Functionalists, Marxists and Feminists

Consensus and Conflict

Post Modernism-New Age, New Religious Movements etc.


Churches, Denominations, Sects and Cults

Religious Pluralism

Gender, Feminism & Religion

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: rakhee
  • Created on: 16-05-09 08:49


Religion can perform positive functions for the individuals and society

For many ethnic minorities, religion provides a sense of identity and belonging. (Weddings-People coming together)

Durkheim 1912 argued that in worshipping god, people are worshipping society.

Religion reinforces the shared values and moral beliefs (Durkheim called this conscient collective) that hold society together.

Malinowski 1954 argues that religion helps people deal with times of severe emotional stress, by performing rituals such as a cremation/burial when someone dies.

1 of 54


Religion legitimates class inequality

Marx, religion is an illusion which eases the pain produced by exploitation and oppression. It is a series of myths that justifys and legitimates the dominantion of the ruling class.

Mars describes religion as 'the opium of the people' Like a drug, it dulls pain and creates a dream worl rather then bringing true happiness.

It promotes 'eternal bliss' - life after death, which makes life bearable by giving people something to look forward to.

2 of 54


Armstrong 1993- Women occupy a marginal position in most major religions.

Badawi 1994- Aspects of Islam, positive for women. They keep their own family name after marriage.

Women continue to be excluded from key roles in religions despite the fact that women participate in organised religions more then men.

Watson 1994 - examines the veling of Islamic women. This practice can be seen as a form of social control.

However Watson argues that it reduces the possibility of sexual harrassment. Allows these women to be judged for what they are, not what they look like.

3 of 54

Consensus and Conflict

Consensus- Functionalists-Everythings all 'rosy'

Conflict Theory-Marxist-Class War ... Feminists-Gender Conflict

4 of 54


Ways in which religion can promote consensus...


Teaches you to love thy neighbour

Teaches you to help each other in times of need 'helping the poor'

People believe that by being good, treating everyone'll get to heaven.

5 of 54


People who might disagree................................................................


Physicists whoa rgued for 'Big Bang Theory'

Biologists who advocate the evolution theory

Geologists who have aged the earth at many millions of years old

Astronaughts-Searching for extra terrestrial life.


Pro-Life -> Mothers of teenage daughters who are pregnant

Pro-choice movement, victims who have been *****

Doctors who perform abortions

6 of 54

Homosexuality-> Gay clergy

Gay/Lesbian support groups

Families of gay people.

Liberal Christians.


Alcohol Consumption -> Pubs

Brewery owners


Shop owners

General public

7 of 54

Conflicts between religions

Hindu-Sikh-Muslims in Northwest India

Arab-Israeli Conflict


Conflicts between religions and groups in secular society

Al Qaeda vs US Government

Christian Right vs Scientific explanations


Conflicts within one religion

Anglian Chruch split over appointment of gay clergy

8 of 54

Post Modernism

Fundamentalism; Extreme form of religion that tries to defend traditional faith

New Age Movements; Movment mixes ancient religions with new ideas related to human potential

New religious Movements; Number of different new religions which have become more popular i.e. Hare Krishna

Post Christian Society; Decline of Christianity in the West

Quasi Religionss- Anythign which a person puts at the centre of their life.

Self Religions- Forms of religions that put an emphasis on the self and developing self identity.

9 of 54

Decline of religion: Post Christian society

People in western societies are less willing to believe that the 'truth' can be found in dogmatic theories and beliefs.

Over previous centuries Christianity provided important political, educational and social functions.

It's impossible to maintain that since Christianity in most western societies suffered a long time decline. i.e. fewer people believe in heaven and hell

10 of 54


Their religion is the 'only truth'

Some traditional religions are suffering decline, others experiencing growth.

Traditional forms of religion that are experiencing an increase in popularity-emphasis on uncompromising beliefs.

BAUMAN; post modernity has brought on a crisis of meaning

(what is human existence? why is there suffering in the world?)

11 of 54

New Religious Movements

Religions outside of the west had an impact on western societies.

Many NRM, inspired by ancient mystical religions from the east/

EASTERNISATION (Campbell) = the increasing impact of Eastern mysticism, expressed in Hindu Buddhism.

12 of 54

Self Religions & Pick'n'Mix Religosity

Paul Heelas; self religions emerge to fill a spiritual vacuum and satisfy the need for a 'meaning'

Post Modernity; brings a desire to create a self identity with an emphasis on experience. Ite stablishes the freedom for individuals to create and sustain the self image of their choice.

Anything can be transformed into an expression of religion or grafted onto more traditional forms.

