Theories of relgion

The Functionalist theories of relgion;

  • Durkheim, Parsons, Malinowski, Bellah
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  • Created by: samantha
  • Created on: 22-05-12 10:59

Beleifs in society

Things held a sacred can often appear ordinary to non beleivers. Their significance a symbol must represent something - a collective consciousness

Durkheim - Religion & the worship of society


Australian Aborigines - Toteism

This is distinguishing them from other clans and regarded as sacred without a collective consciousness society cant survive so we must repeatedly reaffirm shared norms and values.

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Beliefs in society

Pyschological function of the individual relgion plaed a central role promoting solidarity, argues it developed a response to the psychological need of ther individual. Life crisis - marriage/ death have religious rituals. The bereaved can be comforted in the ceremony. 

Malinowski -


Trobriand Islanders - when fishing on an island in calm waters they poisoned the fish - rituals took place when on dangerous open water.

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Beliefs in society

Religion is a primary source of meaning for members as it legitimates core values of a culture promoting solidarity.

Parsons - Religion & the problem of meaning...


Providing meaning for unsolved questions as there is often no justice for it -

  • Why do people suffer? - They must suffer to test the human faith
  • Why did the villian succeed? - He will get his just deserts in the after life
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Beliefs in society

Civil religion = a faith in Americanism generating widespread loyalty to the nation state. Bellah argues that this holds supernatural beliefs...

God & Americanism appear to walk hand in hand.  'God bless America' ends speehces given by dignitaries across the USA.

Bellah - Civil Religion


Does the UK have a civil religion? Cermonies may represent civil religion - e.g. Rememberance day - The monarchy has provided a focus of sentiments of what may be called civil religion. This has perhaps been most evident at times of wat and national threat.

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