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Functionalism and religion
Hannah-May Whiteing…read more

Slide 2

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Durkheim and religion
Durkheim- presented the most influential
functionalist interpretation of religion.
Durkheim- the fact that 1000s of religion exist
suggest that God & the supernatural has no basis
in reality & was a set of myths & imaginary forces
constructed by humans to bring social order in
societies. Durkheim was an atheist but this did not
prevent him from seeing religion as a power for
social good in society.…read more

Slide 3

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Durkheim- the sacred & profane
Book elementary forms of religious life- divided
world into 2 categories- sacred & profane.
Scared- defined as; symbols or representations of
a divine power which is beyond the
understanding of human beings, things set apart
& seen to be infused with supernatural power,
things which are forbidden ­ rules saying what is
acceptable/unacceptable, e.g. blasphemy, etc. The
sacred can be things or people, and even
Profane- everyday non-scared ordinary objects.…read more

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Functionalism and society
Functionalists- society is a social system made up of inter-
dependent social institutions e.g.. the family, education
system, criminal justice system & religion. Functionalists
often use a biological analogy to describe how society
works, likening it to the human body, with all its organs
working together to bring about good health- just as all
the social institutions of society work together to bring
about social order.
Functionalists- society has prerequisites (basic needs)
which must be met if it is to survive. The most prominent
is the need for social order. It is assumed that social order
requires a degrees of cooperation & social solidarity. This
is made possible by shared norms & value consensus.
Without value consensus people would be pulling in
different directions & conflict, chaos & anomie would
occur. Functionalists-stress social integration, a sense of
belonging to society which acts as a social glue binding
people together as one community.…read more

Slide 5

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Durkheim religion
Durkheim- religion `a unified system of
beliefs & practices related to sacred things;
that is things set apart & forbidden.
Durkheim- sacred things are symbols
which represent something. To understand
the role of religion in society the
relationship between sacred symbols &
what they represent must be established.…read more

Slide 6

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Durkheim Totemism
Durkheim- studied various groups of Australian aborigines
to develop his argument. Saw their religion which he called
Totemism as the simplest & most basic form of religion.
Aboriginal society is split into a number of clans which are
like large extended families with its members sharing
several duties & obligations. Each clan has a totem, usually
an animal or plant which is an emblem or symbol of the
Durkheim- the totem `is the sign by which each clan
distinguishes itself from all others'. Similar to a flag or
banner. However Durkheim- totem was also the most
sacred object in aborigine ritual as the clan saw it as `the
outward & visible form of God'. The animal or bird the
totem represented was seen by the clan to have divine or
supernatural powers. The clan therefore worshipped that
animal or bird. Consequently the totem (represented the
divine) became a sacred symbol around which the clan
came together to worship, pray & celebrate their group
Durkheim- for members of society- totem is both symbol…read more

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