THE NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF POLITICAL FUNCTION OF RELIGION: Religion

There are many definitions for religion. All definitions emphasize certain aspects of religion and exclude others. Here, we mention to Smith’s definition that is supposed to be approximately comprehensive. In his words, ‘Religion is a series of spiritual beliefs that unites its believers as a single community’. Thus, religion is one of the structures in the social system. In addition to the moral aspects, it can be discussed as a materialistic existence in religion foundations (like institutional form such as ‘church’ in Christianity and Mosque in Islam and temple in the Eastern religions), religious groups and religious movements (Hamilton, 2001). Hence, according to Malcolm Hamilton (2001), religion has both substantial and functional descriptions that explain religion that in this article the functional definition is regarded. The intent here is to expose religion’s function and role in politics. So, in this relation, we should also mention the definition of Function.

Definition of Function

The term ‘function’ has different connotations, but here we consider it as ‘an appropriate and sustaining activity, or a part played by a unit within the context of a larger whole. The term ‘function’ in this sense refers to the positive and negative consequences of social institutions and processes’ in Abraham’s words. According to him ‘function’ is ‘the contribution which a partial activity makes to the total activity of which it is apart. The function of a particular social usage is the contribution it makes to the total social life as the functioning of the social system’ (Abraham, 2003: 74-76).

Some writers use the term ‘function’ to refer to the complex relationship between an entity and the conditions necessary for its survival. This interpretation of function is corollary to the theory of functionalism, according to which any society is conceived as an integrated whole all of whose parts have some relationship – positive or negative, manifest or latent- to the struggle for existence (Holt et al, 1958: 13). In this respect, to clarify the definition of function, I also refer to Parsons and Merton’s definition, that they are two major thinkers in the functionalism approach. Parsons saw functions as ‘those activities that had the goal of fulfilling a need of the system’. And, Merton defined functions as ‘those consequences that lead to the adjustment or adaptation of a system’ (Ryan, 2004). Hence, functions may be eufunction or dysfunction, manifest or latent functions.