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Assess the View That the Main Function of Religious Belief Is to Promote Social Stability. (33 Marks)

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Assess the View That the Main Function of Religious Belief Is to Promote Social Stability. (33 Marks)
Assess the view that the main function of religious belief is to promote social stability. (33 Marks)
PLAN
INTRO: * Define Religion: sociologists struggle to define religion – Substantive definition (Max Weber) defines religion as a belief in a god or supernatural power, however this excludes Buddhism - Functional definition (Emile Durkheim) defines religion as performing social or psychological functions of social integration, however this definition also applies to football fans.
PARA 1: * Functionalist agree: Durkheim – religious institutions help maintain social stability – distinguish between sacred ( things that inspire feeling of awe/wonder ) and profane (things that are ordinary and mundane) * Religion involves rituals in relation to the sacred – when people worshiping symbols they are actually worshiping society – all sacred symbols perform the function of uniting communities * Totemism (the practice of worshipping sacred objects) – Arunta tribe worship totem together and this creates shared identity and a sense of belonging that Durkheim calls collective conscience. * HOWEVER in contemporary society there is a range of beliefs which can cause friction, keeping communities apart and posing a threat to social stability.

PARA 2: * Functionalist agree: Malinowski – religion performs psychological functions, provides explanations and comport in situations of uncertainty e.g in life crisis such as Death * Religion fulfils a need for security and relieves situations of emotional stress which could otherwise threaten social stability. * Trobriand Islanders use rituals such as ‘canoe magic’ when ocean fishing to ensure safety on a dangerous task. * HOWEVER …

PARA 3: * Marxists Disagree: Religion functions serve capitalism. Karl Marx – sees religion as an ideology that is used as a weapon by the ruling class to justify suffering of poor as ‘god-given’ * Religion misleads poor into thinking they will be rewarded in the afterlife for their suffering – creates ‘false consciousness’ * Lenin describes religion as the ‘spiritual gin’ which manipulates the masses to keep them from overthrowing the ruling class. * HOWEVER: Marxists ignore the positive functions – too deterministic. Neo-Marxists argue that some forms of religion can assist class consciousness
PARA 4: * Feminists Disagree: religion functions as a patriarchal ideology, it legitimates the subordination of women. * Evidence of patriarchy: religious organisations – male dominated, Karen Armstrong, women’s exclusion from priesthood. Place of Worship – segregation of sexes, Jean Holm, in Islam menstruating women can’t attend prayer, devalues women. Religious Laws and Customs – women given fewer rights and legitimates women domestic/reproductive role, Woodhead, Catholic Church bans abortion and contraception, unease with women. * HOWEVER: El Saadawi argues that patriarchy impacted religion. Patriarchy made men reinterpret religion to oppress women, the rise of monotheism gave men more power. Woodhead – feminists use religion to gain freedom e.g. the hijab is a symbol of liberation for Muslim women.

CONC: * Secularisation: In modern society religion is having less influence – Robin Gill asked people “Would you describe yourself as being of any religion or denomination?” in 1950 23% replied no but in 1996 43% said no – on the whole religion has little function in society whether it is to maintain social stability or oppress workers/women * Postmodernism: Religions have no one main function in society e.g. social stability – people now choose the function they wish religion to have in their life – spiritual shopping/ Pick and Mix.

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