The new age movement weaves together ancient faiths with contemporary culture theories.

13 of 54


Possible to include the numerous cults of film, rock music, sports.

The examples would be seen to take the definition of religion to extraordinary lengths. Cults have the same function, since they may be central to a persons life. Provide great meaning and significance. (same as what more traditional forms of religion would have done)

These religions include search for meanind & identity in a world which finds it difficult to provide them.

Football central to persons lives - could be said that's a 'religion'

Not all sociologists are happy with the definition of religion, but post modernity challenges many of the traditional sociological theories and categories.

14 of 54

Decline of religion

Many sociologists are more aware that the so called 'decline of religion' is considerably more complex then once was assumed.

Steve Bruce argues that outside of cults and fundamentalists and those of ethnic minorities. the commitment to religion is minimal.

the change in religion reflects the shift from modernity to post-modernity.

-Underming of meta narratives (big bang theory try to explain things)

-Loss of faith; science.

-Loss of faith in the idea of progress.

15 of 54

God and Shopping

Aim of new age; to get rid of the residues of our bad experiences and free outself 'within'

New ages are holistic, borrowed from Hinduism and Buddhism.

No single truth; just about what works for you. For example if you want to believe that you have a personal angel thats fine because it works for you.

New agers believe that there is no authority higher then the individual.

Go to a conservitive Baptist of Catholic church you will be told 'This is the truth'

Go to a mind body spirit convention, you will be confronted by an enormous array of belief systems.

Most christians say, obey god=live a happy life.

Most new age rituals and ideas are deliberatley therepeutic, intended to make you more successful, happier, healthier.

16 of 54

New age beliefs fit the wider society

Traditionally, Christians claimed, only one truth, and only one god. But now living in cultural diversity, to insist only one religion is right and rest are wrong=conflict.

SOLUTION= Become a 'relativist' if it works for you then its your truth and if some-one else believes something different then that's 'cool'

50 years ago we left things to experts to tell us what was good music/art. NOW we accept the freedom of personal taste=applies to religion, we can decide what we believe.

17 of 54

New Age

Empowers the consumers, don't become followers or members of anything.

Some join mutual interest groups, but many express interests by buying ideas and therapies.

New age interest in personal therapy perfectly mirrors the modern obsession with self improvement and pampering.

If you are fat- diet and excercise, if it dont work, pay for lipo.

New age only affects the lives of those involved and makes no difference at all to the rest of the world.

18 of 54


In 1851- 40% of adults attended church, now only 8& do.

1900- 1/3rd of population belong to a christian church

Now 17% claim to be members and only 1/2 of that attend.

19 of 54


Religion-> a conservative force (keeps things the same)

FUNCTIONALISM- DURKHEIM- Maintaining status quo is a good thing for society. Helps people accept cultural norms and values and achieve a sense of belonging.

MARXISM- Maintaining status quo is a bad thing, religion stops the proletariat from realising they were being exploited. Religion-used by the bourgeousie to legitimate their place in the world.

20 of 54


Max Weber accepted religion was used by the power elite to legitimate their morality. He argued that religion could be a force for change.

21 of 54

Secularisation Debate

Society and social behaviour=less influenced by religion

Steve Bruce-argues secularisation is taking place. Believes that the power of the church has been in rapid decline over the last century.

DURING 20th CENTURY; Church attendences dropped from almost 30% of population to 10%

Number of children attending Sunday Schools fell from 55% to just 4% Sunday schools primarily was the only form of education for many children

22 of 54

Church in the middle ages

Most dominant social institution in Europe

Popes could mobilise crimes

Monastries came the only centres of learning

Latin language of churh=became language of intellectuals

Church touched lives of everyone through birth, marriage, death

Family used to be primary source of education but now schools/colleges.

23 of 54

Christianity in Britain

STEVE BRUCE; Christianity has been in a state of decline in the UK, over last 150 years

Religion & Social Change

Bruce believes that the decline of christianity in the modern world isn't a result of people becoming more rational and less superstitious = because there is far too much irrationality and superstition around.

The fragmentation of social life

Family used to be primary source of education and socialisation but now children are educated in schools/ colleges.

Religious institutions have withdrawn/pushed out of many spheres of social life such as the economy, social welfare, social control and health care.

EGALITARIANISM - everyone being treated equal.

24 of 54

Dissapearence of community

Modernisation is characterised by the shift of social organisation from the local to the national level

Community is replaced by society. = Durkheims collective conscience is lost.

Religion loses it's taken for granted nature and becomes a focus of choice rather then social obligation.

