Functionalist theories of religion

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According to functionalists, what are society's 2 most basic needs for?
1. Solidarity 2. Social order.
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Social order and solidarity are key due to the need for the members of society to...
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What do functionalists make social order possible?
Value consensus.
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Define value consensus:
A shared set of norms/values/ beliefs by which society's members live by.
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What would happen without value consensus?
Individuals would pursue their own selfish desires and society would disintegrate.
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For functionalists, religions plays a great part in creating....
...and maintaining value consensus/ order/ solidarity.
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Who was the first functionalist to develop this idea?
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What does the sacred refer to?
Things that are set apart and forbidden which inspire feelings of awe/ fear/ wonder. They are surounded by taboos and prohibitions.
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What does the profane refer to?
Things that have no special significance and are ordinary/ mundaine.
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Futhermore, a religion is never simply just a set of beliefs but..
..involves defined rituals/ practices in relation to the sacred.
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How are these rituals performed?
Collectively (by social groups).
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What does the fact that sacred things evoke powerful feelings in believers indicate to Durkheim?
Sacred things are symbols representing something of great power.
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According to D, why can this thing only be society itself?
Society is the only thing powerful enough to command these feelings.
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Therefore, when religious believers are worshipping sacred things, they are in fact...
...worshipping society itself.
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Although sacred symbols vary from religion to religion, they all perform the essential function of...
...uniting believers into one single moral community.
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Where did Durkheim believe that the essence of all religion be found?
Studying it in its simplest form.
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What is the simplest type of society?
Clan society.
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For this reason, he used studies of the...
...Arunta (An Australian Aboriginal tribe with a clan system.)
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What does the Arunta tribe consist of?
Bands of kin.
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What do these bands of kin come together periodically to worship?
A sacred totem.
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What do we mean when we say that the totem is a clan's emblem?
It symbolises that clan's origin and identity.
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Name 2 formsthat a totem can take:
An animal/Plant.
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What purpose do totemic rituals serve?
They reinforce the group's solidarity and sense of belonging.
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For D, when clan members worship their totemic animal, they are in reality worshipping...
...society (even though they themselves are not aware of it)
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Therefore, why does the totem inspire feelings of awe in the clan's members?
The totem represents the power of the group on which the individual is 'utterly dependent.'
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In D's view, the sacred symbols represent society's...
...collective conscience.
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What is the collective conscience?
The shared set of norms/ values/ beliefs/ knowledge that makes social life and cooperation between individuals possible.
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For D, regular shared religious rituals reinforce...
...the collective conscience and maintain social integration.
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Participating in shared religious rituals binds individuals together by...
...reminding them that they are all part of a single religious community to which they owe their loyalty.
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Without which themselves are nothing, and... which they owe everything.
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In this sense, religion also performs an important function for...
...the individual.
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By religious making us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, religion strenghts us to ...
...face life's trials and overcome obstacles that would otherwise defeat us.
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D sees religion not only as the source of social solidarity, but also of...
...our intellectual and cognitive capacities.
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What does he mean when he says 'intellectual and cognitive capacities?'
Our ability to reason and think conceptually.
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Firstly, in order to think at all, we need...
..categories (Such as time/ space/ cause/ substance/number ect.)
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Secondly, in order to share our thoughts, we need to...
...share the same categories as others.
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In D and Mauss's book ''Primitive Classification,' they argue that religion provides...
...basic categories such as time/space/causation
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For example: with ideas about a creater bringing the world into being at the beggining of time...
...we learn about the concept of time.
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Similarly, the division of tribes into clans based on totemic rituals provided...
...humans their first notion of classification.
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Therefore, For D, religion is the origin of...
...human thought, reason and science.
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Who agrees with Durkheim that religion promitotes solidarity but argues that it does so by performing psychological functions for individuals?
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According to M, what psychological functions does religion perform?
