Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the functionalist view that religion benefits society as a whole and its individual members.
Functionalists argue that society is like a living organism and all the social institutions perform different functions in order to help society function effectively.
The sociologist Durkheim says that a key feature of religion is not a belief in Gods, spirits or the supernatural, but a fundamental distinction between the sacred and the profane. The sacred are things set apart and forbidden which inspire feelings of awe and wonder and the profane are things that have no special significance.
Durkheim believed that the essence of all religion could be found by studying its simplest form, in the simplest type of society. He studied totems, which he said was a society worshipping sacred symbols and rituals which were meant to symbolize all of society. In Durkheim’s view, sacred symbols represent society’s collective conscience or consciousness. The collective conscience is the shared norms and values of society. For Durkheim shared religious rituals reinforced the collective conscience and maintain social integration as referred to in item A.
Malinowski says that religion promotes solidarity. He says it performs important psychological functions in two situations. When the outcome is important but uncontrollable, and at times of crisis. In these times, religion will be important in performing psychological functions for people.
Parson sees religion as helping individuals cope with unforeseen events and uncontrollable outcomes. He also says that it creates and legitimates society’s central values and it is the primary source of meaning. Religion makes society’s central values sacred and this helps to promote value consensus and social stability. Religion also provides meaning, as it is able to answer ultimate questions about why some people die young and why the good suffer. Religion...