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With a multiplicity of variances among the myriad forms of it which exist and have existed in the past, religion is a difficult topic on which people can come to any mutual agreements, especially regarding its purpose in the lives of human beings. Taking a sociological viewpoint of this phenomenon, Berger defines religion as the human endeavor, stimulated by man's unique biological constitution, by which a sacred cosmos is created for the purpose of establishing a sense of order and meaning within man's life and to protect him against the horrors of nothingness and chaos. Non-human animals enter worlds which are mapped out for them, with limited choices available and secure guidelines by which they must live. Man, however, has an “underspecialized and undirected” instinctual nature (5), so he must create his own world. This world-building, creating society, occurs in three steps. First, man pours out meaning into the environment which surrounds him and creates culture, a process known as externalization (5-6). The society and all of its parts that he creates, material and non-material, becomes “objectivated human activity” (11), in that its status as existing apart from the humans who created it changes it into objective reality that men collectively regard as fact. In the final step of world-building, through the process of socialization, man is not only taught the objectivated meanings of his society but “internalizes” them so that they shape his very consciousness (15). This socially constructed world is “above all, an ordering of experience...a nomos” (19). By externalizing meaning upon an otherwise meaningless environment, transforming those meanings into objective realities, and internalizing them within consciousness, ... ... middle of paper ... ...within the private sphere. The above argument aims to emphasize that religion is a powerful human construction which, in its use of the sacred as validating the world man creates, has the power to detach itself from its human origins and take on a reality all its own. Since man comes into the world with limited instincts and an overwhelming variety of choices to make, religion helps him to construct and maintain a world that gives him a sense of grounding, allowing everything he does to feel more ordered and meaningful than it otherwise would. So thoroughly comprehensive is religion that, even when secularizing forces remove religious legitimations from the overall social world, religion still maintains ordering, meaningful positions inside the private lives of people all over the world, remaining a sacred canopy under which human beings can feel safe and secure.
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