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Compare and contrast Marxist and functionalist views of religion.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast Marxist and functionalist views of religion. The functionalist perspective of religion shows a positive view. It examines religion in terms of societies needs. Emile Durkheim was a functionalist and he argued that all societies divide the world into two categories, the sacred and the profane. Religion is based on this division. It is a unified system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things. Durkheim studied a group with a religion called totemism. This group had a scared symbol which represents their clan but also which is their religious sacred symbol and so he argued that if they were worshipping this symbol then they too would be worshipping society. Durkheim also believed that social life is impossible without the shared beliefs and values of the collective conscience. Without them there would be no social order or social control, there would be no society at all. According to Durkheim religion reinforces the collective conscience. Durkheim, emphasized the importance of collective worship. The social group comes together in religious rituals full of drama and reverence. Together its members express their faith in common values and beliefs. Parsons, another functionalist, argued that human action is directed and controlled by norms provided by the social systems. Religious beliefs are largely integrated into society. For example in a Christian society many laws are based on the ten commandments. Parsons sees religion as being address to particular problems that occur in all societies. ...read more.

Middle

Religion also acts as a means of social control. From a Marxist viewpoint religion does not just cushion the effects of oppression. It acts as a means of social control by maintaining the existing system of exploitation and reinforcing class relationship. By making hard lives bearable, religion tends to discourage people from attempting to change their situation. By offering an illusion of hope in a hopeless situation it prevents thoughts of overthrowing the system. It also helps to produce a false consciousness that blinds members of the subject class to their true situation and their real interests. In this way it diverts people's attention from the real source of their oppression and so helps to maintain ruling-class power. The Marxist and functionalist ideas are comparable but are more contrasting against one another. They have some basic principles which are quite similar to one another, both look at religion, and see it affecting the whole of society. They both see religion as a force of social control, the minority controlling the minority. The Marxists as well as the feminists believe that religion is structural, and see it as a conservative force, which prevents change, and keeps traditional and set values alive. They both have the same criticisms too, when it comes to methodological weaknesses. Neither has investigated the impact of secularisation on the role of religion. Media now plays a demanding role in society, and both perspectives ignore these facts, and therefore are not as up to date with the changes that are happening in society as they should be. ...read more.

Conclusion

They do this by legitimising the existing social order, as they state it is God given e.g. the Caste System. Functionalists believe that religion is a positive force on society and individuals within society; however Marxists argue that this is not the case and religion acts on behalf of Capitalism, and the dominant ruling class and plays a negative role in enabling them to exploit the working class. Stating that this is the correct way to act, this can be shown in many religions, for example the Muslims and the caste system, and in Christianity. Marxists argue that religion is a tool of social control, and legitimates the Capitalism system, again promoting false conciseness. On the other side Functionalist will argue the case that religion keeps society stable. For example Durkheim states that religion has value consensus which helps to integrates everyone tint societies, making them feel as if they belong, and therefore leading to social solidarity. Both Marxists and Functionalists (Durkhiem) believed and acknowledged that religion would decline in its importance in relation to society. However as the Functionalists believed nothing could take the pace that religion had in society, and the influence that it could impact, the Marxists saw this in a different light and believed that the media would take religions place in society, having a greater impact on society than one single religion ever had done in the past. The Functionalist and Marxist perspectives on religion contrast greatly, and are not really comparable. They do have similar view points in some instance but normally these take different stances. Their main comparisons lie in their methodological weaknesses. ...read more.

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