• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Compare and contrast the six main sociological theories of religion as well as examining the way in which these theories are formed/based.

Extracts from this document...


Compare and Contrast Sociological Theories of Religion This essay is going to compare and contrast the six main sociological theories of religion as well as examining the way in which these theories are formed/based. The main point Marx makes concerning religion is its function to control the proletariat. In capitalist society, the wealth of the bourgeoisie depends upon exploiting the proletariat. However, to prevent any rebellion the bourgeoisie need to impose two forms of control, violence, or the threat of violence, and values. Violence is the less satisfactory from of control, as it is difficult in the long term to maintain order solely through this. Furthermore, the use of violence lays bare any claim to legitimacy by the ruling class. Violence is used, where necessary, by the police and, in extreme situations, by the army. Those who are the recipients of violence are likely to be the marginalised that have the smallest stake in society. Control of the proletariat via values is the most efficient mode of control. By gaining control of the very values of society, what benefits the bourgeoisie is regarded as benefiting all of society. Religion was so powerful up to this century, when with the advent of modernism formal education and the mass media effectively took over, because there was no way to disprove the values of religion. God punished the disobedient after death. Marx believed that religion was useful to capitalism in that it acted as a form of consolation to people, keeping them happy in their positions, the opiate of the people. ...read more.


Durkheim's analysis is primarily on the cohesion functions of religion, and he sees religion as a conservative force. Therefore there is little awareness of religion as an agency that brings about change. Durkheim does not see religion as having a dynamic, innovating role, but rather one that reflects social values. When it comes to social change, therefore, he accepts that religion will change, indeed he foresaw its decline, but as a response to wider social changes. Crucially, Durkheim differs from Marx in that he sees religion as a beneficial force, whereas for Marx, religion is a means of oppression. Following on from Durkheim, Parsons examines the positive aspects of religion for society. He suggests that the functions of religious beliefs provide the guidelines for action and that life consists of uncertainties and anxieties concerning unforeseen events. Religion helps to explain these random events, and provide an explanation, it gives meaning to life, and religion also creates and reinforces values to help provide harmony in society. The functionalist perspective emphasizes the positive contributions of religion to society and tends to ignore its more dysfunctional aspects. With its preoccupation with harmony, integration and solidarity, functionalism neglects the many instances where religion can be seen as a divisive and disruptive force. It bypasses the frequent examples of internal divisions within a community over questions of religious dogma and worship, divisions that can lead to open conflict. It gives little consideration to hostility between different religious groups within the same society, such as Catholics and Protestant in Northern Ireland of Hindus and Muslims in India. ...read more.


Berger and Luckmann argue that religion is probably the most effective mechanism for the legitimation of universes of meaning. Unlike other sources of legitimation, only religion links meaning with ultimate reality. However, Berger and Luckmann's views on religion are open to a number of criticisms. Rather like functionalists, they tend to assume that religion unites society and they neglect examples of societies where religion is divisive or causes conflict. Furthermore, they tend to think that religious beliefs are widely held, and they fail to account for the continued existence of societies where many members are indifferent to religion. Religion can be a source of change. Despite the examples that can be used to support the functionalist and Marxist view that religion promotes stability, other examples contradict their claims. There are a number of cases where religion has undermined stability or promoted change, such as in Northern Ireland where Roman Catholicism has long been associated with Irish Republicanism, or in South Africa Archbishop Tutu was a prominent opponent of apartheid. Examples such as these lead to the conclusion that far from encouraging people to accept their place, religion can spearhead resistance and revolution. In many cases when religion has been a force for change in society, the society that results may be strongly influenced by that religion. Despite the considerable effort devoted to discussing Weber's theory by historians and socialists alike, no argument has been reached about its accuracy. Nevertheless, whatever the merits of this particular study, I believe that Weber does successfully highlight the theoretical point that ideas, in this case religious ideas, can conceivably lead to economic change. Alexis Cormano 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. Compare and contrast the Marxist and Functionalist explanations of the role of religion in ...

    In times of the unforeseen or uncertainty religion's role in society to help people cope and adjust. For example after September 11th church attendance rose dramatically, allowing people with something they feel is stable and secure. Therefore religion maintains social solidarity and prevents tension that may disrupt social order.

  2. Compare and Contrast 'Overcoat' By Ghulam Abbas and 'The Blue Donkey' By Suniti Namjoshi ...

    piano and played a few notes as if he was an expert. A salesman came up, 'Good evening sir' he said courteously, 'Can I help you sir?' The young man is treated courteously and respectfully. If he came in as his real self, beneath the overcoat, the salesman would not

  1. The following essay will use the ideas of Durkheim to construct my social biography ...

    F motlatla enroll for bachelor of commerce in Business Administration from University of the north. Mr. Motlatla received a bachelor of Business Administration from University of the north in 2002. Following graduation, he moved back to seshego and work for Dingaka herbal association as business administrator.

  2. Compare and contrast the Inca and Aztec civilization in terms of religion, politics, social ...

    Volunteers who chose to die for their religion were set to one year of anticipation but you would live a very lavish life up to their sacrificial murder. This idea of sacrifice was inherited from the Maya and the Toltec empires.

  1. Using the factual accounts of the sinking of the Titanic, compare and contrast how ...

    The Titanic film makes no reference to the California, and The Carpathia only appears in the closing scenes of the film. The final scenes of 'A Night to Remember', when the ship finally begins to sink beneath the surface is dramatic but without the benefit of computer graphics and animation

  2. The position of widows in Nepalese society - sociological study.

    APARAJITA has sent a petition to the central government demanding changes in the law and the monitoring of enforcement mechanisms. Reports of these meetings can be obtained either through EWD, or directly from: Guild of Service (Delhi Branch). Mrs V Mohini Giri email: gos@bol.net.in Joint Action Mrs Jyotsna Chatterji samyadip@vsnl.com APARAJITA Mrs.

  1. Evaluate the view that religion acts as a Conservative force in Modern society

    Bird (1999) points out that it is ideas like this which lead to the promotion of celibacy and asceticism. These ideas once again are a form of social control as they allow women to be targeted as dangerous and not worthy of having power within the Church or other organisations.

  2. Does Boxing have a future?

    dangerous than such sports and pastimes including motor sports and horse racing. However though, boxing has three principal differentiating features from the other sports and the first of which is, it is the goal of the boxer to rain blows on to his opponent, a prerequisite of winning any boxing match.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work