Is religion in decline as a major social institution?
This paper will critically analyse and debate the question ‘is religion in decline as a major social institution?’ I will be focusing my paper primarily on the United Kingdom (UK) but will touch on other Western countries. To begin, this paper will look at the definitions of religion – as this in its self is surrounded by debate, and then it will go on to look at what is meant by secularisation. The main body of the paper will look at various perspectives, both for and against the idea that religion is in decline within the UK using not only the well documented thoughts of Sociologists but also using data that has been collated through various methods, such as the Census and British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA).
We will now move into defining ‘religion’ .We will examine two main ways in which religion is defined. The Substantive approach sees a religious belief system as involving relations between the natural and the supernatural ideas defining religion in terms of structure and content of people’s beliefs and not what religion does for them. Alternatively we can look at the functional interpretation, which defines religion in terms of the function it performs for society. Many sociologists have defined religion, Sociologists such as Durkheim defined religion as "a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say set apart and forbidden, beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community, called a church, all those who adhere to them" (1965 ).
Religion could also be thought of in various other situations, such as in football for example, a group of people come together in a ‘belief’ of something. They perform rituals and sing the ‘praises’ of what could be described as their common god – their football team. However, for the purpose of this paper we will assume religion to be of the most commonly perceived form ie the belief and praying to ‘god’...