What are the Functions of Religion?
Religion is said to be born out of physical and social needs. Early men occupied the hills and forests where they had to lead a miserable existence with their limited material and intellectual resources. In a way, they were totally at the mercy of nature. They had been in a ceaseless war against the unkind environment in the midst of which they had to pass their life. In their struggle for existence they seek help from religion and magic which upheld them in times of distress and instill into their minds the requisite courage to overcome worldly miseries. Even now, when we are in difficulties or when our mental equilibrium is lost, we seek the help of supernatural to overcome the crisis in life.
In a way, religion serves as a walking stick to us in a similar way as it does serve a blind man. The things which are beyond our control can be achieved by depending on supernatural (God or Goddess). When the fear of dreadful natural calamities haunted us, we seek the help of supernatural beings. Thus, we find that religion ‘has the capacity to furnish certain supplements to the world of experiences’.
Function of Religion to maintain Moral Values
Religion has the capacity to announce and maintain moral values.
Life on earth is full of sorrows and miseries and not happy, gay affairs all together. There are uncertainties in life. Our ambitions and hopes are sometimes not fulfilled and unattainable. We get frustrations. Sometimes disaster befalls upon us. In these circumstances also, religion helps us in achieving psychological adjustments and peace of mind. Moreover, religion is one of the sources of morality. The Hindus take a sacred bath in holy Ganges at Prayag, Sagar-sangam on specific sacred dates to wash off all kinds of sins they committed intentionally or unintentionally. Kumbh-Mela bathing is taken seriously by Hindus for a similar cause. The Christians, during medieval times, could purchase ‘sin-condoning’ certificates from the churches. They have the custom even now, that a person who has committed sin somewhere (including criminal offences) can chastity himself by declaring his crimes to a father of a church. The latter never discloses it to anybody. In this way, man gets ultimate mental peace through religion. Precisely, religion is an aid for our social survival.
Functions of Religion in Society
Religion has the competence to hold together societies and sustain their structure.
Religion is an effective instrument for our social integration too:
- Religion have a role in rationalizing and justifying the ultimate group ends.
- Religion provides support for social standards i.e. social accepted ideal values are boost up by religion.
- Religion acts as agent of social control by providing rewards for the good and punishments for the bad.