Functionalism and Religion

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  • Functionalism and Religion
    • Durkheim
      • Religion is the distinction between the sacred and the profane
      • Sacred = Something with a special meaning
      • Profane = Something everyday
      • Totemism
        • Studying society in its simplest form
        • Studied a tribe which worshipped a totem that represents society. Therefore, they are worshipping society
        • This led to social solidarity and collective conscience as those in it share rituals
    • Parsons
      • Religion is a source of meaning in society and promotes social solidarity
      • Religion tries to answer big questions, therefore, religion makes sense of meaningless and helps to adjust to bad situations
        • Helps to promote social solidarity
      • Establishing values and social norms which is important for social stability
    • Malinowski
      • Religion was important for solidarity but developed through psychological needs
      • 2 event types
        • 1. Life crisis = birth/ death and helps to minimise disruption
        • 2. Activities with important outcome e.g. lagoon and sea fishing. Rituals increase self control
      • Lagoon fishing = safe, not ritual
      • Sea fishing = not safe, ritual
    • Advantages
      • Put religion into wider social context to see relations with other institutions
      • Help re-establish interest in religion analysis
      • Durheim - emphasis on importance of establishing origin of society seen as worship of society in rituals
    • Negatives
      • Ignore negatives of religion as cause of conflict
      • Durkheim's ideas can't be scientifically proved
      • Small scale, now are mainly religions, hard to see how perform traditional functions

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