assess that religion benefits both society and its members

Topics: Sociology, Religion, Émile Durkheim Pages: 2 (709 words) Published: October 14, 2013
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the functionalist view that religion benefits both society as a whole and its individual members (18marks) The key concern of functionalist writing on religion is the contribution that religion makes to the wellbeing of society, its contribution to social stability and, value-consensus. In his Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Durkheim argues that the function of religious ritual is to maintain social solidarity by affirming the moral superiority of society over its individual members. Durkheim believed that social life could only exist if values were shared and society integrated into a coherent whole. Religion is an important aspect of this process, not only providing a set of unifying practices and beliefs, but also by providing a way in which people can interpret and give meaning to the world. Durkheim's distinction between the sacred and profane is, in effect, the distinction between people and society. For Durkheim the sacred are symbols for society, thus in worshipping God, humans are really worshipping society. The relationship between god and humans (power and dependence) outlined in most religions is a reflection of the relationship between humans and society. It is not God that makes us behave, and punishes our misdemeanours, but society. Thus religion reinforces the collective conscience; it strengthens values and beliefs and promotes social solidarity since the attitude of respect to the sacred is extended to the individual's social duties. Collective worship is regarded as particularly important for the integration of society since it enables members to express their shared values and strengthens group unity. By worshipping together, people have a sense of commitment and belonging and individuals are united into a group with shared values - thus social solidarity is reinforced, deviant behaviour is restrained and social change restricted. Malinowski agrees with Durkheim that religion promotes...
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