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Topic 1: Theories of religion

Definitions of religion
Focus on the content of religious belief ­ Belief in the supernatural, holy texts etc.
Conform to the view that religion is a belief in God

What does religion do for individuals and society?
Doesn't conform to the view…

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Topic 1: Theories of religion

The totem represents the power of the society that the individuals rely on

The collective conscience

Sacred symbols represent society's collective conscience
Rituals reinforce this and maintain integration
Rituals bind people together, reminds them that they are part of something bigger

Cognitive functions

Religion is…

Page 3

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Topic 1: Theories of religion

Provides a source of meaning: Religion answers unanswerable questions, helping people to

Civil Religion

A belief system that attaches sacred qualities to society
Integrates society in a way that individual religion can't
Involves loyalty to the nation state and a belief in God…

Page 4

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Topic 1: Theories of religion

Shows how religion may be a tool for oppression
Ignores positive aspects of religion
Althusser: The concept of alienation is unscientific
Neo-Marxists: Some religion helps to promote social change

Feminist theories of religion
Society is patriarchal

Evidence of patriarchy
Religious organisations: Mainly male dominated…


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