Assess The Functionalist View That Religion Benefits Both Society As A Whole And Its Individual Members (18 Marks)

847 words - 4 pages

Functionalists believe that religion is beneficial for both society as a whole and its individual members, this is because it unifies society and creates consensus, which in turn gives each individual member a source of support when they need it. However some theorists disagree with the functionalist ideology.

Firstly, functionalist claim religion benefits society in a number of ways, it creates a sense of social solidarity, meaning a shared sense of identity, history, norms and values (a collective conscience). This is supported by item A, ‘religion's contribution to value consensus and social integration’. Functionalist explain that if all of a society's members are part of the same ...view middle of the document...

They worship their society because they are completely dependent upon it, they are utterly dependent upon each other and their religion unifies them. Durkheim also believes that religion is the source of our intellectual or cognitive capacities.

Worlsey criticises Durkheim as he notes that there is no sharp division between the sacred and the profane, and that different clans share the same totems. And even if Durkheim is right about totemism, this does not prove that he has discovered the essence of all other religions. Some sociologist criticise how functionalists neglect the fact there are multi- faith societies, however, functionalist Bellah believes he can provide an answer for this, he claims that these societies have a common belief system called civil religion. Civil religion is a religion that attaches sacred qualities to the society itself. “Americanism” unites every American in a way individual religions cannot. To be an American you must be loyal to the nation state and believe in a God. Americanism is expressed by pledging allegiance to the flag, singing the national anthem and symbols such as the Lincoln memorial all of which are similar things to what can be found in ‘real religions’. It binds people from many faiths and backgrounds together.

Bronislaw Malinowski says that religion helps individuals deal with emotional stress that has the potential to undermine social solidarity; it acts as an emotional crutch. He says religion helps to minimise disruption in life crises, for example when someone dies it gives people an answer for where they’ve gone and why they died, e.g. they’ve gone to a better place. In his study...

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