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Why Is Religion Important?

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In this essay we will discuss the importance of religion in society. We will attempt to explain why societies have religions and what functions their belief system has for them. We will also ask if these functions are now out-dated and if religions have any meaningful function in today's world or are they just stained glass windows into a bygone era? 'Religion' can be defined by two main groupings. 'The inclusive definition' covers all topics and subjects of a persons life including, not only, their belief in a deity but also their belief and belongingness to music, sport and any other interests the person may hold. 'The exclusive definition' refers to just their belief system regarding a 'supra-human' (Browne 2005, p. 311). It is mainly the latter grouping we will focus on through out this essay. Although the ideas expressed in this work can be applied to any nation, we will focus on Ireland's relationship with the Catholic Church from the nineteenth century to the present day.
In pre-famine Ireland, the Catholic Church was a very small order and did not have much impact on the lives of the people. This was a result of pagan rituals which the general public had practised for hundreds of years and they believed that it was these rituals that were pleasing god. However, when the famine occurred in 1846 and millions lost their lives and/or emigrated, Irish people began to believe that their pagan rituals were out-dated. It was at this time that the Catholic church opened its door to the masses of Irish people, offering a new belief system and a new way of pleasing god (Larkin 1984). This is one of the most important reasons for a society to have a religion. The Irish society had been believing in a system which had, at this time, ...

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...er, as we can also recognise from this work, religions in modern, western European societies are losing their social standing and importance because of the rising levels of both atheism and internal self belief. Perhaps, not too much time shall pass before we see the extinction of religion, as we know it, from our societies completely.

Reference List:
Browne, K. (2005) 'An Introduction to Sociology', Cambridge: Polity Press.
Bruce, S. (1996) 'Religion in the Modern World: from Cathedrals to Cults', New York: Oxford University Press, pp 96- 100.
Larkin, E. (1976) 'The Historical Dimensions of Irish Catholicism', New York: Arno Press.
O' Mahoney, E. (2011) Practise and belief among Catholics in the Republic of Ireland, Maynooth: Council for Research & development.
Wilson, B. (1982) 'Religion in Sociological Perspective', New York: Oxford University Press, pp27-37.
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