A New Religion?

April 26, 2009

christWhat constitutes a religion? Some sociologists would say that basic characteristics such as dogma, ritual, virtues, and a moral community would be indicators of a religious organization. Let’s quickly go over some dangerously short definitions! Dogma is rules based upon virtues you can’t question. Virtues are what you think are good or righteous. Ritual is a pattern of behavior that is taught to you so you can learn dogma and virtues. A moral community is a group that has the same religious understandings you do and supports your faith and religious behavior.

So if a social institution has characteristics that function as dogma, ritual, and virtues, and generates a moral community—is that a type of religion? Some sociologists say yes! But, what if the institution doesn’t identify itself as a religion? An example of this for some people might be political parties.

Political party platforms are based on values. The party supports laws that enforce and protect these values. Political parties have rituals—conventions, rallies, elections, voter drives, run-offs, debates, and protests. The party itself can be considered a community based on shared values and beliefs among the members and the political support members afford each other. Some sociologists call certain political parties (and things like them) a “secular” or “civil” religion.

What do you think about this topic? Do you want to express your opinion? If you do, post a response to one of the topics below:

1. Do you think politics can function like a religion? Why?

2. Regardless of whether you think political parties function like churches, do you think other secular institutions have taken over some of the traditional functions of religion? If so, give some examples.

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One comment

  1. I think government does act like a religion and the same for religion acting like a government. They both establish values and rules; they both require their citizens/followers to obey these rules and be loyal to them. And they both have punishments, outsiders, ad people who don’t follow the rules. The only thing that separates religion from government is the belief system and the various forms of religious faiths.

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