What is the Functionalist Theory of Religion? Part 1: Durkheim

Published on 28th February 2018 by

What is the Functionalist Theory of Religion?

Part 1: Emile Durkheim

Video Resources

This A-Level Sociology video explores the Functionalist view on religion.

Snippet from the video:

Functionalists believe society is a system of connected parts or institutions such as religion, family and economy. They compare it to an organism with needs that have to be met in order to survive by these institutions. Each institution performs functions that maintain society through meeting its needs.

The most basic need is social order and solidarity facilitating cooperation among its citizens. The foundation of this order is value consensus which is the shared norms and values of its members; without value consensus its members focusing on their own desires with break society down.

Durkheim On Religion
Functionalists believe religion is central to creating and sustaining value consensus and social order which was developed by Emile Durkheim.

The Sacred and the Profane
Durkheim believed religion was defined by the distinction between the sacred and the profane.
Sacred was defined as things that are forbidden as they inspire awe, fear, wonder and are attached to taboos and prohibitions.


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