Functionalist theory of religion

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 13-04-13 18:12

Functionalist perspective

- promote social harmony
- concerned with analysisng the role of religion by measuring how it meets basic needs of what society needs to survive.


1)TOTEMISM- practice of worshipping a sacred object - Durkheim believes this represents religion in a basic form.

Believes totem is vital because it is created by society and therefore represents society, so when people worship the totem they are actually worshipping society. This then helps to build bonds with people within society and acts as a 'social glue' creating a collective conscience.

EVALUATION- whilst common religions bring people together, it is hard to see how this has a place in modern society when society is so diverse with so many different religions and beliefs. Different religion can actually cause schisms in society.

2) COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE - shared norms and values that create co-operation between society's individuals. Durkheim believes shared religious rituals re-inforce the collective conscience and maintain social integration, preventing any rapid social change.

EVALUATION-secularisation is growing within many western countries so religion can not perform Durkheim's purpose of creating a collective conscience. Religious thinking is declining in


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