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Benefits without boundaries? Social relationships and religion.

Benefits without boundaries? Social relationships and religion.

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Even though the Alliance for Positive Thought questions the existence of the supernatural, we believe that there are some aspects of religion which are useful and desirable to incorporate into everyday life. Possibly the biggest benefits of organized religion are the social relationships and community it creates for participants.

People who belong to a religious faith often attend a worship service where they meet like minded individuals and have the opportunity to make friends. They often feel as though they belong to a community that they can trust, and therefore they have a high level of social capital (the potential energy of social relationships). That is, they have people they can count on for advice on health, employment, relationships, and life events.

These feelings of community are partially generated by participants’ perceptions of shared beliefs and norms. Members of a congregation know that they share moral values and have a sense of right and wrong. Membership and belonging is often perpetuated by the religious leader, and reinforced through actions of the congregation.

However where there is inclusion and relationship building there is also a risk of exclusion and naming those who are different as the “other.” To a religious person, the “other” is someone who does not share their morals. The “other” is someone who they cannot trust. What do these perceptions of the unworthy “other” reveal about the social relationship benefits that religion brings to its participants? Must there always be a boundary between those who are included in a community and excluded? Is it possible to maximize the benefits of social relationships without generating exclusive boundaries?

 

 

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