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  1. 1. The study of some classical and modern theories about what purpose religion servesfor society and individuals. o Functionalism Topic o Weberianism Topic o Marxism 2 o Post modern views 3 The Role of Religion: Sociologists that have studied the role of religion in society tend to fall into one of two broad camps: 1. Those who see religion as a 2. Those who see religion as FORCE FOR CONSERVATIVE force (conservative SOCIAL CHANGE– supporters of this means keeping things the way they are.) position point to the role of religion in These sociologists see religion as a force encouraging societies to change. They for stability and order. They may well may well be influenced by the writings of favour a functionalist or a Marxist Max Weber. point of view. How might their actions be viewed if religion did not exist? What would happen to these individuals if religion suddenly ceased to exist? To what extent do you think religion causes or justifies social change? Does religion help people in modern society cope with destabilizing influences in their lives?
  2. 2. Functionalism: Funcionalism is concerned with the contribution of religion to the well being of society - its contributions to social stability and value consensus. What are the functions of religion?  Brings people together physically which promotes social cohesion.  It reaffirms the group’s beliefs and values.  It helps maintain norms, morals and prohibitions so that violation of a secular law – murder or incest for instance – is also a violation of the religious code and may warrant ritual punishment or purification.  It transmits a group’s cultural heritage from one generation to the next.  It offers emotional support to individuals during times of stress and at important stages in their life cycle, such as puberty, marriage and death.  A Functionalist view of society SOCIETY Legitimise the social Creates structure of SACRED BELIEFSParticipate in Hold and Generate share MORAL RELIGIOUS CODES RITUALS Pattern of behaviour Inspire, comfort and reinforce the social commitment of INDIVIDUALS Durkheim Religion is something eminently social. Religious representations are collective representations which express collective realities; the rites are a manner of acting, which take rise in the midst of the assembled group which are destined to excite, maintain or recreate mental states in these groups.
  3. 3. Durkheim:  Durkheim was not a religious person. He wrote “The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life” (1912) in which he relates religion to societies structure.  He made an analysis of the religious practices, of totemism, of Australian Aborigines (whom he took to be an example of the most primitive people of that time.) Totemism represents the most elementary form of religion.  A totem is believed to have divine properties, differentiated to plants and animals, and are worshipped by the group and consequently reaffirm tribe identity.  By worshiping the totem the group are effectively worshipping the society.  He concluded that religion was the source of a harmonious social order and life.  Durkheim defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things set apart and forbidden.” He distinguished between the sacred and the profane (non-sacred or secular aspects of social life.)  Sacred things – these are divine not just on practical grounds, but because of some special qualities they possess. E.g. a river (Ganges), a place (Bethlehem), a book, (Qur’an), a person (Jesus), an object o animal (crucifix, cow), a day or period of time (Easter, Eid). They have all become invested over time with a sense of awe and hold significance.  Sacred ceremonies – and Sacred places – are also significant. Totemism Explain in your own words what totemism is. Explain what Durkheim believed worshipping the totem symbolised. Collective conscience: __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________.Socialization Civil religion Functions of religion in modern society Social integration and solidarity Preventing anomie
  4. 4. TASK: Use these key words to write a paragraph about Durkheim and his functionalistbeliefs about religion. o Functionalism o Collective conscience o Sacred o Society o Worship o Symbolises society o Religion o Socialisation o Social identity o Different parts o Social cohesion o Sacred and o Totemism o Shared moral code Profane o Durkheim________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Evaluation: What do you think the strengths and weaknesses of Functionalist theory are?Strengths Weaknesses
  5. 5. Like Durkehim, Marx argued that religion was Opium of the people - However, MARX Ideological apparatus - Religion is seen by Marx to be ideological in 3 ways 3.Keeping the working1. Legitimating social inequality – classes passive and resignedreligion serves as 2. Disguising the true to their fate. nature of exploitationFeudal period – Suffering and poverty – Religion explains Such ideas promote -All things bright and beautiful - The real causes The illusion –
  6. 6. Questions: • How according to Marxists, does religion benefit the capitalist class? • What evidence is there to support such views? Evidence to support Marxist views: Halevy (1927) Leach (1988) Fundamentalist Religions Hook (1990) Evaluation: What do you think the strengths and weaknesses of Marx’s theory are? Strengths Weaknesses