Religion and Beliefs: Functionalism

AQA A2 revision cards for Functionalist views of religion and beliefs.

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  • Created by: Pheebie
  • Created on: 29-10-12 16:14

Functionalist view

"Functionalist believe that the function of religion is the contribution it makes to full filling the functional prerequisites   such as social order and social solidarity."

  • This means religion promotes norms and values into society.
  • It does this by teaching right and wrong e.g. The 10 Commandments, so we have shared norms and values.


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The Sacred and Profane

  • SACRED: Inspires a feeling of awe and wonder and carry significance.
  • PROFANE: Items of no special significance.

Role of rituals e.g. praying is to bring people together in a collective conciousness to worship the same norms and values reinforce solidarity and group belonging. Durkheim called this study Toteism.


  • Origin of human thought. as it provides us with categories and concepts such as causation which help to make sense of the world.


  • Not relevant in today's society (multicultural or secular Britain.)
  • Only relevant in primitive religions.
  • WORSELY: Inaccuracy about the sacred & profane as some religions share totems.
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  • Studied small scale non-religious societies (clans.)
  • Looked at religions Psychological functions- help cope with stress e.g. people go to Church as the funeral ritual help people cope with death, the same as heaven.


  • Lagoon Fishing is safe, no ritual is performed.
  • Ocean Fishing is risky, rituals are performed.


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  • Religion gives use value consensus- beliefs, attitudes and values as well as norms.
  • Religion gives us meaning to life, answers ultimate questions e.g. God created the world in 7 days to help explain how we came about.
  • Religions helps disruption in life, giving us social order and social stability e.g. funeral helps us to deal with death.


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Evaluation of Functionalism


  • Do identify roles religion play in society e.g. shared norms and values.
  • Gives a sense of meaning to life.


  •  Criticise for seeing world through 'rose tinted glasses' e.g. Don't see oppression or war that religion causes.
  • Feminists argue that it causes patriarchal oppression. 
  • It's not relevant in secular society.
  • Not relevant to society with more than one religion.
  • Sacred texts e.g. The Bible are not as relevant in Society today.
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