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"Assess the different sociological accounts of the role and functions of Religious institutions in contemporary society"

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Sociology Essay "Assess the different sociological accounts of the role and functions of Religious institutions in contemporary society" The question has long been asked, is there a place left for religion in the modern world. A world where people place more importance on the success of their football team than in their spirituality. Indeed many would argue that any functions that Religion had in previous decades and centuries have been outdated or replaced. However, there have been many arguments put forward highlighting the role and function of religion in contemporary society. The first of these is put forward by the Functionalists. The Functionalists would argue that religions most important functions are the transfer of social solidarity, value consensus and promoting harmony and integration. In Emile Durkheim's Elementary Forms Of Religious Life, published in 1912, he examined Religions role in promoting social solidarity through what he called the 'collective worship of society'. He believed that this collective worship was religions most important function. It promoted faith in common values, helped people to understand and express the moral bonds which united them. Durkheim took as an example, aboriginal society. He argued that the aborigines worshipped their society as a whole through a system of beliefs and practices in relation to specific totems. He believed that this totemism reinforced the belief that society was more important than the individual. This attitude of respect and reverence to sacred objects and duties was transferable to social duties and obligations. ...read more.


However, functionalists would argue that this is born out of and reinforced by religion and the value consensus. For example, most people don't go out and commit murder because it is against the law and they consider it wrong. However, some would argue that the idea that it is wrong to kill was originally founded in religious belief, and has simply transferred to wider society. However, there is the question of whether in today's pluralistic society, Value Consensus can be truly seen as a role of religion. Whilst it is true that most religions have basic rules such as 'Thou Shalt Not Kill', each has it's own interpretations and views on modern society. The differences between New Right groups in the US, such as The Sons Of Liberty, and movements such as Nation of Islam are a good example of this. Both claim to be religious, yet both come with starkly different values and views. Therefore, the idea of religion promoting Value Consensus can only be seen as diminished in a pluralistic society. When considering the functionalist perspective on the role and functions of religion in the contemporary society it is important to mention that functionalists are rather keen on ignoring any adverse affects that religion may have. They bypass the frequent examples of internal divisions within a community over differing beliefs. Glock and Stark, writing in 1965 stated "We find it difficult to reconcile the general theory with considerable evidence of religious conflict. ...read more.


argue that El Saadawi is seeing what she wants in the text, rather than looking at it objectively. The major problem with both of these Feminist arguments is that they do not really address the role of religion, merely the suggestion of it's abuse by men. Also, in contemporary society women, in Britain at least, are much more aware of any oppression around them. Therefore, it is much less likely that religion can be used to oppress women. However, I do concede that point that in some religions, such as Orthodox Judaism and more extreme Islam women are still regarded as second class. Considering all the arguments put forth looking at the roles and functions of religion in contemporary society, there is only one conclusion that can be drawn from it; That is, the roles and functions that religion may have previously had in society have been replaced in the modern society we live in. The totemism of religion that Durkheim mentioned has been replaced by increased respect and almost reverance for modern day items, from TV to football teams. Religion is used less and less as a source for support, in a world where people drive comfort from long phone calls with friends or counselling. It is hard to see religion being of any use as an force for oppression, of either class or gender, in a world where electronic media means that people can be more aware of what is going on in the world. Perhaps the only role that religion has now, is serving as a part of a civil religion that, in my opinion, society is headed towards. ...read more.

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