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Beliefs in Society (3)
Unit 3 Sociology AQA
Revision Material…read more

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Functionalist View of Religion
· `the contribution of religion makes the society
survive; provides value consensus, which enables
social solidarity, harmony and allow integration
between individuals and wider society to take
· Religion strengthens collective conscience* of
society and therefore keeping it stable
* - basic set of shared beliefs, values, traditions and
norms…read more

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· `religion functions to reinforce the collective unity/ social solidarity of a group'
· Religious worship/ ritual expresses a shared identity amongst the society which
there provides a focus point for people to gather and share a common goal
· Ordinary objects can provoke powerful emotions of awe and respect as of their
symbolic significance E.g. Totem, Christian cross, animal sacrifice
· Prevents anomie, unnecessary social change therefore is aiming to keep society
· Religion also provides a function for the individual themselves;
· Continued motivation
· Social support based on sense of belonging
In the modern society- Durkheim claims;
- Progress in technology has led people to become less reliant upon each other
therefore collective conscience will weaken as individuality replaces society
· Individuals might see themselves sacred rather than the society; increasingly look
out for themselves rather than each other = `Cult of man"
· Based research on only one pre-industrialised small scale society in Australia (Arunta
Aborigines of Australia)
· Not all relevant to multicultural societies where there is religious pluralism
· Overlooks how religion can divide societies and create conflict e.g Islamophobia,
battles between protestant an catholic Christians in Ireland
· Religious extremism exists…read more

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· Did a small scale ethnographic study in the Trobriand Islands in the pacific
· Emphasises on the psychological functions of religion for individuals in comparisons to
Durkheim who looks more at the functions of religion towards society more
· "religion played a central role in promoting social solidarity", Malinowski argues that this
developed as a response to the needs of an individual
· There are two main functions of religion:
· Dealing with uncertainty; religion functions psychologically in dealing with uncertainty in life,
where use of ritual increases peoples' sense of control and diminishes anxiety and unifies the
Example: in process of secularisation, people turn to religion when everything else is failing, such
acts like praying for the sick shows that religion is still alive and well in society
· Postmodern society has a lot of uncertainty, however individuals now are still becoming more
and more non-religious rather than turning back to religion
· Dealing with crisis in life; religion helps individual cope with life crisis, such as death, stress, etc.
It helps them remain psychologically strong, for example funeral ceremonies unite people
together for each others comfort and support. This action reinforces the solidarity of the group
and prevents it from being threatened
· Only looked at a small scale society
· Cannot generalise his study and base it upon other societies as well
· Not representative
· Overlooks psychological DSYFUNCTIONS of religion in society
e.g. people faring punishment from God
religious conflicts occurring due to disagreements…read more

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Talcott Parsons
· "religion is a means of providing `guidelines for behaviour' and a source of meaning
for members of society providing the `core values'
· The equation is; Religion + Moral & Framework Society
· Religion, by providing answers to life's' eternal questions about humanity and the
world e.g. `why do people suffer', it help people adjust to their situation there
making it easier for them to accept the worse scenarios e.g. death of loved one, as a
result religion is always promoting social solidarity
· Religion often lies at the heart of war; current ISIS crisis- ISIS claims to be protecting
their religion of `Islam' and promoting it, but are really?
· Functionalist fight back is that there is a `civil religion' that can unit in a society
regardless of other belief systems
UK's Civil Religon
Gerald Parsons:
· Remembrance Sunday
· Queen's Jubilee Celebration in 2011
· Royal wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton; where Westminster
abbey was the focus point with the Archbishop of Canterbury leading the service
· Is `Civil Religion' actually classified as a religion?
· Functionalist are criticised to be `clutching the straws' because they're making
something up to defend themselves…read more


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