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Four Functions of Religion PowerPoint: Click to download
Four Functions of Religion…

Classical functionalist theories of religion, associated with the work of writers like Durkheim (1912), Malinowski (1926), Alpert (1937), Parsons (1937) and more-latterly Luhmann (1977), generally see religion as a cultural institution: one mainly concerned with the creation and promotion of cultural values that function to support and maintain social order.  Underpinning the notion of order, in this respect, are two ideas:

1. Religion serves a structural or collective role in bringing people together “as a society”.

2. Religion serves an action or individual role in giving meaning and purpose to people’s lives.

The Functions of Religion Presentation is designed to introduce students to these general ideas by encouraging them to think about “the functions of religion” in terms of four broad categories:

1. Discipline involves the idea a sense of shared beliefs and values is created by following a set of religious moral rules and codes.

2. Organisation reflects the idea of people being brought together as a society through shared rituals, ceremonies and meanings.

3. Vitalisation reflects the idea common values and beliefs represent vital dimensions of culture, socialisation and control.

4. Euphony recognises there are times of pain and crisis in life that require individual or collective efforts to re-establish harmony.

Each category contains a few pointers to examples of each, 30 seconds of video clips that illustrate some aspects of these ideas and a simple question you might want to use to stimulate a bit of further debate (which you can obviously edit / change if you want to add a question or two of your own).

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