Religion is simply a brain-washing control device to make individuals behave in the way that the middle class wants them to

I believe this statement is true and will try to prove it through my research into the functions of religion and why people believe in it. I have chosen to study this particular area because I myself was brought up in a religious junior school and think that religion affects everyone whether you believe in a religion or not. It should be fairly easy to gain access to my sample because I can ask friends, family and other students to fill in my questionnaire. I also think it is very important that everyone understands religious views because even if you don’t agree with them yourself, you should try to see other peoples points of view to learn to be tolerant of others opinions.

In order to research this I will create 100 questionnaires and ask people aged 15-80 to fill them in for me, the questions will ask about their own beliefs and ideas on the uses of religion, for example some people chose to follow a religion because they believe if you live your life according to the rules of a religion such as Christianity, they will be rewarded in the afterlife. I think 100 people will give a reasonable sample and there is nothing un-ethical about my research because anyone I ask to take part has the right to refuse, also I am being honest about the subject I am researching.

Objectives:

1. The questions in my questionnaire will be balanced between open and closed questions because I want to gather as much data from my research as possible. I think this will be useful so I can use figures as clear evidence but also can generalise people’s answers to see if there are any patterns in respondent’s ideas.

2. As there will be 100 questionnaires issued I will try to get as even a number as possible of religious and non religious people answering so the data collected is not biased.

Context

Religions are often used as control devices within society which are created by the ruling class to maintain the status quo and motivate people to be efficient members of society with good work ethics so society can remain as conservative as possible. Religion appeals to many through use of shared symbols, values and norms so people joined to a religious group gain a sense of collective identity and belonging in a society that may otherwise seem fairly lonely.

People often hold religious beliefs to find meaning to their existence and situations, it makes their lives appear meaningful which is important because most people would like to feel as though there was a real purpose for them being here and that it wasn’t just coincidence. The problem with religion providing these ideas to people is that they could simply be giving everyone a false consciousness, people will believe what they want to believe in so if a group teaches that there is meaning to life it will be a popular group to those who don’t want to deal with reality.

Durkheim defined religion as a system of beliefs and practices which relate to sacred things, these sacred things unite individuals into a moral community. The ‘things’ which religions hold as sacred are only sacred because the religion puts so much emphasis on it’s supposed sacredness but it is man who creates what is sacred and what isn’t which shows how there is not necessarily truth behind religious teachings because they are simply creations of mankind given social status to control how we think. Therefore people hold similar views in society and we can work together with less conflict.

My research mainly focuses on the functions/reasons for religion and according to O’Dea there are six main functions of religion which are:

1. Aid the individual in providing support, consolation, and reconciliation.

2. Provides a transcendental relationship with the beyond.

3. Makes sacred the norms and values of established society

4. Calls society’s norms and values into question

5. Provides a sense of individual identity and helps with the self-concept formation.

6. Aids in the growth and maturation of the individual and his passage through the various age grading.

I will try to discover if people today believe these are the main functions of religion, but obviously for my questionnaire I will have to re-phrase these functions so anybody who doesn’t study sociology can understand them.

Weber found that capitalism had developed only in the West because it was here where the religion formed value-systems. I think that people do work harder because of religious beliefs motivating them to do their best so they can gain points for a good place in the afterlife. I therefore think when asked if you believe in an afterlife the majority of people will answer either ‘yes’ or unsure because it is a very big factor for many people and even non religious people think about it a lot.

Methodology

The method I will be using to gather my information will be in the form of questionnaires as I believe that this will give the largest amount of feedback for my research and will therefore give a more accurate picture of the issue I am looking into. I believe questionnaires are the best method for my research because they can be filled in at the respondents own time so they don’t feel as though you are invading any of their time especially since they can chose to simply not fill it in at all.

I realize this could cause a problem for me when I am gathering the information back in because often you will not get all the questionnaires handed back however the majority should send them back and with a large enough sample a few missing questionnaires should not affect the overall conclusion dramatically. Also I feel that other research methods such as interviews would be unnecessary for my work because the questions are simple enough to understand from a questionnaire and the subject is not a particularly sensitive one so people would not need a sympathetic approach to the issues raised as can be used in an interview to relax respondents into opening up in their answers.

I aim to hand out 30 copies of my questionnaire as this should be a large enough sample to work with and by asking friends/family/students etc then I will be able to gain access to the audience I need as I need a variety of people to take part I think this size sample will provide good validity to my research because you need a range of views to gain an accurate picture of what the majority and minority think. The sample will hopefully be a fairly even balance of male and female and any age range can take part (starting at about 15) because anyone over this age should understand the questions and have valid opinions on the topic.

My questionnaire is designed to ask people what they think religion can offer to the individual as well as society and weather it’s influence on people is a beneficial factor of society or a negative aspect. I will do this through open and closed questions to gain a variety of responses to work with, I will aim to make the open questions as easy to understand as possible perhaps by offering suggestion answers. However this may be difficult because I will have to make sure that the questions are worded in a way that doesn’t show any personal bias. Despite this problem I think this is the best method for my research because it is a subject that most people would not have objections to expressing their opinions on and so long as do not appear in favor of any particular way of thinking then there would be no need for anyone in the sample to feel as though their views were in any way inferior to anybody else’s responses.

I will release a pilot copy before the real questionnaire to test out my questions and see if they are easily understood, this should help make the feedback more valuable because respondents should understand the questions better. A pilot copy would also be useful to highlight if there are any aspects of my questionnaire that could be seen as too intrusive or unethical in my questioning because I would not want to offend anyone who is answering the questions.

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