Religion as a Social Facts

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A social act's existence is rooted in societal acts that extend beyond the person's realm and have the potential to exert social influence. Religion, for example, plays a vital role in an individual's growth and development as well as in a country's social, economic, and political environment.
Religion involvement of american adolescents
I was raised in a Baptist family. My parents encouraged (and even forced) me to go to church and participate in the church's children's programs from an early age. However, in the neighborhood and in the school, I had a number of close friends who practiced the Muslim faith.

As a disclaimer, I would like to categorically state that I respect all the religions in the world. I also respect the rights of an individual to disassociate themselves from any religion whatsoever, atheism for instance. Therefore, I intend to draw on my own experiences in order to explore religion as a social fact in the context of the sociological theories of Emile Durkheim. Having stated that, my experiences are based on the following two factors:

- My experiences being a member of a church (the Baptist Church) and my interaction with fellow Christians.

-My experiences through interacting with my Muslim friends

According to Emile Durkheim, social facts have the ability to play a coercive role on the consciousness of an individual (Gane 9). In addition to that, religion, as a social fact, has created a situation where an individual receives a prescription on what is right and what is wrong. By swearing allegiance to a certain religion, one follows the prescribed code of behavior for the religion.

When I was in Sunday school, I remember my Sunday school teacher teaching us about the Ten Commandments which stated what one should do and what one should not do. Like other religions, the Baptist Church has myriad rules and regulations that govern it, and it expects its faithful to follow the same. Thus, the choice of behavior is not left at the whim of the individual but rather, one is subject to his or her faith. In connection to this, the established rules and regulations would react the moment I made a mistake. For example, if I would do a mistake. The parents would remind me what I learnt in church, and sometimes, they would go right ahead and punish me.

According to Durkheim, religion plays a critical role in promoting integration. Durkheim, in his study of suicide, observed that individuals with low levels of integration had a higher likelihood of committing suicide. Durkheim adds that suicide is an objective social facts. This means that it is best understood in context. He says thus:

The determining cause of a social fact must be sought among the antecedent social facts and not among the states of the individual consciousness.

In that case, religion has played the role of pacifying the society in order to prevent such cases as committing suicide. In my teen years, I remember my pastor talking about the importance of sharing your problems with others in order to have a peace of mind. He would always tell us not to wait until a problem is out of control. I vividly remember my pastor encouraging a drug addict not to commit suicide (as he kept saying he would) but rather work on his drug problem and other motivations towards suicide in his life.

Durkheim portrays a social fact as an embedded and complex social fact which helps individuals to stay within the norms. Religion is one of such variables which has been used as a tool of holding a society together and contributing towards personal development. From the work of Durkheim, the existence of a social fact can only thrive in a social organization. The institution of the church is one of such social organizations.

However, the same religion, much as it is a factor of integration can bring disharmony. This is more so in the case where a certain religion does not comfortably interact with members of “the other.” Borup and Ahlin compare the perception and attitudes that of the Catholics and Buddhists towards integration. Their findings was that the Catholics had a higher likely hood of leaning towards their religious identity while the Buddhists were generally tolerant and accommodative towards others.

In January 2017, Trump signed the Executive Order 13769. I read it as just that, news. Little did I know that it would directly affect me. I received a call from my best friend. He had just finished reading the Quran as was his daily routine when he receives some sad news. His father, an immigrant, had travelled to his native country, Libya. The day that he was to travel to travel to the US, Trump signed the executive order. He was therefore barred from getting back to the US that day. Though he was later able to travel back to the US, the situation reminded me of how religion has created social categories.

My best friend would open up to me later about the discrimination he faces every day. By his own admission, most of the terrorists who have executed terrorists act are members of the Muslim faith. And therein lies the foundations of the discrimination. Some members of other religions, view Muslims as terrorists. In this case, the war against terror is perceived by the Muslim community as the war against Islam (Jones 45).


There is a strong correlation between the social facts and the behavior of individuals. Religion has contributed to segmentation, has controlled the behavior of individuals, and has contributed to growth and development.


Borup, Jørn, and Lars Ahlin. "Religion and cultural integration." (2011): 176-184.

Gane, Mike. On Durkheim’s Rules of the Sociological Method. Routledge, Print.

Jones, James W. Blood That Cries Out from the Earth: The Psychology of Religious Terrorism.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

October 20, 2021


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