Religion helps individuals cope with emotional stress that would otherwise undermine social solidarity.
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What 2 types of situation does Malinowski suggest religion performs this role?
1. When the outcome is important but uncontrollable 2. At times of life crises.
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To illustrate this, in M's study of the Trobiand islanders of the Western Pacific, he contrasts... in the lagoon and fishing in the ocean.
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As lagoon fishing is controlable (using the successful method of poisoning and is safe)...
...there are no religious rituals surrounding it.
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However, as Ocean fishing is dangerous and uncertain... is surrounded by 'canoe magic,' (rituals to ensure a safe and successful expedition.)
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How do these rituals help individuals?
They give them a sense of confidence when they have to do dangerous things and help reinforce social solidarity.
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What does M mean when he says that he sees ritual serving as a 'God of the gaps?'
It fills the gaps in human beings' control over the world (such as being unable to control to outcome of a fishing trip.
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Name some events which cause disruptive changes in social groups?
Birth/ puberty/ death/ marriage.
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M argues that religion helps to..
...minimise disruption.
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Name an example of how religion helps minimise the disruption brought by death:
Funeral rituals reinforce a feeling of solidarity among survivors whilst the notion of immortality gives comfort to the bereaved by denying the fact of death.
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As a result of this, what does Malinowski argue is the main cause for the existence of religious belief?
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Who, like Malinowski, sees religion as helping to cope with unforseen events and uncontrollable outcomes?
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What other 2 functions does Parsons argue religion performs for modern society?
1. It creates and legitimates society's central values. 2.It is the primary source of meaning.
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How does religion create and legitimate society's basic norms and values?
By making them sacred.
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For example, in USA, what 3 core, American values does Protestantism also share?
1. Individualism 2. Meritocracy 3. Self-discipline.
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This serves to promote value consensus and therefore... stability.
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How, according to P, does religion also provide a sense of meaning?
It answers the ultimate questions about the human condition.
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Name an example of these ultimate questions:
1. Why do good people suffer? 2. Why do some people die young?
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Without religion, how could these events potentially undermine our commitment to society's values?
They defy our sense of justice which therefore make life appear meaningless.
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Name an example of religion providing answers to ultimate questions:
Explaining suffering in terms of a test that will be greatly rewarded in heaven.
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Therefore, religion helps individuals to adjust to...
...testing events and circumstances which helps maintain social stability.
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Who, like Parsons, is also interested in how religion unifies society (especially a multi-faith society such as America)?
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What does he belief unifies American multi-faith society?
An overrarching civil religion.
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What is a 'civil religion?'
A belief system that attatches sacred qualities to society itself.
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Bellah argues that civil religion integrates society in a way that...
...individual religions cannot.
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No indivudal churches/denominations/ faiths can claim loyalty to all of American wherea civil religion can.
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What does American civil religion involve?
Loyalty to the nation state/belief in God.
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Both of which are equated with...
...being a true American.
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American civil religion is expressed in...
...various rituals/symbols/beliefs.
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For example:
Pledge of allegiance to the flag /singing the national anthem/ phrases such as 'One nation under God.'
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This sacralises the American way of life and binds...
..together Americans from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
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What are functional alternatives/equivalents to religion?
Non-religious beliefs ad practices that perform similar functions to that of organised religions.
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For example: both Bellah's civil religion and totemism...
...reinforce shared values and maintain social cohesion.
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Although civil religion in America involves a belief in God...
...Bellah argues that this dosn't have to be the case.
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This means that some other belief could perform the same function. For example:
Both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had secular (non-religious)political beliefs and rituals around which they sought to unite society.
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Name a problem with saying that functional equivalents to religion are religious beliefs.
This ignores what makes religion itself distinct and different (i.e. its belief in God and the supernatural.)
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Card 2


Social order and solidarity are key due to the need for the members of society to...



Card 3


What do functionalists make social order possible?


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Card 4


Define value consensus:


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Card 5


What would happen without value consensus?


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