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Compare Marxist and Functionalist theories of the role of religion

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Compare Marxist and Functionalist theories of the role of religion Religion is not easy to define therefore, as there are so many questions to consider when coming answering that question. However some sociologists have tried to define what is involved in religion. Glock and Stark identified '5 core dimensions' of religiosity, which they argue should influence the day-to-day action and interaction of individuals. Similarly Durkheim tries to define religion as being the scared as opposed to the profane. The sacred is something is something outside our normal lives; it includes a belief in a supernatural being or force, therefore treated in a ritualised way. For example for Muslims, going to mosque for special Friday prayers and mass for Roman Catholics is a ritual. Any object can be regarded as sacred as long as it treated like so. Surrogate religions develop from this treatment, for example many nationalists treat their national flags as sacred. Therefore from Durkheim's definition anything can be religion, as long as it is treated in a sacred way. Functionalists believe that religion is an important institution in promoting collective consciousness, social solidarity and harmony. They believe that religion is about beliefs and practices because beliefs affect how people behave socially. ...read more.


The actions of Father Torres show that even the ruling classes can join the proletariats to fight an oppressive and capitalist society. Therefore religion does play a great role in enabling society to join together when there is a crisis. Parsons, another functionalist sociologist believes human behaviour is directed and controlled by the norms of the social system. He says that religious beliefs provide guidelines for human action and standards against which peoples conduct can be evaluated. The Ten Commandments integrates religious beliefs with norms of the social system. For example the commandment " thou shalt not kill" is also used as a social norm. Therefore religion can be used to control people into acting in a way, which does not disturb society. It also promotes social consciousness as people see that killing is morally wrong and they would be punished in the afterlife for doing so, thus they would not do it. However Marxist sociologists believe that religious "laws" such as, "do not steal" are created to benefit the ruling classes, because as the proletariats follow these religions and everything they say, it allows the ruling classes to exploit them. Marxist would also say that religion is only a subtle, soft form of social control. As the ruling class recognises that force will cause subject classes to rebel. As Gramcsi said, "It (religion) ...read more.


Marxists say that the only role that religion plays in society is being a fantasy escape for proletariats from their oppressive positions, however all the promises of religion are false. Durkheim declares that religion is a expression and celebration of peoples solidarity, nevertheless a Marxist would say that it is a consolation for experiences which lack genuine solidarity of which are capable. What's more the promises of heavenly rewards in religion are an illusion, as true happiness occurs only when the exploited shake off the chains of oppression to seize and practice their freedom. The three perspectives: Functionalist, Marxists and Neo-Marxists say that religion plays a role in society. However they have different ideas about what this role is. The functionalists see religion as a tool to promoting social solidarity and a way of keeping society stable. Whilst Marxist see religion as a form of ideology which leads the masses in false directions, obscuring the nature of reality whilst the ruling classes use it to rule over them. And an institution, which maintains capitalist rule by dominion and oppression. On the other hand the neo-Marxists agree that religion and the church are used to shape the minds of the working classes to aide their exploitation, but they also give strong examples of times when religion works in the favour of the oppressed to support them in their struggle in oppression and for freedom. ?? ?? ?? ?? Sociology of Religion Zuhra Abukar ...read more.

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