Unit 3: Functionalist Views on Religion (Summary)

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  • Created on: 18-02-13 14:38


- The Sacred and the profane:

He claims that all societies differentiate between the sacred and the profance and religion is based on this divison. What is sacred provokes powerful emotions and is surrounded by taboos and prohibitions. Sacredness is bestowed and its significance is that it is symbolic and represents something. A religion also involves rituals or practices which are collective. For Durkheim, all sacred symbols perform the essential function of uniting believers into a single moral community.


:) - Recognises the importance of religious ceremonies.

:) - There is much evidence to support this idea i.e. Holy books, holy water, the crucifix

X - The meaning and intention behind the rituals is ignored.

- Totemism:

He used the studies of the Arunta, an indigenous Australian (Aboriginal) and found that society was divided into clans and each clan had its own totem- a sacred symbol- which was the outward and visible symbol of their clain and their God. He believed that the rituals surrounding it represented the power of the group and thus served to reinforce the group's solidarity and sense of belonging. He also argued that religious worship can be explained in terms of its social functions.


:) - Highlights how different religions can be cohesive and not have conflict.

X - Evidence on totemis is unsound. Worsley notes that there is no sharp division between the sacred and the profane, and that different clans share the same totem. If right about totems it does not mean that he has proved the essence of others.

X -  Analysis of a small-scale society is not typically representative of a modern/ large-scale/ complex society. Makes generalizations.

X - Suicide bombers aim to destroy cohesion and society in the face of their religion.

X - Ceremonies are with other intentions.

X - Less applicable to a…


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