Functionalist Theories of Religion

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  • Functionalism
    • Durkheim
      • Sacred and Profane
        • Religion is the distinction between sacred and profane objects
        • Study of totemism shows rituals involving a symbol reinforcing solidarity
          • Groups were actually worshipping society
      • Collective Conscience
        • Sacred symbols represent society
        • Religion reinforces shared norms and values
      • Cognitive Functions
        • Religion provides the basis for thinking and reasoning by outlining categories
    • Malinowski
      • Psychological Functions
      • Religion helps cope with emotional stress
      • When an outcome is uncontrollable therefore uncertain
      • At times of life crisis e.g. birth, death
    • Parsons
      • Values and meaing
      • Legitimises society's central values
      • Religion is primary source of meaning
      • Religion answers the ultimate questions
    • Bellah
      • Civil religion
      • Societies that attach religion with the country itself
      • USA e.g. pledge of allegiance, national anthem
      • Religion is associated with being a true American
      • Creates "American God"


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