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Flashcards in Functionalist Theories Of Religion Deck (19)
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How do functionalists describe society?

For functionalists, society is a system of interrelated parts or social institutions such as religion, the family and the economy. It is like an organism with basic needs that it must meet in order to survive

1

Who developed the idea of religious institutions playing a central part in creating and maintaining value consensus, order and solidarity?

Emile Durkheim

2

What does Durkheim make a distinction between within religions?

The sacred and the profane

3

What are sacred things?

Things that are set apart and forbidden, that inspire feelings of awe, fear and wonder, and are surrounded by taboos and prohibitions

4

What are the profane?

Things that have no special significance - things that are ordinary and mundane

5

What does Durkheim believe people are worshipping when they worship sacred symbols?

Society

6

What essential function do sacred symbols perform?

They unite believers into a single moral community

7

Give an example of a sacred symbol that is worshipped by clan societies such as the Arunta, an Australian Aboriginal tribe

Totems

8

What do sacred symbols represent in society?

A collective conscience

9

What is the collective conscience?

The shared norms, values, beliefs and knowledge that make social life and cooperation between individuals possible

10

How does Durkheim believe the collective conscience can be reinforced?

Through regular shared religious rituals

11

Other than a source of social solidarity, what else does Durkheim see religion as a source of?

Our intellectual and cognitive capacities - our ability to reason and think conceptually

12

How does Worsley criticise Durkheim?

He notes that there is no sharp division between the sacred and the profane

13

How do postmodernists such as Mestrovic criticise Functionalist views of religion?

He argues that Durkheim's ideas cannot be applied to contemporary society, because increasing diversity has fragmented the collective conscience, so there is no longer a single shared value system for religion to reinforce

14

What are the two types of situation in which religion performs a psychological function?

Where the outcome is important but is uncontrollable and thus uncertain (In his study of the Trobriand Islanders of the Western Pacific, Malinowski contrasts fishing in a lagoon fishing in the ocean) and at times of life crises (e.g. Death and divorce)

15

What are the two essential functions that religion performs according to Parsons?

It creates and legitimates society's central values and it is the primary source of meaning

16

According to Robert Bellah, what unifies multi-faith societies such as America?

An overarching civil religion - a belief system that attaches sacred qualities to society itself

17

How is a civil religion expressed?

Various rituals, symbols and beliefs such as the pledge of allegiance to the flag and singing the national anthem

18

What are functional alternatives/ functional equivalents?

Non-religious beliefs and practices that perform functions similar to those of organised religion, such as reinforcing shared values or maintaining social cohesion