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Evaluate Marxist and Functionalist Views of Religion.

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Evaluate Marxist and Functionalist Views of Religion Definitions of religion tend to be either substantive or functional. Substantive definitions try to uncover the essence of religion, in other words what religion is. Functional approaches place more emphasis on the effect of a religion, which means what a religion does. Religion is one of the major social institutions in society. Many sociologists believe that religion has three typical characteristics these are, "1) An organised collectively of individuals, with 2) a shared system of beliefs and 3) a set of approved activities and prac- tices." (Taylor, P (1995)) Religious groups can have significant affects on the socialisation process. In Christian societies the Ten Commandments show how social norms can be integrated by religious beliefs. Functionalists believe that belief in Gods and Spirits originate in ancestral spirits of dead relatives. They beliefs are that souls represent presence of social values. Therefore worshipping souls shows that they are again worshipping a social group or a society. Functionalists also believe that religion helps us when we are in a crisis. Worshipping sacred things also brings social solidarity and social unity. ...read more.


It also ignores frequent examples of internal divisions within a community. Through the discussion of religion the topic of measuring religiosity has been brought up. People have thought they are indicators that may be possible to measure degrees of religiousness. Particular indicators may apply more to one individual, group, or religion than others at any particular time. The measuring of religiousness is explained through five dimensions of religiosity. The five dimensions are Belief, Practice, Experience, Knowledge, and Consequence. The Belief dimension refers to the core beliefs of a religion. Practice is the acts of worship carried out by people. The Experience dimension refers to the expectation that religiosity involves subjective feelings and perceptions. The Knowledge dimension refers to the extent of understanding the basic tenets of a religion, and the Consequence dimension extends the idea of religious commitment beyond the first four criteria and focuses on their effects of everyday life. There are two essential elements in the Marxist perspective on religion. The first is descriptive, and the second perspective is evaluative. Marx described religion as a dependant variable. ...read more.


Marx argues that religion not only has a drug-like effect on the masses but also functions for the dominant class in sustaining the status quo. Religion justifies for them their social and political status as well as maintaining their position by diverting the revolutionary potential of the oppressed. There are similarities with Durkheim in the sense that Marx seems to be explaining away religion by regarding it as purely of social origin. There are many current dilemmas with the sociology of religion. Sociologists study the edges of religion but never seem to explore the details in the middle. Many sociologists have assumed that the picture in the middle is blurred because it is fading away. A hundred years ago, sociologists predicted the gradual decline and even the disappearance of religion. Religion can contribute both to social integration and to conflict. Functionalist's approaches have tendered to emphasize integrative effects. Marxist analyses of religion traditionally present it as a powerful ideology that expresses and reinforces class division and oppression. However some Neo-Marxists have recognised the revolutionary potential of religion as an agent of social change. Despite predictions of the decline and eventual disappearance of religion it still remains a powerful political and cultural force on a global scale. Rachael Rowe HND Social Sciences: Sociology May 2003 1 ...read more.

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