Assess the Functionalist View That Religion Benefits Both Society as a Whole and the Individual

624 Words3 Pages
Functionalists believe that religion performs several functions, both for society as a whole, and for society’s individual members. Durkheim established a distinction between the sacred and the profane as the key feature of religion. Sacred objects provoke powerful feelings amongst worshippers, and Durkheim described the act of worshipping these objects as collective. Although scared objects differ between religions, they all perform the function of uniting members of the community. For Durkheim, if all of the members of a society are part of the same religion, they all share the same belief system, encouraging the collective conscience, by binding individuals together and reinforcing the norms and values of society. Durkheim studied what he believed to be religion in its simplest form, totemism in clan society. He believed that when people worshipped totems, they were essentially worshipping society. Some sociologists argue that Durkheim’s theory is difficult to apply to larger societies with more than one religion, as it is more likely that there will be conflict when two or more religions exist in the same community. As item A suggests, functionalist approaches often focus on religion’s contribution to social integration. Parsons also believed that religion promotes value consensus, by attaching sacred qualities to society’s norms and values. Parsons also, however, identified the fact that religion supports the individual’s needs by providing answers to otherwise unanswerable questions. Malinowksi also believes that religion promotes social solidarity, but through its psychological functions. He established two situations where religion helps individuals to cope with emotional stress, which would otherwise undermine social solidarity. The first is in situations with an uncontrollable outcome, and the second at times of life crises, like death. Funeral rituals,
Open Document