What is religion and what is spirituality? Can you be religious and spiritual at the same time? Is religion's influence on society declining? What role does religion play in social change? Do religions foster cultures of violence or social harmony?Sociologists of religion have long grappled with these questions. While there is no agreed definition of either religion or spirituality, scholars have provided useful explanations to help us understand these terms and the changing place of religion in contemporary societies. We will examine some of these questions and frameworks in this chapter. We will also investigate how religions can contribute towards or undermine the creation of peaceful societies. These aspects of religion are of most interest to governments, non-governmental organisations and the media, particularly after the tragic events of 11 September 2001. More recently, religions have become the subject of significant public scrutiny and debate: This has occurred in parallel with a dramatic growth in the number of people declaring themselves as having 'no religion' in Western societies.
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