Examine the View That Religion Has Positive Functions for Society

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Examine the view that religion has positive functions for society (18 marks)

Functionalists demonstrate a positive view of religion, they see religion as a fundamental factor in the maintaining of consensual values. Without religion, Functionalists believe that society would break down. Durkheim suggests that religion is not a belief in Gods, spirits or supernatural but rather a factor that separates the sacred and the profane. Sacred things are believed to hold value and are treated with awe whereas profane objects, activities or people hold no significance and are considered ordinary and mundane. Durkheim concluded that sacred objects, for example the cross in Christianity, are only sacred because they represent or are symbolic of particular groups. Because such objects are given meaning based on the collective values of society, Durkheim ultimately believed that religion is society worshipping itself. Durkheim argued that religion serves two cognitive functions, firstly, religion helps maintain social solidarity where societies members can unite over common beliefs and values. The second function religion fulfills is the creation of ‘collective consciousness’ this is the idea that religion acts as a ‘glue’ that maintains social integration. These functions are seen to be positive as they suggest religion preserves society rather than disrupts it. Parsons offers another positive view of religion, he outlined three positive functions that religion successfully fulfills. Firstly he suggests that religion is used as a coping strategy by individuals when faced with unforeseen events and uncontrollable outcomes, this view is similar to that of Malinowski who identified the psychological functions of religion, claiming that religion is used to cope with stress that would otherwise undermine social solidarity. The second of the three positive functions…...

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