Functionalism and Religion

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  • Created on: 19-01-15 11:42
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  • Functionalism and Religion
    • How does functionalism see religion?
      • As functionally necessary.
      • It's role in maintaining social solidarity is very important
      • It contributes to the needs of society and the individual
      • SACRED - Holy or Spiritually Significant
      • PROFANE -  Ordinary, unreligious aspects of life
      • COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE - Beliefs and Values shared by members of society which are essential to social order
      • SOCIAL SOLIDARITRY - A sense of community, or a feeling of belonging
        • 'A unified system of beliefs & practices relative to sacred things, that is, things set apart and forbidden which unite into one single community - called the church- all those who adhere to them'
          • In other words the church becomes the embodiment of our beliefs
      • All societies divide the world into two categories
        • 1. The Sacred. 2. The Profane
          • An example of sacred is the cross in Christianity. It represents something
            • To understand the role of religion in society the relationship between sacred symbols and their meaning must be established.
      • Totemism
        • Durkheim viewed totemism as the most basic form of religon
        • Each clan has a totem, usually represented by drawings made on wood or stone. These drawings are as sacred as what they represent.
          • The totem is a sacred symbol of that clans God
            • Durkheim argued the totem 'is at once the symbol of god and society. Is that not because God and society are one?'
              • By worshiping God people were in fact worshiping their society. So society was in fact the real object of their admiration
      • For Durkheim, regular acts of collective worship play a role in ensuring society's survival
        • He claimed that shared experience unifies society's members.
      • In conclusion, for Durkheim all religions fulfill certain functions for the individual and society
        • Individual  - Religion provides continuing motivation to face life
        • Society - Religion unifies members around shared values and encourages social solidarity
      • Religion and Social Solidarity
        • Agrees with Durkheim about religion promoting social solidarity.
          • But in his view it does so by performing psychological functions for individuals, Helping them cope with emotional stress which could undermine socail solidarity
      • There are two times when religion helps people cope. When the outcome is uncertain and in times of life crisis.
        • When the outcome is uncertain - Study of TROBRIAD ISLANDERS. Ocean fishing is dangerous so is accompanied by 'canoe magic' to ensure a successful and safe trip.
          • The ritual serves as a 'God of the gaps' . It gives humans a sense of control
        • Life Crisis - e.g Birth, Death, puberty etc. They mark major disruptive changes in social groups.
          • Religion helps to minimize the disruption and reinforce social solidarity
      • The cultural system provides general guidelines for action. In the form of beliefs and values.
        • Religion is part of the cultural system - therefore religion provides guidelines for human action e.g. 10 Commandments
      • Parsons sees religion as addressing particular problems is society
        • Such problems fall into two catergories
          • 1. Individuals are 'hit' by events that they cannot foresee or control. e.g. Death. Parsons sees religion as a mechanism for adjustment and as a means of restoring the mormal pattern of life
          • 2. There is the problem of uncertainty- Parsons argues that religion provides a means of adjusting and coming to terms with uncertain situations. Therefore it maintains social stability by relieving the tensions and frustrations what could affect socail order
          • Parsons argues one of the major functions of religion is that it 'makes sense' of all experiences. It justifies suffering and makes it tolerable. as all evil will receive its comuppance in the afterlife
      • It emphasizes the positive contributions of religion to society and ignores dysfunctional aspects
      • It neglects the instances where religion can be seen as divisive and disruptive force
      • Gives little consideration to the hostility between different religios groups in the same society
        • e.g Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland


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