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Comparing and contrasting functionalist,marxist and feminist perspective on religion - Essay Example

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Religion refers to those socially shared ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that have to do with the supernatural or "beyond" (Zanden 371). For Shepard, Religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things (388)…
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Comparing and contrasting functionalist,marxist and feminist perspective on religion
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Download file to see previous pages Religion refers to those socially shared ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that have to do with the supernatural or "beyond" (Zanden 371). For Shepard, Religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things (388). The theorists like Marx Weber, Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim have different views on Religion. Emile Durkheim presented his functionalist perspective of religion in his work The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Thio 385). He emphasized that religion functions to preserve social order. Every religion possessed both rituals and moral norms (Ibid). By way of rituals, people sanctify and renew their bonds to one another. Their beliefs in the sacred and acceptance of common norms are strengthened. Thus, religion binds the society and maintains it (Ibid). As a whole, functionalist theorists direct their focus on the contributions the religion has made to the survival of the society. Functionalists argue that the role of religion is to preserve the status quo rather than to promote social change. They agree that religion is a beneficial conservative force because it maintains consensus, binds people together and promotes social order. They however see it as having a positive influence, whereas the Marxist view is somewhat more negative in its outlook. ("The Different"). The essential function of religion was to provide through sacred symbols a mirror for members of society to see their common unity. Through its system of beliefs, religion offers an explanation of the nature of social life (Shepard 391). The conflict theorists on the other hand, as represented by Karl Marx viewed religion as producing an otherworldly focus that diverts the oppressed from seeking thisworldy social change (Zanden 382). Marx viewed it is an expression of human alienation and an illusion. It is a form of false consciousness and as a tool of the powerful in the struggles between competing social class ( Robertson 405). It is the "sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, the soul of the soulless circumstances. It is the opium of the people" ( Thio 385). Marx considered it as a profound form of human alienation because people tend to lose control over the social world they have created resulting to a situation where they find themselves alien in the hostile social environment (Robertson 405). This is because people shape social institutions expecting that the same will serve their needs yet find themselves to be the servant of the institutions they created (Zanden 382). Conflict theorists have taken a new perspective on the relationship between religion and social change. They view it not as a passive response to social relations of production but as an active force shaping the contours of social life (Ibid 383). Marxist argue that religion is a mechanism for social control- (as does functionalism), religion maintains the existing system of exploitation, and reinforces class relationships and inequalities. Further, Marx argued that religion dulls the pain of oppression by: 1) Promising a paradise of eternal bliss in the after life, 2) By often making poverty tolerable by offering heaven as a reward for they're suffering c) By giving the hope of supernatural intervention to solve the worlds problems and d) Justifies social order/hierarchies- by saying that poverty is divinely ordained as a punishment for sin ( "The Different"). .Feminists on one hand agree with Marxists to the extent of religion acting as an instrument of domination and oppression but not for the ruling class but for men. They believe people live in a patriarchal society. Radical feminists during the 1970's and 1980's view religion primarily as patriarchal ideology regardless of the different forms in which it appeared (Newman, "Feminist"). They found that there exists a relationship between religion and politics. The male controlled institution, such as religion defines women as subordinate to men and are used to ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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