Theories of Religion

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  • Theories of Religion
    • definitions
      • substantive
        • focuses on the substance of religion, belief in a superior being or power, exclusive definition
      • functional
        • focuses the functions religion performs for society, psychological and social functions, inclusive definition
      • social construct
        • looks at individual definitions of religion, CAN'T have one definition, NEITHER inclusive or exclusive
    • Functionalism
      • Religion maintains harmony
      • Inhibits social change
      • provides a positive function
      • provides shared values = social solidarity
      • Case Studies
        • Durkheim - Totem pole
        • Malinowski - canoe magic
        • Parsons - stability to society, answers ulitmate questions
        • Bellah - civil religion in America
      • Evaluation
        • ignores negative parts of religion
        • ignores the conflict it causes and the oppression
        • Religion can bring social change
        • OUTDATED, except Bellah
    • Marxism
      • maintains social order
      • negative force
      • tool of social control - ideological state apparatus
      • diverts attention from the real cause of pain (RC) to God
        • promises a paradise, making life more bearable
        • justifies social order by making you believe your position is inevitable
          • Matthew 19:24
      • Marx
        • Religion is the opium of the people, acting like an opiate to dull the pain of oppression and exploitation
        • dulls the pain, but doesnt stop the problem
        • all societys would eventually evolve  into a communist stae, NO use for religion
      • Lenin
        • Religion is a 'spiritual gin'
          • An intoxicant handed out to the people, used to manipulate the WC and keep them from rebelling
      • Evaluation
        • ignores positive functions
        • ignores religion bringing about social change
        • based on assumption
        • similar to religion, the capitalist state may not be always needed
    • Feminsim
      • reflects the inequalities between sexes, reinforcing patriachal ideas
      • Evidence of partiachy
        • Religious organisations
        • Sacred Texts
        • Religious laws and customs
        • Places of Worship
      • Religion in the past
        • Armstrong (1993) early religions placed women at the centre
        • Saadawi (1980) religion is not the direct cause. patriachal ideas reshaped religion
      • Criticisms
        • Woodhear (2002) not all religions are patriachal, women are using religion to free themselves e.g. Hijab
  • Evidence of partiachy
    • Religious organisations
    • Sacred Texts
    • Religious laws and customs
    • Places of Worship


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