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Compare and contrast Marxist and Functionalist accounts of religion.

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Darren Marks Sociology Compare and Contrast Marxist and Functionalist Accounts of Religion Both functionalists and Marxists share the common view that religion serves to legitimise the morals and laws within society. Many functionalists as well as Marxists do agree that society creates religion as a visual symbol of itself. Followers are ultimately not worshipping their religion, their worshipping society and everything it stands for. However, this is where the split in views begins. Functionalists see Religion as serving towards the 4 pre-requisites of society. (Namely: Social integration, shared values, social solidarity, and social harmony). By ensuring these needs are met, religion reinforces collective values and promotes solidarity. Functionalism is not over concerned about the 'why' religion is allowed to assume this falsified symbolism, but instead recognises it's use in keeping harmony and faith in society. Durkheim demonstrates this in admitting that religion does not have to be 'super natural'. It's important to note that mortal people and objects can gain a sacred status in society similar to that of the idols of religion. ...read more.


He did, however, agree that religion promotes solidarity. It does so by dealing with emotional stress / life crisis (disruptive events). Religion goes as far as to introduce ceremonies for dealing with various life crisis. Death is given a funeral. Love is given marriage. In all cases then hope is given through the expressed belief in immortality and fellow mourners serve to comfort and support the bereaved, so they can become functional members of society once again. Dangerous and unpredictable events are also surrounded in religious ceremony. Prayer is common before a possibly hazardous experience. These rituals reduce anxiety and increase confidence, strengthening unity in shared situations. Talcott Parsons shares this view and goes onto show how religious devices, such as the 10 commandments, provide the basis for many social norms and morals. Religion guides behaviour and helps in the formulation of decision through this. Finally, Religion is looked to answer the "ultimate questions" and give meaning to our existence. Humanity needs to feel as though there is meaning in all significant things; meaning to death and suffering, and justification of existence in itself. ...read more.


The idea of equal opportunity is ultimately crushed by harsh teachings and acceptance that a lower class worker is having a bad life because super natural forces placed them in that situation as punishment for wrongfulness in previous life. In conclusion, Marxist and functionalist similarities on the subject start and end with the acceptance of religion as a conservative force in society. Neo Marxism does accept the idea (like functionalism) that religion can sometimes be useful to society in bringing about change for the better. For instance the radical role of Liberation Theology. (Madura). Traditional Marxism is totally opposed to the oppressive role of religion and would be surprised to see that radical forces have emerged with some minority religious groups. Functionalists such as Durkheim and Parsons see religion as being a positive and perhaps essential part of the harmonious workings of society but have been criticised for ignoring the dysfunctional, disruptive, and divisive aspects of religion. They fail to consider hostility between religious groups within the same society. "It would seem that religion threatens social integration as readily as it contributes to it" (Stark & Glock). ...read more.

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