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The Role of Religion: Malinowski, was interested in the origin and development of religion. In so far as he asked questions about religion's genesis, he too was an evolutionist. He became a functionalist when he began to observe and record what role religion played. Malinowski had studied the Trobriand Islanders in the Western pacific. The people here were mostly from fishing communities and had to constantly deal with hazardous expeditions for fishing and underwent experiences that could not be explained by them. Malinowski argued that the feelings of fear, anger, sadness, etc. that arose in the mind of primitive people on such occasions were overcome by resorting to religious activities or the performance of certain rituals that would help get over such unsure feelings. Religion functioned here to essentially help one to regain one's stability of mind and re-adjust to situations of emotional stress that had arisen. In other words, religion functioned as a 'tool for adoption' to any given situation. For example, when the islanders would set out for a long journey, they would perform rituals and magic on the boat so that it would not give them trouble on the way. Such an exercise was carried out in all kinds of situations of mental and physical instability. Ritual and magic have a very great influence on the activities of the society as a whole the rituals flowish greatly in times of acute stress and especially in all events that men are hard put to explain. Asking similar questions which early evolutionists asked, Malinowski and followers gave different answer. In this sense they understood religion in terms of its function; their findings progressed beyond traditional answer to questions of origin and development of religion. They provided the functionalist alternative to evolutionist theories. Not content with simply observing and recording data about primitive societies, Maliowski's successor, Radcliffe- Brown, tried to analyze ethnographic data by using sociological concepts. He was attracted to the Durkheim sociology. Social Continuity and Solidarity: A.R. Radcliffe-Brown tried to make Durkheiin's theory of totemism into a more comprehensive view of religion. In an article, 'The Sociological Theory of Totemism', Radcliffe-Brown (1929:295-309) showed totemism to be a particular form of universalistic law operating in human society. The universal law is that anything related to material or non-material well being of a society is an object of religious attitude. For example, those who depend on dairy products have ritual attitude to dairy animals. Radcliffe-Brown did not accept explanations of the origin of religion in terms of psychology. Evans-Pritchard (1965:74) is, however, critical of this position. He points out that in practice, while describing the occasions of dancing among the Andaman Islanders, Radcliffe-Brown explains religious behavior mainly in terms of the personality of the cancer and mixture of feelings and actions in his dance which produce solidarity in the community. Secondly, on the basis of this case, Racliffe-Brown generalizes that a ritual attitude generates social cohesion and harmony. Evans-Pritchard (1965:74) objects to this tendency of generalizing on the basis of one case. For example, the dances in Central Africa, he points out, often cause conflict and disharmony. Thirdly, Radcliffe-Brown argues that religion functions to keep society together and its forms very in accordance with types of society. For example, ancestor worship is commonly found in societies with lineage systems. But, then Evans-Pritchard (1965:75) again, as if to prove Radcliffe-Brown wrong, points out that among some African groups, ancestor cult is found where no lineage system exists. Evans-Pritchard criticizes Radcliffe-Brown's functionalist approach to religion on the following base: (i) Sociological explanations offered by Radcliffe-Brown did not take into account any negative evidence. (ii) Radcliffe-Brown's generalized statements are quite vague in nature. They have very little scientific value because it is not possible to either prove or disprove them. Evans-Pritchard criticized the functionalist approach to the study of religion. In addition he considered the possibilities for showing that certain religious systems are found in societies of a particular type. This was initially undertaken by Levy-Bruhl and later Evans-Pritchard also added new ideas to the sociological study of religion. Srinivas was a student and colleague of Radcliffe-Brown and as such in his study of religion he used Durkheim's ideas via Racliffe- Brown's theory of ritual.
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The Evolutionary and Functional Theories of Religion
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The Evolutionary And Functional Theories Of Religion

Words: 710    Pages: 3    Paragraphs: 12    Sentences: 40    Read Time: 02:34
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              The Role of Religion:
             
              Malinowski, was interested in the origin and development of religion. In so far as he asked questions about religion's genesis, he too was an evolutionist. He became a functionalist when he began to observe and record what role religion played.
             
              Malinowski had studied the Trobriand Islanders in the Western pacific. The people here were mostly from fishing communities and had to constantly deal with hazardous expeditions for fishing and underwent experiences that could not be explained by them.
             
              Malinowski argued that the feelings of fear, anger, sadness, etc. that arose in the mind of primitive people on such occasions were overcome by resorting to religious activities or the performance of certain rituals that would help get over such unsure feelings. Religion functioned here to essentially help one to regain one's stability of mind and re-adjust to situations of emotional stress that had arisen.
             
              In other words, religion functioned as a 'tool for adoption' to any given situation. For example, when the islanders would set out for a long journey, they would perform rituals and magic on the boat so that it would not give them trouble on the way. Such an exercise was carried out in all kinds of situations of mental and physical instability. Ritual and magic have a very great influence on the activities of the society as a whole the rituals flowish greatly in times of acute stress and especially in all events that men are hard put to explain.
             
              Asking similar questions which early evolutionists asked, Malinowski and followers gave different answer. In this sense they understood religion in terms of its function; their findings progressed beyond traditional answer to questions of origin and development of religion.
             
              They provided the functionalist alternative to evolutionist theories. Not content with simply observing and recording data about primitive societies, Maliowski's successor, Radcliffe- Brown, tried to analyze ethnographic data by using sociological concepts. He was attracted to the Durkheim sociology.
             
              Social Continuity and Solidarity:
             
              A. R. Radcliffe-Brown tried to make Durkheiin's theory of totemism into a more comprehensive view of religion. In an article, 'The Sociological Theory of Totemism', Radcliffe-Brown (1929: 295-309) showed totemism to be a particular form of universalistic law operating in human society. The universal law is that anything related to material or non-material well being of a society is an object of religious attitude. For example, those who depend on dairy products have ritual attitude to dairy animals. Radcliffe-Brown did not accept explanations of the origin of religion in terms of psychology.
             
              Evans-Pritchard (1965: 74) is, however, critical of this position. He points out that in practice, while describing the occasions of dancing among the Andaman Islanders, Radcliffe-Brown explains religious behavior mainly in terms of the personality of the cancer and mixture of feelings and actions in his dance which produce solidarity in the community.
             
              Secondly, on the basis of this case, Racliffe-Brown generalizes that a ritual attitude generates social cohesion and harmony. Evans-Pritchard (1965: 74) objects to this tendency of generalizing on the basis of one case. For example, the dances in Central Africa, he points out, often cause conflict and disharmony.
             
              Thirdly, Radcliffe-Brown argues that religion functions to keep society together and its forms very in accordance with types of society. For example, ancestor worship is commonly found in societies with lineage systems. But, then Evans-Pritchard (1965: 75) again, as if to prove Radcliffe-Brown wrong, points out that among some African groups, ancestor cult is found where no lineage system exists.
             
              Evans-Pritchard criticizes Radcliffe-Brown's functionalist approach to religion on the following base:
             
              (i) Sociological explanations offered by Radcliffe-Brown did not take into account any negative evidence.
             
              (ii) Radcliffe-Brown's generalized statements are quite vague in nature. They have very little scientific value because it is not possible to either prove or disprove them.
             
              Evans-Pritchard criticized the functionalist approach to the study of religion. In addition he considered the possibilities for showing that certain religious systems are found in societies of a particular type. This was initially undertaken by Levy-Bruhl and later Evans-Pritchard also added new ideas to the sociological study of religion. Srinivas was a student and colleague of Radcliffe-Brown and as such in his study of religion he used Durkheim's ideas via Racliffe- Brown's theory of ritual.
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