The Structural Functional Functions of Religion

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About this sample


Words: 725 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 725|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Social Cohesion
  2. Regulation of Behavior
  3. Social Control
  4. Conclusion

Religion has played a crucial role in the lives of people for centuries. It has been a source of solace, guidance, and community for billions of individuals across the globe. However, beyond its spiritual and moral significance, religion also serves several structural functional functions within society. This essay will explore the various ways in which religion functions within social structures, including its role in providing social cohesion, regulating behavior, and promoting social control.

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Social Cohesion

One of the primary functions of religion within society is to provide social cohesion. Emile Durkheim, a prominent sociologist, argued that religion serves as a unifying force that brings people together and fosters a sense of community and belonging. In his seminal work, "The Elementary Forms of Religious Life," Durkheim posited that religious rituals and beliefs create a collective conscience that binds individuals together and reinforces social solidarity.

Research conducted by sociologists has supported Durkheim's theory, demonstrating that religious participation is positively correlated with social integration and a sense of belonging. For example, a study published in the American Sociological Review found that individuals who are active participants in religious communities report higher levels of social support and greater life satisfaction compared to their non-religious counterparts (Lim and Putnam, 2010). This evidence underscores the role of religion in fostering social cohesion and strengthening interpersonal relationships within society.

Regulation of Behavior

Religion also functions as a regulator of behavior within society. Many religious traditions prescribe moral codes and ethical guidelines that govern the actions and conduct of their adherents. These moral imperatives serve as a framework for regulating individual behavior and promoting social order. For instance, the Ten Commandments in Christianity and the Five Pillars of Islam provide ethical guidelines that shape the moral conduct of believers and contribute to the maintenance of social norms and values.

Furthermore, religious institutions often play a pivotal role in shaping societal attitudes and behaviors. For example, the Catholic Church's stance on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage has influenced public discourse and policymaking, reflecting the power of religious institutions in regulating societal behavior. Additionally, research has shown that religious participation is associated with lower rates of delinquency and criminal behavior, indicating the role of religion in promoting prosocial conduct and conformity to societal norms (Johnson et al., 2000).

Social Control

In addition to regulating individual behavior, religion also functions as a mechanism of social control within society. Religious beliefs and practices can exert influence over the thoughts and actions of individuals, shaping their attitudes and behaviors in accordance with religious teachings. This influence extends beyond the individual level to encompass broader social processes and institutions.

For example, the concept of divine punishment and reward in many religious traditions serves as a form of social control by incentivizing adherence to moral precepts and deterring deviant behavior. Moreover, religious institutions often act as moral authorities that wield influence over public opinion and policymaking, contributing to the regulation of societal values and norms.

Research has demonstrated the impact of religion on social control, with studies indicating that religious participation is associated with higher levels of trust and cooperation within communities (Putnam and Campbell, 2010). This evidence underscores the role of religion in promoting social order and regulating behavior within society.


In conclusion, religion serves several structural functional functions within society, including promoting social cohesion, regulating behavior, and promoting social control. Emile Durkheim's theory of religion as a unifying force that fosters social solidarity provides a compelling framework for understanding the role of religion in shaping social structures. Moreover, empirical research has supported the functionalist perspective on religion, demonstrating the influence of religious beliefs and practices on social integration, moral regulation, and social order. By recognizing the structural functional functions of religion, we can gain a deeper understanding of the intricate ways in which religion shapes and sustains social life.


Lim, C., & Putnam, R. D. (2010). Religion, social networks, and life satisfaction. American Sociological Review, 75(6), 914-933.

Johnson, B. R., Larson, D. B., DeLi, S., & Jang, S. J. (2000). Escaping from the crime of inner cities: Church attendance and religious salience among disadvantaged youth. Justice Quarterly, 17(2), 377-391.

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Putnam, R. D., & Campbell, D. E. (2010). American grace: How religion divides and unites us. Simon and Schuster.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Structural Functional Functions of Religion. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 13, 2024, from
“The Structural Functional Functions of Religion.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
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