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Flashcards in Theories Of Religion Deck (15):

Functionalist theories of religion

See society as an organism with basic needs it must meet to survive. Each institution performs certain functions to maintain social system by meeting a need
Society's most basic need is for social order and solidarity.
For functionalists what makes order possible is value consensus- shared set of norms values everyone follow
Durkheim 1915 argues religious institutions play part in creating and maintaining value consensus, order and solidarity


Sacred and profane

Durkheim- key feature of all religions is fundamental distinction between sacred and profane
Sacred= things set apart and forbidden, inspiring feelings of awe, fear and wonder with taboos and prohibitions e.g. Cross
Profane= ordinary things that have no special significance e.g. Streetlight


Rituals- collective- performed by social groups

Durkheim argues sacred things create powerful feelings as are symbols representing something of great power- society
When worship sacred symbols, worshipping society- uniting believers into a single moral community


- Durkheim believed essence of religion could be found by studying simplest form in the simplest type of society- studies Arunta aboriginal Australian tribe with clan system

Arunta- bands of kin come together to perform ritual worship of a sacred totem.

The totem is the clan's emblem- animal or plant symbolising clan identity- reinforcing group's solidarity and sense of belonging
X religion in simplest form may not he same
X came from secondary sources
For Durkheim, when clan member worship totem they're worshipping society- inspires awe because it represents power of the group


Collective conscience

Sacred symbols represent this for Durkheim. - shared norms, values, beliefs making cooperation possible. Without, society disintegrate
-> regular shared rituals reinforce collective conscience and social integration
-> rituals remind power of society- without they are nothing and owe everything to
-> religion performs important function for individual- making us feel part of something greater than self and strengthens us to face life's problems


Cognitive functions of religion

Our ability to reason and think
- in order to think need time, space
- religion provides understanding of world and communicating. Durkheim and Mauss 1903 argues religion provides categories for space time etc with creator idea bringing world into beginning time. Religion origin of human thought/ reason/ science
- without shared categories communication impossible


Psychological functions

Malinowski 1954 helps cope with emotional stress
1 Trobriand Islanders study- contrasts lagoon and ocean fishing. Lagoon safe but ocean dangerous and uncertain. It is always accompanied by 'canoe magic'- rituals to ensure safe expedition- eases tension and reinforces group solidarity
2 at times of life crisis like birth puberty marriage death it helps them cope e.g. Funeral rituals reinforce solidarity among survivors and notion of life after death comforts


Parsons value and meaning
Functions in modern society

-> creates and legitimates society's basic norms and values by sacralising them (making sacred) promoting value consensus and social stability
-> provides answers to ultimate life questions like why people suffer. Helps maintain stability and adjust to bad events


Civil religion

Bellah 1970
Religion unifies society, especially multi faith like America.
Sacred qualities attached to society itself- civil religion is faith in American way of life.
-> integrates as involves loyalty to nation state and God. Both equated to being true American. Expressed in various rituals like pledging allegiance to the American flag.
Sacralises American way and binds them together from various ethnic and religious backgrounds


Marxists theories of religion

Divided into classes
One exploits labour
= class conflict
Eventually WC aware and overthrow capitalism


Marxism religion as ideology

Ideology is belief system distorts people's perception of reality in interests of ruling class.
- class controlling economic production also controls distribution of ideas through institutions
- religion an ideological weapon to legitimate suffering of poor as something inevitable and God given. Misleads them into thinking rewarded in after life.
= false class consciousness e.g. Divine right of kings in medieval europe


Marxism religion as ideology Lenin

Lenin describes religion as spiritual gin - confuses WC keeps them in place
Manipulate masses and prevent overthrow by creating a mystical fog obscuring reality

Religion also legitimates power and privilege of dominant class by making their position appear divinely ordained. Disobedience is sinful not just illegal


Religion and Alienation

Marx 1844
Under capitalism workers alienated as don't own what produce. No control. Factory based division of labour work endlessly repeating same tasks.
- dehumanising conditions- religion consolation- 'opium of people sigh of oppressed culture'
- opiate dull pain of exploit
Promises afterlife distracting attention of suffering
Althusser 1971 reject alienation as unscientific - concept inadequate basis for theory of religion


Feminist theories of religion
Examples of patriarchy

Religious orginisations male dominated. E.g. Catholicism forbid women priests- Armstrong 1993 sees this as evidence of their marginalisation
- Places of worship- segregate sexes- women can't preach or read from sacred texts. Taboos of periods pregnancy childbirth prevent participation
- sacred texts- male gods prophets. Anti femal stereotypes e.g. eve in Genesis
- religious laws- women fewer rights like access to divorce. Dress codes.
Unequal treatment like genital mutilation.
Regulate women's domestic role- anti abortion and artificial contraception


Religious feminism

Woodhead 2002- there are religous forms of feminism

Muslim women see wearing veil as resistance to oppression: symbol of liberation enabling enter public sphere without losing culture or history

Rinaldo 2010 - can gain status and respect like evangelical Christians say must respect women

Position of women in liberal protestant organisations equaler- 1992+ church of england allow women priests 1/5 female
Sikhism also allows