Assess the usefulness of functionalist theories in understanding religion today
There are a variety of different definitions of religion including substantive definitions, which refers to focusing on the content or substance of a religious belief such as God, functional definitions, which refers to religion in terms of the social or psychological functions it carries out for the individual and there are also social constructionist definitions which focus on how members of society actually define religion. Functionalists hold a consensus view and argue that society requires both social order and solidarity in order for it to run smoothly, and religion is one way of providing this as it encourages shared norms and values.
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However, not all sociologists agree with the functionalists and their view of religion and its role. Feminists argue that the role of religion is to oppress women and help maintain patriarchy within society. One way in which religion maintains patriarchy is through religious organisations – these are significantly male dominated, for example, Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism do not allow women to become priests. Armstrong argues that this is evidence for the marginalisation of women in religion and society. Places of worship often separate the sexes, placing men on more holy