25 of 54

Increasing Rationalisation

Not saying society is becoming less rational or supersticious but rather it's more organised and more on the basis of routines and procedures.

The growing prestige of science undermines the status of religious explanations of life, the universe and everything.

For BRUCE; process of modernisation fundamentally undermines the place of Christianity in western society. Religion no longer provides education welfare and social control.

26 of 54

Secularisation RIP

RODNEY STARK; disagrees with Bruce's argument in 2 key ways.

Firstly; the claim put forward by Bruce that the Middles Ages was an 'Age of Faith' in which religion was dominant and everyone believed in God, went to church.

According 2 STARK, thats a myth:

People would unwillingly go to church when they went, and behaved inappropriatley = knitting; buying and selling; sometimes scoffing at the priest.

There is no demonstratable long term decline in European religious participation because was never high anyway.

27 of 54

Bruce argues back

He is scornful of the argument put forward by Stark, claims that historical evidence is on his side.

Bruce doubts that; vast numbers of the population would donate money to an institution that they were indifferent to

People would swear oaths on the bible even though they did not believe God would do anything bad to them if they were lying.

Nations would pump vast amounts of wealth into religious activities even though they believed them to be pointless

Why was church so rich and powerful; able to fund the building of massive and highly ornate cathedrals, churches and palaces if it was not able to generate significant amounts of income from all ranks of the population.

Why go to the effort of building churches if vast numbers of the population didn't attend and those who did attend behaved in bad ways.

28 of 54

Grace Davie (British Sociologist)

Great number of individuals are 'believers' without necessarily being 'belongers'

People may have given up on religious institutions but haven't abandoned religious beliefs completley.

British Social Attitudes Survey; 8% of the British population attended religious services. Only 10% and 14% sampled, claimed to be athiest/agnostic.

Therefore, seems that around 3/4 of the adult population in Britain hold some sort of religious belief.

1993; European values study found that 71% of the UK population reported a beliefe in god.

64% believe in an existence of a soul.

57% existence of heaven and hell

30% existence of the devil.

29 of 54

Religion in Modern Society

What distinguishes religious events from non religious events?

For something to be religious it has to have speacial meaning to the participants set apart from daily life.

There is normally a deeper meaning behind taking part in religious ceremonies that related back to the core beliefs of that persons religion.

These beliefs also answer big questions such as what is the meaning of life, and what happens after death.

Features essential when defining religion; Place of worship, A holy book; Prayer; Group of people with the same beliefs; Practices (food/dress)

A unified set of beliefs and practices related to sacred things.

30 of 54

What are churches, denominations,

Differences between churches and denominations;

A church refers to a large organisation, quite often linked to the state...for example, church of england.

Members of churches tend to 'conform' i.e. go along with the norms and values of the society the church is in.

STARK AND BAINBRIDGE; describe denominations as 'diluted' churches.

Wh ile denominations are seperate from the state, they don't reject the ideas held by the majority of society.

They are open to new ideas and less inclined to follow strict ceremonies associated with churches i.e. methodist.

31 of 54

Sects and Cults

Sects; often associated with a more deviant image. Sects are generally 'world affirming' NRM. They don't challenge the way things are in the world.

Critical of other religious movements; however they tolerate their existence.


World rejecting religious movements/protest groups who are highly critical of the more established religious churched, denominations.

Tend to be quite small, highly commited members. Often reject societies norms and values. Members are usually asked to cut ties with family/friends.

32 of 54

Why do cults/sects grow?

WEBER; those who felt marginalised (left out) in society could be drawn into a cult or sect.

The close-knit networks of support these organisations can provide marginalised individuals with a feeling of beloning.

Some individuals join either sects or cults, so called 'exclusity' they offer. Individuals may feel special by joining.

33 of 54

What are NRM? Why have they grown.

New religious movements is used by contempory sociologsts to recognize the enormous variety of religious organisations that have come in to existence in recent decades.

How are some NRM influenced by psychology?

Scientology; originally a form of self-help psychotherapy; now finally been incorporated as a 'church' in america.

34 of 54

World-rejecting, World affirming NRM.

Both scientology and EST can be described as world affirming (do not challenge the way the world actually works)

Wallis; World Rejecting; refers to those NRM that refect the 'corrupt' world around them.

World Accomodating; WALLIS describes these groups that do not want to seperate themselves from the rest of society; but rather their religious practices allow them to carry on normal family and work life.

35 of 54

Who joins NRM?

MAX WEBER; suggested that religion helped the underprivilged in a society cope with their situation-by giving meaning to people's suffering.



both point out that the typical members of the NRM, is middle class, young, fairly well educated and predominantly female.


