Assess the View That the Main Function of Religious Belief Is to Promote Social Stability.

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Asses the view that the main function of religious belief is to promote social stability. (33 marks)

Functionalists are the main sociologists that believe the main function of religious belief is to promote social stability as it performs functions and it helps society. Society’s basic need is the need of social order and solidarity, which happens through value consensus, without which society would disintegrate due to people pursuing their own selfish desires.

Durkheim states that religion plays a central part in creating and maintaining value consensus and solidarity. He also explains the differences between sacred beliefs, which are set apart and bring about awe and wonder, and profane beliefs which have no special significance. The sacred things that bring about belief creates powerful feelings. Durkheim suggests that the symbols represent power and that the power is society itself. Even though the symbols change in each religion they perform a union of morals that maintains social solidarity, which promotes social stability. These shared morals encourage collective conscience, maintains social integration and binds individuals together. This brings about loyalty which in effect creates social stability. Some critics say his theory will only work on small scale communities, but not contemporary societies as there fragmented collective conscience through diversity so no single value system to be reinforced.

Another sociologist is Malinowski who agrees religion promotes social stability and solidarity. He believes religion performs psychological functions, such as dealing with stress which would otherwise undermine social solidarity. Two ways it does this; first, the outcome is important but uncontrollable so is uncertain and second, at times of personal crisis such as death of a family member. He says their belief in religion minimises disruption which maintains social solidarity. Parsons agrees as he says religion performs functions, creating...