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Durkheim, Malinowski, Parsons &
Bellah…read more

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Durkheim (1915)
Religion reinforces social solidarity by affirming
the moral superiority of society over its
individual members.
Durkheim argued the sacred and profane
(sacred = the forbidden, which evoke feelings
of awe, profane = the ordinary, mundane we
interact with everyday.) is the distinction
between individuals and society.…read more

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Durkheim studied totemism and the aborigines of
He considered the totems they worshipped to
symbolise their tribe, and therefore rather than
worshipping a God they were actually worshipping
Durkheim applied this theory to all religion, and
argued that rather than worshipping a God people
are worshipping society.
The relationship between God and humans
(power and dependence) is a reflection of the
relationship between people and society.…read more

Slide 4

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Malinowski (1954)
Religion promotes solidarity by performing
psychological functions, helping individuals to
cope with emotional stress that would
undermine solidarity.
Malinowski argues two ways religion does this:…read more

Slide 5

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1. Where the outcome is important but is uncontrollable
and therefore uncertain:
Malinowksi studies the Trobriand Islanders in the Western
Pacific and noticed a difference between behaviour when
fishing in the lagoon and ocean.
When fishing in the lagoon, the islanders didn't perform a
ritual because it was safe and predictable ­ they always
caught fish.
When ocean fishing, they performed what Malinowksi
called `Canoe magic' as it was dangerous and the
outcome was uncertain.
He also said that these rituals served as a `god of the
gaps' ­ they fill the gaps in human control over the world.…read more

Slide 6

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2. At times of life crisis:
Malinowski argues that rituals performed at
certain times in life, birth, puberty, marriage
and death etc, helped to minimise disruption in
social solidarity caused by these events.
For example, he argued funeral rituals
reinforce solidarity amongst survivors and the
notion of immortality gives comfort to the
He also argued that death is the main reason
for religious belief.…read more

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