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Flashcards in Functionalist View of Religion Deck (13)
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What is substantive definition of religion?

Belief in a higher supernatural power (ie God) drawing a clear line between this higher power and rest of World. Reasoning cannot be explained scientifically. Exclusive


What is the functional definition of religion>

Do not believe in one God or supernatural power. Rather believe Religion performs a Social or psychological role. Ie contributes to social integration and comfort by answering the "ultimate" questions. Inclusive


What is the constructionist definition

Different individuals have different definitions of religion, interested in meanings individuals give to religion


Sacred and Profane and who?

1. Durkheim
2. Things that inspire feelings of awe, fear and wonder. These things may be forbidden or of a higher power
3. Regular ordinary things with no significance.


Totemism and Who?

1. Durkheim
2. Clan members worship a sacred symbol ie an animal to reinforce groups solidarity and sense of belonging by an inspiring sense of awe.


What is a collective conscience and Who?

1. Durkheim
2. Sacred symbols produce shared norms, values and beliefs that makes cooperation between people in society functional, without this society would disintegrate. Produces social integration by making people feel part of something greater TOGETHER


Cognitive Functions

1. Durkheim
2. Religion is the origin of concepts and ideas, without religion, life had no meaning, reason, science or any human thought. Religion provides numbers, space, time etc which we need to produce clear thoughts.



The theory applies only to small-scale societies.
It explains social integration within a society but fails to explain conflicts between societies.
Theory cannot be applied to the postmodern world due to an increase in diversity and flow of religious beliefs, no longer a shared value system that people need to be integrated into.



Religion performs psychological functions in order to promote social solidarity in times where the outcome is uncontrollable and uncertain--> Trobriand Islands in Western pacific used religion during dangerous fishing trips by giving people a sense of control to ease tensions giving the confidence to complete tasks
Also helps people at times of life crisis ie in funerals religious rituals are used to reinforce solidarity among survivors by allowing them to understand and deal with death ie concept of the afterlife eases unease of death.



Religion also creates and legitimates central values by making values sacred promoting consensus society and social stability ie The Ten Commandments
Religion is the primary source of meaning by providing meanings to "ultimate" questions. in difficult times allowing social stability to maintain


Explain what is meant by civil religion

Bellah- Religion unifies society. Attaches sacred qualities to society despite various belief systems ie "American Way of Life" Loyalty to a nation that unites members of various religious beliefs through shared values, rituals, symbols and beliefs ie pledge of allegiance to the flag or " One nation under God"



Secularisation is occurring
Many religions within one society, hard to see how these unite society
Religion can cause conflict and divide people ie 9/11 attacks has lead to a rise in xenophobia against muslims by labelling all of them as terrorists.


Benefits / Strengths

Highlights positive effects of religion
Shows how religion functions for individual and society
Bellah (civil religion) shows us how despite various ethnicities and diversity, religion is still relevant