WEBER; more traditional societites the family would work together on the land; closer forms of community life. In todays competitive world of fragmentation happens when children are seperated from adults in schools/colleges.

As a result some m/c professionals search for their 'real selves' and join a NRM.

36 of 54

Religion and Social Change Conclusion

Religious Organizations; The Church.

BRUCE 1996; argues that the concept of a church is primarily useful in describing pre-modern Christian societies.

Development of religious pluralism in modern societies makes it difficult for the state to lend exclusive support to one religion,

ROBERTSON 1987; been an increase in church state tensions.

DENOMINATIONS; large branch of a church i.e. methodism.

STARK & BAINBRIDGE 1985; critical of the concept of denomination. They claim that the division of religious organisations into seperate types of obscures rather then clarifies the differences between them.

SECTS; Smaller branches of church. Bruce acknowledges that sects can prosper in modern societies where people have more of an oppurtunity to form subcultures..However some sects may come into conflict with the wider society.

37 of 54

World Rejecting NRM, World Accomodating NRM

World Rejecting; their ideology is highly critical of the outside world-movement expects or seek change.

Control all aspects of members lives; as a result; develop a reputation form 'brainwashing' their members.

World Accomodating; Usually offshoots of an existing major church or denomination.

Groups neither accept nor rejct the world, simply live with how it is.

Concerned with religious rather then wordly questions.

These groups provide access to supernatural/spiritual powers.

Followers of world affirming carry on with normal lives-little social control over members.

WALLIS; most world affirming movements are cults; unlike sects they tolerate the existence of other religious.

38 of 54

Religious Pluralism

Refers to different forms of Christian and non Christisn beliefs along with all other types of religion. I.e. scientology, animism etc.

The idea of religious pluralism assumes that mainstream religions 'Christianity, Islam' no londer appeal to all members of society.

'Market Place' of different religions; we can pick and choose different religions. 'Spiritual Shopping.

Classical sociologists generally agreed as society modernised and became more rational, science offered more tagible reasons for why things took place. Religions would eventually disappear.

Growth of NRM and expansion of older religions; combined with the increasing fundamentalism that flourishes the world. it's hard to disagree that religion pluaralism is not a reality.

39 of 54

BERGER and KELLNER; argued that before industrialisation, religion provided societies with a 'fixed universe of meaning' one single set of core beliefs that people understood and felt secure in.

Process of industrialisation; values and ideas are subjected to infuences (media, workplace); which come into conflict with the traditional beliefs and functionalists argue brings out 'anomie' the feeling of meaningless.

As a result of pluarlity of beliefs and ideologies. led to BERGER AND KELLNER 'collapse in certanties' in other words people question many of the claims that religions have made. leading them to question traditional religions. this leads to the secularisation process.

NRM; Post Modernists; Shopping for God;

Civic Religions; those that celebrate the citizenship of the nation state

Royal funerals, royal weddings, rememberence day

=sacred element to these events.

40 of 54

Reasons for growth of sects, cults and NRM.


WEBER; argued that they were likely to arise within groups that were marginal in scoiety. People may feel they are not recieving the rewards they deserve.

Some sects offer explanations for the disprivileged of members and promise them a better future either on earth or in the after life.

However most members of world-rejecting sects in the 1960s and 1970s come from young white middle class backgrounds.

WALLIS; Doesn't believe that this contradicts the theory.

Relative Deprivation; how the person thinks they are, may not lack material wealth but feel spiritually deprived in a world they see as too materialistic, lonely.

Social change; Wilson argues that sects arise during periods of rapid social change when traditional norms are disrupted.

41 of 54

Growth of NRM

WALLIS 1984; NRM were attractive to young people in 1960s because if offered a more spiritual and caring way of life.

BRUCE; believes world affirmingmovements have grown because people find it to difficult to gain satisfaction and a sense of identity from work.

World Affirming movements offer a solution=they offer people both success and a spiritual element to their lives.

42 of 54

Appeal of the New Age

DRANE; Appeal of the New Age comes from the failure of the modern world to deliver personal satisfaction.

Believes that people in Western Socitieties no longer trust institutions such as the medical proffessions and are disillusioned with the inability of churches to satisfy their craving for spirtiuality.

43 of 54


Heelas; World Affirming; aspects can help you experience the best of the outer world i.e. more sucessful in business.

World Rejecting; How to experience the best of the inner world, how to achieve spirituality and fun away from any concern with worldy success.

Decline of conventional religion leaves people without strong alternatives is the new age.

