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Sociology Case

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A common theme in functionalist approaches is the emphasis on religions contribution to value consensus and social integration. For example, Durkheim and Parsons describe religion as integrating individuals into a community by installing into them a set of shared beliefs that gives them a feeling of belonging and a common identity. Functionalists argue that this is both beneficial for society and its individuals.

Functionalists see society as like an organism with basic needs that it must meet to survive. Each institution performs certain functions to maintain the social system by meeting a need. Society's most basic need if for social order and solidarity. For functionalists, what makes order possible is value consensus-a shared set of norms and values for people to follow.

Durkheim explains that religion makes a great contribution to society giving us social integration, and the source of social solidarity. His view on sacred symbols represents society's collective consciousness which is the shared norms, values beliefs and knowledge that make social life possible without such consciousness it would crumble. While participating in shares rituals binds individuals together reminding them that they are a part of a community which they owe loyalty. The power of society came from these rituals and without them they are nothing, to which they owe everything. The individual see's religion performing a significant function allowing them to feel apart of society and seeing that religion strengthens us to face life's trials and motivates us to overcome obstacles that would otherwise overpower us.

Like Durkheim Malinowski sees religion as reinforcing social norms and promoting social solidarity, however, unlike Durkheim he does not see religion as reflecting society as a whole or interpret ritual as the worship of society itself. From his anthropological research from smaller societies he sees the psychological functions that religion plays for individuals in specific situations of emotional stress. He goes on to recognise two types of emotionally unsettling events where religion has became functional first being life crises such as birth, marriage and death these being emotional periods which can be potentially disruptive and can usually involve a religious ritual, such as a funeral for a death of a person this usually providing comfort and support. Secondly being uncertainty where unpredictable occasions are preceded by rituals to reduce anxiety whether it's a prayer for someone who is ill, this provides confidence and a sense of control for a person.

Parson sees religion as helping individuals cope with unforeseen events and uncontrollable outcomes. He also says that it creates and legitimates society as central values and it is the primary source of meaning. Religion makes society as central values sacred and this helps to promote value consensus and social stability. Religion also provides meaning,



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