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Religion Concepts As A Social Construct

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Six billion, three hundred and twenty-five million, two hundred thousand people around the world claim a religious faith. Religion itself is not a social construct. Christians exist, Muslims exist, Jews exist. However, the concept of religion in and of itself is a social construct as it was created by man to explain natural phenomenon (i.e. why is there rain?) which then evolved into modern religions today that are more self-reflective and aim to explain human nature. The purpose of this paper is to prove that religion is a social construct and to explore other alternative viewpoints in order to expand upon ideas. Even though atheistic and humanist religions exist, for the sake of simplicity, when religion is mentioned it is to be assumed that a theistic and Abrahamic religion is being mentioned.

Social constructs, as defined by Paul A. Boghossian, are “thing[s that] could not have existed had we not built it (Boghossian).” There is no tangible proof of many aspects of various religions, such as the proof God exists, that hasn’t been created by humans themselves. Many manmade or mandated totems or rituals that support the idea that religion is “real” and not a social construct is, truly, part of the social construct itself. Since religion is so deeply rooted in the lives of many around the world and has been for centuries, the initial rejection of these ideas has worn off and become a shared experience for many. The Bible, said to be the word of God, was written in the forms of multiple books (the first five being the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) by Moses himself. In actuality, the books were spread over around 300 to 400 years and written by multiple prophets, known through analysis of the language used by these biblical authors (Stockton). This means that what has been passed off as the word of God for so long was written by multiple human beings who were not even prophets of their own religion. In addition, the cross, which is a huge symbol of Christianity, has pagan origins, and yet the Bible condemns any pagan symbol. This is further proof that such a huge symbol of Christianity was crafted by regular human beings and not by the God they believe in.

Religion is based on many rules that man have implemented themselves. A Theologian Buber has said religion and the rules that people follow from their religion distracts them from God Himself (Prof. Gold). If the concept of religion and the sacred objects that “support” it distracts from the figure whom that religion revolves around, does religion become a social construct? Man-made religious values manage to discriminate against many minorities (not just ethnic or racial minorities), even though God is said to love “all His children.” For example, there are verses in the Bible that support the institution of slavery, such as Colossians 3:22, in which it says “Slaves, you must always obey your earthly masters,” which Confederates in post-colonial and Civil War era America used to justify their actions, though their treatment of slaves was not “God-honoring” in any way (CEV 2nd Edition). These rules and cherry-picking of the Bible, which has already been debunked as God’s word, restrains the followers of that religion from practicing their religion the way they believe their God truly wants them to. However, if we strip away the Bible or other man-written sacred texts or items, what is left to follow? If religion was not a social construct, there would still be a way to practice their religion or have some sort knowledge or connection to it that was not learned, even if it is in its most primal form. Some may argue that Paleolithic animism disproves religion’s role as a social construct, but animism in many forms was a way to explain natural phenomenon, which has more roots in the scientific nature of studying and analyzing the behavior of the natural world. If there was no spread learned religion in the modern world, there would most likely be no person to step up and claim they heard the voice of a God, and if they did, they would most likely be called psychotic or delusional.

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Furthermore, some say that religion is not a social construct but truly a delusion, and religious groups are groups of people who share similar delusions. The American Psychological Association defines a delusion as “an often highly personal idea or belief system, not endorsed by one’s culture or subculture, that is maintained with conviction in spite of irrationality or evidence to the contrary (American Psychological Association).” Because religion is such a big part of so many cultures, according to the APA, someone’s religious beliefs would not correspond to the definition of a delusion. However, under the same circumstances described in the previous paragraph, if there were no learned religion in modern times, hearing the voice of God would be a taboo. Even with learned religion, it still taboo to say that one hears the voice of God. Though this case is atypical and the source may not be the most reputable or honest, a user on the forum website Reddit with the username “EntireDiscount” claims to hear the voice of God. He is a 30-year-old man (assumed gender orientation) who, according to his own accounts, has been involuntarily hospitalized on over 10 different occasions and has the delusion that he is in a relationship with a God that he cannot see. He stated in a post under a schizophrenia Reddit board that “[he doesn’t] think hearing her voice is schitzophrenia [sic].” Many others, including the psychiatrist who diagnosed him, believe that he does have this mental illness. What separates him from previous prophets? How are people able to differentiate user EntireDiscount from a prophet such as Jesus, who may have been experiencing the delusion that he was God’s son?

Others may say that religion is rooted in our biology and therefore not a social construct, as we cannot “create” our own biology. There are many parts of our brain that support believing in a God or Gods, such as the temporal lobe and the parietal lobes (The Independent). Humans have believed in some form of religion since the Paleolithic age, learned or not, so it makes sense that the brain has adapted and evolved to support the concept of a god. In the article, it is mentioned that a belief in God improved the chance of survival in human beings and following the theory of evolution this supports the belief in God in present times. In addition, even in the current era, a belief in God decreases the mortality rate with people that have diseases such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s and even cancer in some cases by an average of 37% (Koenig). Religion may be rooted in biology, but not because God is a part of us in some way, but because it increases our chances of survival and traits that increase the chance of survival will be the traits that strengthen with the evolution of a species, humans included.

The amount of change religion goes through and the stagnancy of religion, as contradictory as that sounds, further proves the fact that it is a social construct. Ideas such as same-sex relationships have now become widely accepted in many denominations of various religions, and yet there are still so many that hold the same “traditional” values that condemn these ideas. People cherry-pick from the Bible and interpret it the way that fits their life and their beliefs, which shows that even though there is a shared belief in God, the ideas and concept of that God are varied from person to person. This alludes to inconsistencies in belief in God. There are similarities to a belief in a God or religion and science, as queer as it may sound. For example, modern astronomers don’t believe that the sun revolves around the Earth as Copernicus theorized. However, scientists don’t hold the same views as they did before because new information has come about and changed our ways of thinking, yet religion stays stuck in the past and only changes based on a follower’s opinion as the Bible, the “word of God,” cannot change.

The concept of religion, the belief in a god are both social constructs that have been passed down for centuries. Humans wrote the Bible, created and added the symbolism behind their sacred objects and text, some of which is contradictory or cherry-picked to fit the follower’s personal beliefs. Some go even further and say that religion is not a social construct, but a delusion shared by man. Others say that religion and a capacity for belief in a god is rooted in our biology and is therefore not a social construct. All other views aside, many facts support the fact that religion is a social construct, if not completely fallacious in its entirety.

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Religion Concepts As A Social Construct. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/religion-concepts-as-a-social-construct/
“Religion Concepts As A Social Construct.” Edubirdie, 24 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/religion-concepts-as-a-social-construct/
Religion Concepts As A Social Construct. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/religion-concepts-as-a-social-construct/> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2022].
Religion Concepts As A Social Construct [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 24 [cited 2022 Dec 9]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/religion-concepts-as-a-social-construct/
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