Functionalist Theory of Religion

JJ Ralph
Mind Map by JJ Ralph, updated more than 1 year ago
JJ Ralph
Created by JJ Ralph over 5 years ago


Functionalist Theory of Religion

Resource summary

Functionalist Theory of Religion
  1. Durkheim
    1. Religion is a distinction between sacred and profane
      1. Sacred = Set apart, forbidden, inspires awe and wonder
        1. Profane = No significance
        2. When people worship, they are worshipping society itself.
          1. All Symbols unite believers into a 'single moral community'
          2. Totemism
            1. Arunta clan = Kin coming together worship a sacred totem
              1. They worship society, totem represents the power of the group
              2. Collective Conscience
                1. Shared norms and values that make co-operation possible.
                  1. Shared religious rituals remind individuals of the single moral community that they should be loyal to
                    1. Gives individuals motivation to overcome obstacles
                    2. Source of conceptual thinking, origin of human thought, reason and science
                      1. Criticisms
                        1. Durkheim theories can be applied to smaller societies, but doesn't explain the conflict between views in larger ones
                          1. Mestrovic (PostMod): Increased diversity has fragmented collective conscience. No longer single shared values
                        2. Psychological Functions
                          1. Malinowski (1954): Helps individuals cope with emotional stress:
                            1. Where the outcome of a situation is uncertain
                              1. Minimises disruption in a life crisis: Death is the main reason for religious belief
                            2. Parsons (1967)
                              1. Religion creates and legitimises society's central values
                                1. Legitimises norms and values by making them sacred. E.g. In US, protestantism involves values of individualism, meritocracy and self-discipline.
                                2. It is the primary source of meaning
                                  1. Answers questions such as why good people suffer or why people die young. Helps people adjust and maintains stability
                                3. Civil Religion
                                  1. Bellah (1970)
                                    1. Civil Religion = attaching sacred qualities to society itself. E.g, Americanism
                                      1. Loyalty to nation state and flag.
                                  2. Evaluation
                                    1. Neglects the view that religion is a source of oppression on women and the poor
                                      1. Ignores religion as a source of conflict, especially in places with many religions such as Northern Ireland
                                        1. Civil religion is not actually religion if there is no supernatural belief
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