BRUCE AND HEELAS; argue that the New Age can be explained as a product of Modern Society.

HEELAS; 4 ways; modernity might link to appeal of New Age.

Identity-New Age offers ways of finding an identity

Consumer Culture; New Age offers different ways of achieving perfection.

Periods of rapid social change, disrupt traditional norms and values so people seek ceretainty in spiritual beliefs.

44 of 54


Classical Sociologists believe that the growth of scientific knowledge and indusatrialisation would lead to secularisation.

45 of 54

Troeltsch (CHURCH)

Roman Catholic Church

Members are drawn from all classes in society

Sometimes closely related to the state

Churches accept and affirm life in this world

Members don'd need to demonstrate their faith to be members of a church

Churches may jelously guard their monopoly of religious faiths

Formal organisation with a hierachy of paid officials.

46 of 54



Does not have universal appeal,not connected with upper class

Does not identify with the state, and approves the seperation of the church and state

Members generally accept norms and values of society

Come minor restrictions may be placed on membets e.g. methodists are discouraged from drinking

Denominations do not claim a monopoly of religious myth and are tolerant of other religions

Usually smaller then a church, but still a formal organisation with a hierachy of law officials

47 of 54

Troeltsch (SECTS)

Jehovas witness

Connected with the lower classes

Members reject the balues of the world that surrounds them

Members may be expected to withdraw from life outside the sect. Deep commitment demanded from members.

Sects believe that they possess a monopoly of religiouts truths.

Central authority often rests with a charismatic leader.

48 of 54

Gender, Feminism and Religion

Patriachy; male dominant in society

Patriachal ideology; set of ideas that legitimates patriachy as being the natural order of things

Patriachal Social Control; refers to the regulation of social behaviour. Involves practices that serve to perpetuate male power and the subordinate status of women.

Feminists suggest that the bible supports male domination and women are always going to be below them (ADAM AND EVE); a lot of the important figures in the bible are male.

Specific practices of the Christian church support patriachy in the modern world.

Male Clergy-bishop

Catholic church doesn't allow women priests.

Only 1 in 5 clergy in England are female; however proportionally there are more female clergys then there are MPs

49 of 54


Women are appreciated, valued and respected in the eyes of god. Equal to men.

Quotations that could be seen as a patriachal ideology;

Menustrating women are seen as unclean.

Forcing women to wear a burka.

50 of 54

How might secularisation be a feature of the post

Modernity- sociologists refer to the 19th, 18th and 20th century; widespread belief that science contained the answers to some of the big questions. for example. 'why are we here?'

What claims to post-modernists make?

The idea that science is a force for liberation is untrue; the mass extermination of the Jews, chemical welfare and increasing health scares prove scientific theory has not 'liberated' human condition.

Hyper-reality media has such a powerful influence on all our lives- that fashions, beliefs and debates come and go. In fact we can no longer distunguish between media, reality and fiction.

Pluarlism of lifeworlds

In pre-industrial societies, religion tended to prove one set of ideas that explained the universe. Set of core beliefs centred around a particular religion,

51 of 54


The dissatisfaction that may people are increasingly towards so called 'expert opinions' is having it's effect on religions. Decreasing church attendences show this.

People are becoming 'relativist' in their religious views. I.e. adopting the position that one claim may be as valid as another.

This means they may call themselves a Christian or Jew; but also seek advice from astrological sources.

PostModernists claim that the media is increasingly significant in our lives; makes sense when we read stories such as the involveness of priests in the US-child scandal. which has the effect of pushing people away and pulling them to other sources of religion.

52 of 54


DURKEHIM-Functionalist-Collective Conscience

MALINOWSKI-Functionalist-Helps people deal with emotional stress; funerals.

WATSON-Feminist-Veiling of women in Islam

BAUMAN-Post Modernism-Crisis of Meaning


STEVE BRUCE-Church-Middle age 'age of faith' church; in decline.

RODNEY STARK-disagrees with Bruce,

GRACE DAVIE-Believers without necessarily being belongers

WEBER-Those who felt marginalised-drawn towards cult/sect

53 of 54

WALLIS-World rejecting-NRM Rejects corrupt world around them; World acxomodating-groups don't want to seperate themselves from society

EILEEN BARKES-Moonies + Wallis Study, typical member of NRM; White, M/C, Young, Educated

BERGER & KELLNER- Before industrialisation religion provided 'fixed universe meaning'

HEELAS- World rejecting- Outer World; World affirming-Inner World.

DRANE-New Age-Modern world doesn't deliver personal satisfaction

54 of 54


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Religion and beliefs resources »