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Assess the functionalist view that religion benefits both society as a whole and its individual members

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´╗┐Assess the functionalist view that religion benefits both society as a whole and its individual members (18 marks) Functionalists believe that religion is beneficial for both society as a whole and it?s individual members, this is because it unifies society and creates consensus, which in turn gives each individual member a source of support when they need it. However some theorists disagree with the functionalist ideology. Firstly, functionalist claim religion benefits society in a number of ways, it creates a sense of social solidarity, meaning a shared sense of identity, history, norms and values (a collective conscience). This is supported by item A, ?religions contribution to value consensus and social integration?. Functionalist explain that if all of a societies members are part of the same religion then they all share the same belief system, resulting in consensus between all of its members. The religious institution will teach it?s members the norms and values of the society they are in and the collective worship will bind societies members closer together, for example, people ...read more.


They worship their society because they are completely dependent upon it, they are utterly dependent upon each other and their religion unifies them. Durkheim also believes that religion is the source of our intellectual or cognitive capacities. Worlsey criticises Durkheim as he notes that there is no sharp division between the sacred and the profane, and that different clans share the same totems. And even if Durkheim is right about totemism, this does not prove that he has discovered the essence of all other religions. Some sociologist criticise how functionalists neglect the fact there are multi- faith societies, however a functionalist called Robert Bellah believes he can provide an answer for this, he claims that these societies have a common belief system called civil religion. Civil religion is a religion that attaches sacred qualities to the society itself. ?Americanism? unites every American in a way individual religions cannot. To be an American you must be loyal to the nation state and believe in a God. ...read more.


. Another criticisms is that in multi-faith societies different religions teach different things and have different norms and values, sometimes resulting in confusion, this means there is no longer a collective conscience and everyone doesn?t think in the same way. Furthermore, some would argue civil religion isn?t a real religion because it isn?t based on belief in the supernatural. In conclusion, functionalists believe religion can be seen to benefit the whole of society by creating a sense of unity and solidarity; and the individual by answering ultimate questions and acting as an emotional crutch, but this view is maybe dated. Some criticisms are that in modern day multi-religion societies different religions teach of different origins and different norms and values taking away the sense of unity and solidarity. Also Marxists would argue that religion only benefits the ruling class, confusing the proletariat and making them think their inferior position is god given and acceptable. On the other hand, feminists would argue that religion solely benefits men and subordinates women. ...read more.

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