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Outline and Evaluate different functionalist views of religion

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Outline and Evaluate different functionalist views of religion A definition of religion is very important, however it is very hard and difficult for sociologists to define, but they are more concerned with the definition as it shows the civilization of religion and it will show whether religion is important or not. Therefore sociologists simply define religion as sets of belief which people have towards different things. Functionalist's theory see society as an ongoing balance of social institutions which pattern human activity by shared norms held to be legitimate and binding by the human participants. The social institution (social system) is divided in parts and each part is independent with the other parts, any changes in the parts will have a major effect on the whole system (society is like the human body: as far the human body to be healthy all its parts should work together in a smooth way therefore a healthy society can only be maintained if all its parts work well together. Functionalists therefore argue that the need of social order is vital as it determines society's survival. For social order to be achieved there must be certain agreements and operations and social solidarity is needed. This is made possible by shared norms and values and consensus (agreements), without this agreements then conflict and confusion would occur. Functionalists see the contribution of religion to the human societies and cultures to be based upon its central characteristic; it is the existence of everyday experience in the natural environment. ...read more.


The Aboriginal society was divided into family, whose members shared various duties and responsibility towards one and other. Furthermore each family had its own totem- a symbol, usually as a plant or an animal that illustrated them differently to the other families (clans). To the aborigines the totem (symbol) was the most sacred objects of their lives. However Durkheim suggests that the totem is sacred because it is symbolically representative of the group itself. It stands for the values of the group and by worshiping it people are essentially worshipping the group (society).Totemism is seen by Durkheim as the most elementary form of religion involving rituals and ceremonies around a totem which brings different groups together. To summarise Durkheim's view, he argued that all religions fulfil certain purposes for individuals and the society itself. For the individuals, religion provides a continuing reason to face up to life and social support based on what we belong to. On the other hand for society it joins the members around the shared norms, values, meanings and traditions of the collective awareness and therefore encourages social mixing and social solidarity whether the symbol that they worship is (sacred) are supernatural or not. Similarly and sporting Durkheim's idea, American sociologist: Robert Bella, who focused on civil religion, drew on Durkheim's research on religion's traditional function, society can bring its members together by encoring awareness of their common membership of an body greater than themselves. ...read more.


Different religions bring people and make society maintain its order through its rituals and ceremonies as the people share the same values and norms which are based on consensus. However there are criticisms and disadvantages of the functionalist view of religion. Some argue that the functionalist's research ignores many examples of other religions as it has a small scale of results and it sees other religions as a negative force; this as a result which can create conflict and divide the people apart as one group of people's religion is being ignored and seen as a negative force. Secondly the research which we as sociology students refer to are very old and out of date, this therefore means that we can not connect the results to today's society as there are more religions that exist than before. Moreover in today's world we live in a multi-cultural society that consists of other types of religions, and we as individuals can chose to follow what we want and what we want to believe in. Now a day's people have more freedom and choice in what they want to believe and follow as they can create their own religions. Functionalists therefore tend to ignore the changes and the different believes and religions people have today as they only see the modern religion as the right one that the society and its people follow, but this is not the case with most countries and societies as there are many other types of religions. Wednesday 22nd September 04 Daroon Hamdi ...read more.

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