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Compared Functionalist and Marxist theories of the role of religion.

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Introduction

Compared Functionalist and Marxist theories of the role of religion Both functionalist and Marxist are structural theories, therefore they are primarily concerned with the role religion plays in society rather than the impact it has on individuals. Functionalist perspective is based on the idea that society is a consensus, and that all aspects in society perform a useful purpose to enhance this consensus. Therefore the function of religion is to help bind society by developing a collective conscience. Durkheim emphasises on the importance of collective worship, he argues that by coming together during religious ritual the social group expresses its belief. These values and beliefs reinforce the collective consciousness and unify the group - as a result society is strengthened. Marxist also believes that religion groups people together and therefore promotes a single set of beliefs and values. However Marxist theory identifies religion as an important aspect in the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, a relationship based on conflict. ...read more.

Middle

In religion, funeral ceremony reinforces the belief in life after death (immortality) and so by denying the fact of death individuals are comforted. The presence of other mourners also provides support for the bereave. This way religion ensures society is not disrupted. Death is seen as the most 'socially destructive event' because it removes a member from society. The event of funeral therefore unifies the social group and therefore promotes social solidarity by dealing with the emotion of this event and removes the uncertainty that may have threatened the stability of society. Like Functionalist Marxist also believe that religion can dull the pain produced by oppression. Marx referred to this as 'the opium of the people' - this way religion does not solve the problem because it only makes life more bearable and as a result discourages the demand for change. Religion dulls the pain of oppressor by promising a paradise of eternal happiness in the life after death. ...read more.

Conclusion

Neo-Marxist deny the fact that religion is always used as a conservative force. They believe that religion can cause social revolution, for example the liberation of the Latin American was primarily helped by religion. Tuner Neo-Marxist believes that religion does relate to the physical and economic aspects of social life. However unlike, Marxist he does not believe that religion has a universal role in society and that religion is not always an important part of the ruling class ideology. For example in the feudal period, Marxist assumed that religion was adopted to integrate society. But according to Turner the feudal system was concerned with survival based upon wealth and power. Religion then did help to change the system in terms of emphasising on values of family. However in capitalist society, Turner argues that religion has lost one of its vital functions for the ruling class. And so Neo-Marxist believe that the ruling class do not need to use religion to reinforce their ideas to maintain social solidarity because this can now be done by coercion and economic power. ...read more.

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