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Assess the View That the Main Function of Religion Is to Promote Social Stability

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Assess the view that the main function of religion is to promote social stability (33 marks)
Social stability refers to harmony and integration within society, the main function of religion has long been argued between sociologists depending on their perspective. Among those that agree are functionalists, for example Durkheim and his study on totem worship, on the other hand Marxists argue religion oppresses the proletariat in order to maintain a capitalist society.
The main sociologists that support the view that the main functions of religious beliefs is to promote social stability are functionalists. They believe that religion performs functions and helps society, this is because society’s most basic need is the need for social order and solidarity so that its members can cooperate and to do this there needs to be value consensus, which without this individuals in society would pursue their own selfish desires and society would disintegrate. One functionalist that supports this argument is Durkheim which he states that religion and its institutions play a central part in creating and maintaining value consensus, order and solidarity. He distinguishes the difference between the sacred and the profane. He says that the sacred are the things set apart and forbidden that inspire feelings of awe, fear and wonder and are surrounded by taboos and prohibitions. By contrast, the profane are things that have no special significance. Therefore a religion is never simply a set of beliefs. It also involves definite rituals or practices on relation to the sacred and these rituals are collective which are performed by social groups. The fact that sacred things create such powerful feelings, Durkheim suggests this is because they are symbols representing something of great power and he says that this great power is society itself. Even though sacred symbols vary from religion…...

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