“If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society,
it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion.”
Religion exerts a profound influence on all societies and many of the world’s peoples. Throughout history, it has proven to be the primary force for social progress, motivating individuals to develop spiritual qualities, and empowering them to sacrifice for their fellow human beings and to contribute to the betterment of their communities. Those universal spiritual principles which lie at the heart of religion — tolerance, compassion, love, justice, humility, sacrifice, trustworthiness, dedication to the well-being of others, and unity — are the foundations of progressive civilization.
At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the perversion of religion has been a primary cause of social disintegration, intolerance, hatred, sexism, poverty, oppression, and warfare down through the ages. Indeed, many of today’s seemingly intractable problems can be traced to the corruption and misuse of religious authority. It is, thus, obvious, that if religion is to help meet the manifold challenges confronting the world community, it must be free of ignorance, prejudice, and animosity.
Foregoing any tendency to promote purely personal or limited-group salvation, religion must emphasize that the individual’s spiritual fulfillment and well-being are tied up with the collective progress of the entire world community. Through service and an active commitment to justice and unity, religion can bring an enormous, positive force to bear on the issues of social development.
For this week’s summary, and to better understand the sociology of religion in general, we turn to the legacies of three of history’s most influential, and most revolutionary religious sources. During their lifetime, each one of these prophets was seen as controversial changemakers, charismatic leaders, and determined social activists who not only helped form impactful religious movements, but were also willing to die for their individual causes, and in so doing, profoundly shaped our view of the spiritual world.
Jesus Christ was born circa 6 B.C. in Bethlehem. Little is known about his early life, but his life and his ministry are recorded in the New Testament, more a theological document than a biography. According to some religious studies scholars, there are only two hard historical facts about Jesus: (1) He was a Jew from Nazareth who led a popular Jewish movement in Palestine at the beginning of the first century, and (2) Rome crucified him for doing so. So Jesus of Nazareth was a revolutionary who confronted the Judean religious establishment. He was not a peaceful spiritual leader, marriage counselor, or diplomat. Jesus was a radical social activist who died fighting for justice and the common good. Everything else people attribute to him – like the common narrative that Christ, the Son of God (which is actually a traditional title for Israel’s kings, like David), sacrificed his life to forgive the sins of humanity for eternity – is all up for interpretation. And if someone tells you that the Bible says homosexuality or abortion is a sin, the truth is you won’t find Jesus quoted as saying it anywhere in the Bible.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
Muhammad was born around 570, AD in Mecca (now in Saudi Arabia). His father died before he was born and he was raised first by his grandfather and then his uncle. He belonged to a poor but respectable family of the Quraysh tribe. The family was active in Meccan politics and trade. Muhammad was first and foremost a revolutionary, a fiery religious guerrilla leader who created and led the first genuine national insurgency in antiquity that is comprehensible in modern terms, a fact not lost on the jihadis of the present day, who often cite the Koran and Muhammad’s use of violence as justification for their own insurgencies. Unlike conventional generals, Muhammad did not seek the defeat of a foreign enemy or invader; rather, he sought to replace the existing Arabian social order with a new one based upon a radically different ideological worldview. To achieve his revolutionary goals Muhammad utilized all the means recognized by modern analysts as characteristic of a successful insurgency in today’s world.
Buddha was a spiritual teacher in Nepal during the 6th century B.C. Born Siddhartha Gautama, his teachings serve as the foundation of the Buddhist religion. Buddha started a huge revolution in the spiritual history of humanity. First, the quest for a working solution to the problem of suffering was never targeted before, and people were taught to accept their weakness and inferiority to the creator god or to their fate or karma. To offer the potential to overcome human suffering (and turn them into enlightenment) – this was a revolutionary achievement in the history of humanity- in the domain of spirituality and inner freedom. For this reason, when followers of the Buddha work hard on themselves through their practice of meditation and chanting – they are actually revolutionizing themselves by casting off illusions and weaknesses and declaring leadership of wisdom over ego and small-self limitations (the source of unhappiness and conflict in relationships).
A MUST-WATCH VIDEO:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIgb-3e8CWALinks to an external site.
Share and briefly react to your results at the end of your summary.
Being culturally sensitive and respecting your’s and others’ spirituality and religious traditions, in general, is seen as an important sociological competence tool. Applying your spiritual or practical awareness to specific personal encounters or interactions requires even greater sociocultural skills. These can be, but are not limited to:
In turn, these skills are used to guide conversations and interventions that affect the following social issues:
Match one of the six (6) sociocultural skills with one of the six (6) social issues and put both elements into conversation with one (1) of the three religious figures above:
Based on their personal histories, and the way they carried out their missions, how do you think your religious figure would respond to your two (2) elements?
What led you to choose your religious figure as an intermediary for your two elements?
In relation to your two (2) elements, create an example of how your religious figure’s specific spiritual beliefs, and the way they professed them, might make a difference in today’s society if your religious figure was alive.