Examine the Extent to Which Religion Can Still Be Said to Be Functional for Individuals and Society

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Examine the extent to which religion can still be said to be functional for individuals and for society (18 marks)

Functionalists define religion as promoting social solidarity and integration. This can be described using the biological analogy- each segment of society performs a function, this maintains an equilibrium, without which society would disintegrate. Functionalists see religion as contributing positively to society, as it performs functions for the individual as it creates a sense of purpose for life, both religion for society and the individual then creates equilibrium. Durkheim argued that society worships the sacred and the profane, “The scared” are objects that set religions apart, and they are used to inspire individuals and bring other individuals together, an example of this is The Bible, The Bible is a sacred object for Christians, The Bible can bring the Christian community together as it is something that the religion worships. Durkheim believes that when people worship their sacred objects they are worshipping society. This is shown in Toteism religion, the worship of objects influence the tribe, the Aruntas, way of life. This reinforces solidarity and cohesion. Some can also say religion creates a “Collective Conscience”, as the sacred symbols can reflect society, the rituals of the religion maintains the social solidarity, and gives a sense of belonging as others share the same values and norms. This therefore suggests it has a function for society through the theory of collective conscience it creates social harmony. However, Worsley argues that there is no sharp distinction between the sacred and profane, he also claims that not all religions follow the suit of the ‘sacred and profane’ making the theory too specific to certain religions. Durkheim supported his theory with the Arunta tribe, however we cannot generalise a small society…...

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