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

Discuss the Formation and Social Impact of Religion and Belief Systems

Extracts from this document...


Discuss the Formation and Social Impact of Religion and Belief Systems Belief systems, religions and societies have been around since the beginning of recorded time. Based on their longevity alone, it is easy to postulate that their origins and functions must be mutual, or at the very least, have a history of interaction. Therefore, unsurprisingly we find belief systems present in all known societies, and consequently, beliefs systems and religion have a social impact. To assess this social impact one must first be able to define and distinguish them in order to qualify their impact. A belief system is a set of organised convictions, predicating a way of thinking that pertains to acceptance or accreditation of something. Religion is centred in religious beliefs and the stylised enactment of them. However, in attempting to define religious beliefs we must encompass all varieties of religious belief without incorporating phenomena that are not normally thought of as religions. To overcome this problem two approaches have been adopted relying on functional and substantive definitions. Functional definitions see religion and its beliefs in terms of what functions it performs for society or individuals. For example, Yinger defined religion as "a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life" (quoted in Hamilton, 1995). However, as with many functional definitions, it is too inclusive regarding belief systems and often puts forward functional means that can be addressed by other aspects of human life. ...read more.


On the other hand, Malinowski may have taken a particular function or effect that religion sometimes could be attributed to have (dealing with uncertainty) and mistaken it for a feature of religion in general. Obviously, by its own nature, the functionalist perspective of belief systems and religion does not account for the dysfunctional aspects the disruptive force of religion can manifest. These divisive aspects of religion also have a social impact and must be considered. The Marxist perspective focuses on the force behind religion, addressing both the functional and dysfunctional effects it can have on society applying a more holistic view. When comparing present society to his perfect ideal society, Marx saw religion as the 'opium of the people' (Marx in Bottomore and Rubel, 1963). He suggested religion acts as an opiate to dull the pain produced by oppression in a number of ways: Promising a paradise of eternal bliss in life after death; Making a virtue of the suffering produced by oppression; Offering hope of supernatural intervention to solve dire problems; and to justify the social order and a person position within it. Therefore, from a Marxist viewpoint, religion does not simply cushion the effects of oppression, it also acts and an instrument of that oppression. In terms of religion's social impact, the Marxist perspective sees religion as a potent mechanism of social control. He saw religion impacting on society to produce a false class consciousness, diverting peoples attention from the real source of their oppression with false justification and encouragement, and so helping to maintain ruling-class power. ...read more.


This gives support to secularisation and also the formation of sects and denominations. In my opinion, we are all inescapable social Darwinists and religion and belief systems are inherent forces being both product and producer of society. Importantly many theories (e.g. Marxim & Feminism) imply religion and belief systems to be an instrument of manipulation, this actually tells us nothing of their true underlying formation and social impact. For instance, just because art or drama can be utilised for ideological purposes this does not explain the existence or function of art or drama. As we move forward into a global society, the future formation and continuation of religion and belief systems is becoming more personal, born out of many different cross pollinations of cultures and societies. Postscript Theories cannot be based on undefined foundations, such as the word society and religion. Both can be interpreted in many different ways and consequently one theory's perspective will work for their interpretation of the words religion and society. Thankfully, the definition of belief system is irrefutable and so has little controversy when applied and built on. There is more than one approach to perspectives of religion and society and unfortunately many authors and critics I have read have allowed themselves to become fixated with useless simplified criticism. For example, all textbooks critique functionalist approaches by stating the perspective emphasises the positive contributions of religion to society while ignoring the dysfunctional aspects. They would be well advised to notice the word functional, not dysfunctional in 'functionalist approach' and stop writing about the blinding obvious. Only a fool would criticise the dictionary definition of a cat by saying it needed to encompass the definition of a dog. ...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 ...

    This supports the Marxist idea that religion can be used to maintain the class structure in society.

  2. Functionalist views on Religion.

    It offers justification for why the working class are in a low position e.g. God is testing them. Religion offers the hope of supernatural intervention through prayer etc. In this way, religion is largely a conservative social force. It inhibits change.

  1. The Hidden Curriculum; Hegemony and Capitalism.

    There are no conspirators hatching devious schemes. It simply means that the institutions of society, like education, are reflections of the world created by human activity and that ideas arise from and reflect the material conditions and circumstances in which they are generated.

  2. Defining religion.

    solidarity - feel part of the unified group] [Conservative force - keeps things the same (religion)] o Religion re-inforces the collective conscience. o Religion is the 'worship of society' - this strengthens the values & moral beliefs - basis of social life o We treat people with reverence because they

  1. This essay will explain the functionalist, Marxist and Social action theories of race and ...

    (Haralambos, 1985) However, Paterson continues by suggesting that the West-Indians did have 'assimilationist' aspirations and with this knowledge, Paterson believed that eventual assimilation was in no way unachievable, provided both parties contributed to this process. She did however express that the principal participants in this process were the migrants, who

  2. The purpose of this essay is to describe four studies relating to gender each ...

    For Oakley, interviewing is a two way process which involves a diversity that is disallowed by the traditional/masculine paradigms. Oakley suggests that interviewing should not be confined to the rigidity and the hierarchical nature of the traditional method and that it is impossible for feminist interviewers to gain an understanding of women's subjective experiences under these conditions.

  1. Choose a group which faces barriers in terms of participation in sport and leisure ...

    with male ideologies, this they believe has dented women's levels of participation accordingly. They also put forward that a main reason for lower rates is that as men and women's biology's are different, and that there is a need for different sports because of this, women tend not to participate cause of this.

  2. Sociology Content and Analisis

    to be, "now we can work and do whatever we want, we don't need a man to look after us which is only right, we can support ourselves emotionally and most importantly economically". Sam her parent agreed with her but didn't say much, he did admit that less sexism was the reason though.

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