Essay Example on Discussing about the contribution of one key thinker to the study of Religion








In this essay as stated above I will be discussing about the contribution of one key thinker to the study of religion as well as their approaches and the strengths and weaknesses of their approaches And the key thinker in which I will be discussing today is Bronislaw Malinowski Bronsilaw Malinowski was born in April 1884 and died in May 1942 Malinowski was an anthropologist of the 20th and most who wrote about Malinowski mention that he was recognised to most as one of the founders of social anthropology as well as being recognised as one of the founders of anthropology Malinowski was a functionalist Being a functionalist Malinowski saw religion that religion to be something that create social cohesion as it is a way to help reinforce the norms and values of society Functionalists also see religion as a force that preserves the moral norms and values of society Malinowski s most important contribution to the study of religion is when he wrote an essay in 1925 called magic science and religion This can also be found in form of a book Malinowski argues religion must be seen as something that is the end in and of itself

Another factor that major is magic is seen to be immoral whereas religion is seen to be moral Malinowski was effective allowing the reader to gain an understanding that rituals are performed in times of emotional distress When it comes to what he contributed towards the study of religion and what his approach Malinowski argued that religion performs psychological functions as well as his argument that religion performs psychological functions Malinowski also argues and makes a statement which is religion is used to provide social solidarity usually at a time of crisis and by religion being used to provide social solidarity Malinowski argues that social solidarity reintegrates society Malinowski states that as religion is used in a time of crisis whether it be Death which he says is socially destructive as it removes a member from society or even funerals as they help unite family and friends of the lost one maybe even a young person going through something traumatic or simply when someone gives birth it is an expression of social solidarity reintegrates society By stating that religion provides social solidarity and performs psychological functions that work in aid of helping individuals cope with stress one way Malinowski proved that his theory was correct was through the study of the Trobian Islanders 

He compared fishing in the ocean and fishing in the lagoon Lagoon fishing is safe and when islanders fish in the lagoon they usually do not perform any ritual or prayers this is because they are comfortable fishing in the lagoon He found that when the Trobian islanders were about to fish in the vast ocean some of the Islanders prayed however when they fished in local lakes they did not pray This proved that religion comes to place and forms comfort and reassurance when someone is in a time of life crisis or when they are feeling unsure this gives people a sense of control which eases tension Having stated Malinowski's study I will now be discussing strengths and weaknesses of his approach A strength to Malinowski's approach is the fact that he stated religion is used to provide social solidarity social solidarity allows one to feel comfort during a time of distress and that is why It is a positive aspect However a negative aspect to Malinowski's approach is that he over exaggerates how important religion and prayer during a time where one is feeling distressed and not their usual self e g the fishing ritual were not necessarily religious rituals Another reason that some might say is a negative aspect of Malinowski's approach is that some may argue that due to the fact it was participant observation the results may have been bias also the fact that it took Malinowski a long time to do and it required a lot of money it isn't very practical 

Another reason why It isn't practical is because it in itself if hard to repeat As a conclusion I believe that Malinowski was right when he said religion provides solidarity as it helps as a consolation and a form of comfort when someone is going through things whether it be those life events that are predictable e g weddings or unpredictable e g deaths although Funerals bring family and friends together as people support one another during the difficult period of time and creates social solidarity Malinowski also looked at benefits of religion on mental state as he said religion performs psychological functions Functions such as the fishing rituals help as they reduce anxiety and stress by giving an individual self confidence and a feeling of control As well as the fact that they were in a group social events unites people and most times allow people to feel joy as they are enjoying each other's company Functionalists believe that religion is something that create social cohesion as it is a way to help reinforce the norms and values of society And as I stated previously above religion also has many functions religion can help people in many ways such as to cope with anxiety stress and maybe even traumas

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