Theories of Religion


Functional perpective (Durkheim)

Durkheim: religion sets apart the sacred (forbidden, inspires awe) and profane (normal)

Sacred: creates powerful feelings and worship of symbols. By worshipping symbols, they worship society itself . Religion unites believers in a moral community. 

Durkheim studies the Arunta (totem worshippers), said they worship their community represented by totems 

Collective conscience: symbols represent all the norms, values etc. Rituals w these symbols reinfoce the collective consiousness

Cognitive functions: religion also the source of cognitive abilities, ability to reason and think conceptually. We require categories to think, such as time and space, religion provides this 

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Functionalist perpective (other)

Psychological functions: Malinowski- religion promotes solidarity by helping individuals cope with emotional stress. In times of crisis, religion provides reassurance and acts as a coping mechanism. He argues that death is the main reason for the formation of religions. 

Parsons: value and meaningidentifies 2 other functions of religion.

  • creates and legitimates societies norms and values 
  • prvides a souce of maingn and value to life 

Civil religion: Bellah- religion unifies society (especially multi-faith societies such as America). Civil religion is a belife system that attaches sacred qualities to society its self (i.e American way of life). It sacralises the American way and joins a multitude of groups as one. 

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1. Religion as an ideology: Ideology is a belief sysem that distorts the WC view of life to benefit the MC. It legitimises sufering of the WC. Creates a false conciousness (distoted view of reality that prevents change).

Lenin: relgion is a 'spiritual gin' that confuses the WC and keeps them in their plac. MC use it to manipulate the WC throught beliefs, and prevents overthrowing of capitalism. 

2. Religion and alienation: marx also sees religion as a product of alienation

Under capitalism, workers become alienated form their products and so endlessly repaet the same monotomous task. Due to this dehumanisation, WC turn to religion as a form of consolation, acts as a opiate to dull the pain of exploitation

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Feminist Perspective

Religious insitutions are patriarchal- reflect nd perpetuate gender inequality 

Religious beliefes are patriarchal idoelogies that legitimates female subordination 

Examples of patriarchy in religion:

  • Places of worship (segregate genders and place higher value on men)
  • Sacred texts (male gods, relfect anti-female stereotypes e.g eve betrayed mankind by stupidity)
  • Religious laws (give women less rights than men e.g access to divorce etc)

Religious feminism: Woodhead

Most traditional relgion perpetuates patriarchy, some can use relgion as a form of feminism e.g strong belefe in evangelical christians that women must be highly respected heads of house

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