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

"Sociologists have defined religion in two ways: in terms of what religion does, and in terms of what religion is." What are the main advantages and disadvantages of functional and substantive definitions of religion?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

"Sociologists have defined religion in two ways: in terms of what religion does, and in terms of what religion is." What are the main advantages and disadvantages of functional and substantive definitions of religion? Most sociologists attempt to define religion by features of what religion is or what it does. Religion is too complex to define because not all religions can fit into one rigid definition. Therefore it also becomes difficult to distinguish what is and what is not a religion. Key thinkers such as Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Freud, Simmel, Gertz , Yinger and Berger have all attempt to define religion. Their definitions usually fall into two categories, Functional definitions of religion and Substantive definitions of religion. The functional definition sees religion in terms of the functions it performs for society or individuals. It tries to explain what religion does. Sociologists have argued that religion has the function of maintaining society. Other approaches are based upon substantive definitions. They are concerned with the content of religion. Substantive definitions try to identify the key features of religion; that it involves a belief in God for example. ...read more.

Middle

An example of this is the division between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland. Also using functional definitions of religion how do we explain social change? If everything , maintains the existing social structure within society it is difficult to identify how structures change. This idea also brings up the issue of how do we deal with things that do not appear to, maintain social order? Crime for example is dysfunctional and puts a huge threat over society. Some functional sociologists claim that crime can be functional. Does this mean any social behaviour is functional? There are also difficulties with Durkhiem's approach when attempting to define religion. His ideas could be interpreted in such a way that all beliefs and practices that maintain social solidarity are religious ones. Voting in an election for example indicates peoples commitment to democracy, hence maintains social solidarity but voting is not a form of religion. If we use a functionalist definition we are more likely to see things as religious even if they are not religious. ...read more.

Conclusion

This clearly is not a form or religion though. Although it is far easier to pick out the advantages and disadvantages of the functional definition of religion there are advantages and disadvantages of substantive definitions of religion. Using the functional definition of religion states what religion does. This allows us to look at the benefits it performs for wider society. In particular the formation of communities which results in social solidarity. This, some believe decreases the chances of social unrest greatly. But as I have already mentioned there are several problems with this type of definition. Mainly by using it how do we explain social change? Generally I found it slightly harder to analyse the positives and negatives of the substantive definition of religion. I think that by saying what religion is results in it benefiting the individual more than it does society. The sacred plays a large part in this type of definition and refers to everything outside our normal daily lives. I believe that this gives the individual, and in some sense society a way of looking beyond the norm and finding comfort in the super natural. The disadvantage here though is that things can be sacred but not necessarily religious. LAUREN MOUNCHER 13JN. ...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. Religious Schools- Advantages and Disadvantages

    Religious studies that don't support real-life applications should be a private matter occurring before or after school hours, as opposed to during school hours.

  2. Functionalist views on Religion.

    druggies'. Relative deprivation refers to a subjective feeling of deprivation. This says that while middle class people may not be objectively deprived, they may feel it. It does not just refer to economic factors-the middle class can feel spiritually deprived-they see the world as materialistic and seek refuge ion a sense of community offered by some religious movements.

  1. Max Weber: Basic Terms (The Fundamental Concepts of Sociology)

    rational belief in its absolute value 4) legality. Readiness to conform with rules which are formally correct and have been imposed by accepted procedure. Submission to an order is almost always determined by a variety of motives. MAX WEBER Class, Status, Party All communities are arranged in a manner that goods, tangible and intangible, symbolic and material are distributed.

  2. Main features of Functionalism.

    goals and an environment which comprises physical and social objects and norms and values. This is an abstract description of all actions. Now, Parsons is not just concerned with the individual action, but with systems of action. Among the objects in the actor's environment, are other actors.

  1. The Sociology of Religion

    As the material means of production, i.e. land, labour and capital, generated alienation by division of labour, religion is a result of alienation. (Hamilton, pp90) Thus, religion is "...an expression of the protest against oppression and a form of resignation and consolation in the face of oppression" (Hamilton, pp91)

  2. Compare and Contrast Functionalism and Marxist Theories of the Role of Religion These Two ...

    Social regulation is where rituals which reinforce collective conscience. By taking part in church services they renew their commitment to religion,moral beliefs and values.This means religion can control human behaviour. The second contributor is Bronislaw Malinowski. Malinowski studied the Trobriad Islands.In his analysis and evaluation he studied more on functions to a individuals rather than a whole community like Durkeim.

  1. Identify and briefly explain two problems in assessing the influences of religion in modern ...

    spring, a pebble, a piece of wood, a house, in a word anything can be sacred' (Durkheim, 1961) There is nothing about the particular qualities of a pebble or a tree that makes them sacred. Therefore sacred things must be symbols, they must represent something.

  2. Homophobia: a Definition

    When false homophobic beliefs about homosexuals are countered with evidence of their incorrectness, homophobes may ignore that evidence by simply changing the topic to another myth that supports their homophobia. Homophobic assertions become more and more abstract, and therefore more difficult to disprove--e.g., the assertion that homosexuals are "disgusting" or

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