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The role of religion in society.

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Unit 4 - Religion The role of religion in society is definately a dynamic one. The relationship between both religion and society is always changing. Religion effects different societies in different ways and different forms, causing the forms of society to change according to a change in religion. Religion can be a driving force in society, but as a reactionary rather than in a radical way. Functionalism Functionalists believe that religion maintains social solidarity and value consensus amongst a society's population and this helps maintain the well-being of society. In his Elementory Forms Of Religious Life, Durkheim argues that social life could only exist if values were shared and society integrated into a coherent whole. Religion helps value consensus as it undergoes unifying beliefs and practices which help people involved, attatch meaning to the world around them. The sacred and profane is Durkheim's distinction between people and society.The sacred are symbols for society to worship. When they say they are worshipping a "God", they are actually worshipping society. The relationship between God and Humans (Power and Dependance) in most religions reflects that of Society and Humans. ...read more.


It can be argued that all worshipping is a form of false conciousness anyway. Marxism argues that religion does not in fact support social solidarity, but in fact it encourages social control and exploitation although Durkheim did admit that those in the aboriginal tribes saw religion as a tool for making inequalities become less noticeable. However Marxism argues that social order is not a good thing. Overall Functionalism ignores the dysfunctional aspects of religion apparent in places such as Northern Ireland and Lebanon. Marxism Marxism does agree with Functionalism, that religion functions as a conservative force, but that is where the agreement ends. Marx argued that religion is "the opium of the people". It is there to make a person accept their inequalities and act as a form of oppression. Lenin claimed that religions act as a "spiritual gin in which people can drown their human shape and their claims to any decent life." The fact that religions preach the world to be controlled by God's will, leads their members to believe and accept that the world is beyond any of their control. ...read more.


Religion dulls the pain of the current life by: *Promising paradise in the "afterlife" *Some religions make a virtue of suffering" - Fasting in the Islam faith, Judaism etc. (Beatitudes) *The hope of spiritual intervention makes the present bearable (The hope that God will change the world for his people) adopted by Jehovah's Witnesses. *Religion justifies the social order. Lyrics from the Hymn "All Things Bright And Beautiful" explain: "The Rich Man in his castle, the poor man at his gate; god made them high or lowly and ordered their estate." Thus religion discourags people from attempting change, and thus the dominant groups can maintain their power (the symbolism involved in both religion and politics are similar). Religion is used by the ruling class to justify their position. Therefore the ruling class and the subject class adopt the mutual agreement that: 'The parson has never gone hand in hand with the landlord'. Marxism generally concludes that religion of the poor focuses heavily on the afterlife, and therefore justifies all social inequality apparant in the class structure. Marxism looks at the nature of faith closely. However, there are some tradional Marxists who see Religion as a platform for social change, a postion also adopted by some Neo-Marxists. ...read more.

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