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Contents page
· What is religion- 3
· Functionalist theory- 4
· Marx- 6
· Feminist- 7…read more

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What is religion?
· Substantive definitions- To be a religion it must have a belief
in God or the supernatural . Exclusive- they draw a clear line
between religious and non religious beliefs. Accused of
western bias because they exclude religions that do not have
the Western idea of a God.
· Functional- To be a religion it must have a social or
psychological function for its believers. Inclusive- allowing us
to include a wide range of beliefs and practices that perform
functions such as integration.
· Social constructionist- Interpretivist approach focuses on how
members of society themselves define religion. Do not
assume that religion always involves a belief in God BUT its
difficult to generalise about the nature of religion as people
have different views about what is a religion.…read more

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Functionalist theories
Durkheim-Sacred are things set apart and forbidden that inspire
feelings of aware. Profane are things with no special
· Did a study of the Arunta aboriginal tribes in Australia; clan
members worship totem but in reality they are worshipping
society itself.
· Found that religion has social function for its members.
· Regular shared religious rituals reinforce collective conscious
· Religion is the origin of the concepts and categories we need
for understanding the world and communicating.
Evaluation: Lack of evidence for totemism, Durkheim's theory
may apply to small scale societies, Durkheim's ideas cannot
be applied to contemporary society.…read more

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Malinowski- religion performes psychological functions,
helps people to cope with emotional stress. Looks at
study of the Trobraind Islanders of the Western Pacific-
at time of life crises and outcome is important but
· Parson-religion is a primary source of meaning,
legitimates society's basic norms and answers the
ultimate questions.
· Bellah- civil religion is a belief system that attaches
sacred qualities to society itself. Civil religion intergrates
people in a multi faith society in a way individual
religions cannot. American civil religion: national
anthem, pledge of allegiance to the flag. [Beckford said
that civil religion is weak in UK]
· Evaluation: Functionalism ignores negative effects of
religion such as exploitation.…read more

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· Marx- ideology is a belief system that distorts people's
perception of reality in ways that serve the ruling class.
Religion will have no place in communism. Religion
operates as an ideological weapon used by the ruling
class to justify. Religion is a product of alienation.
Religion acts as an opiate to dull the pain of
exploitation. He ignores positive functions.
· Lenin- `spiritual gin'- an intoxicant doled out of the
masses by the ruling class to confuse them.
· Evaluation- Religion does not necessarily function
effectively as an ideology. Althusser rejects the concept
of alienation…read more

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