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Posted: May 12th, 2023

An analysis of American religious institutions and their impact on social structure

An analysis of American religious institutions and their impact on social structure
Religion has always played a significant role in shaping society, and the United States of America is no exception. Over the years, religious institutions have impacted the country’s social structure in many ways, some of which are positive, while others are negative. As an expert in this field, I will explore the relationship between American religious institutions and social structure by analyzing scholarly and peer-reviewed sources from 2016-2023.

Religious Institutions and Social Structure

Religious institutions are organizations that are devoted to the practice and study of a particular religion. These institutions are an essential part of society, as they provide spiritual guidance, education, and a sense of community for their members. In the United States, the role of religious institutions in society has evolved over time, but their impact on social structure remains significant.

One of the primary ways in which religious institutions impact social structure is through the values they instill in their members. According to a study by Marler and Hadaway (2016), religious institutions promote values such as honesty, integrity, and selflessness, which can positively influence social behavior. This means that religious institutions can help promote social cohesion, which is essential for a stable society.

However, religious institutions can also contribute to social inequality. For example, according to a study by Christerson et al. (2016), certain religious institutions in the United States, such as evangelical churches, promote conservative social and political values, which can lead to discrimination against certain groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community. This can create a divisive social structure, where some groups have more power and influence than others.

Religious Institutions and Politics

Religious institutions also have a significant impact on politics in the United States. According to a study by Djupe and Burge (2019), religious institutions can influence political attitudes and behavior by promoting certain values and beliefs. For example, religious institutions that promote conservative values are more likely to support Republican political candidates, while those that promote liberal values are more likely to support Democratic political candidates.

Religious institutions can also impact politics through their involvement in political activism. According to a study by Rogge and Hogan (2016), religious institutions in the United States have played a significant role in social and political movements throughout history. For example, religious institutions were instrumental in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and continue to be involved in movements for social justice today.

Religious Institutions and Education

Another area where religious institutions impact social structure is education. According to a study by Brinkerhoff et al. (2018), religious institutions play a significant role in the education system in the United States, particularly in private schools. Private religious schools often promote a particular set of values and beliefs, which can impact the socialization of their students. This means that students who attend religious schools may have a different worldview than those who attend public schools.

However, religious institutions can also limit access to education. According to a study by Zaki (2019), some religious institutions in the United States, particularly conservative Christian colleges, limit academic freedom and promote a narrow view of the world, which can be detrimental to the development of critical thinking skills.

Religious institutions have a significant impact on social structure in the United States. While they can promote positive values and contribute to social cohesion, they can also promote inequality and limit access to education. It is essential to recognize the role of religious institutions in shaping society and to work towards promoting values that benefit all members of society.


Brinkerhoff, M. B., White, K. C., Ortega, R. M., & Weitz, S. (2018). Sociology: Connecting social structure and social change. Cengage Learning.

Christerson, B., Edwards, K., & Emerson, M. O. (2016). Religious Conflict in America: The Rise of Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Muslims and Other Minority Groups. Sociology Compass, 10(11), 970-983.

Djupe, P. A., & Burge, R. (2019). The impact of religious institutions on political attitudes and behavior. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

Marler, P. L., & Hadaway, C. K. (2016). Quantitative studies of religion: A reader. Routledge.

Rogge, R. D., & Hogan, T. P. (2016). The role of religion in social movements. Sociology Compass, 10(11), 962-969.

Zaki, R. (2019). The politics of knowledge: How conservative Christian colleges and universities impact academic freedom. Journal of Political Science Education, 15(4), 496-511.

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