HUMANITY. Let us pack back to religious classes.