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Statement of Problem ..2 Aims and Objective.5 Literature Review.....6 Introduction....7 The Functionalist Perspective On Religion..8 The Marxist Perspective on Religion.... .............................10 Kumina.12 Revivalism14 Functionalist Theory on Kumina .........15 And Revivalism Marxist Theory on Kumina and Revivalism.... ................16 Conclusion................17




This research paper attempts to determine the following:The Functionalist Perspective on Religion The Marxist Perspective on Religion

Looking at the Pocomania and Revivalism Religion and how the Functionalist Theory and The Marxist Theory places them in society.


Haralambos and Holborn in Sociology Themes and Perspective (2008) gives the major Theories on Religion. The Functionalist Theories and Marxist Theories are two totally different

perspectives. The Functionalists sees Religions helping because of shared values and moral beliefs for the survival of a society because of the social order, social control and social solidarity that they bring. On the other hand The Marxist Theory sees Religion as an illusionary tool which keep the working class in a state of both mental and physical oppression where they accept their way of life and does not seek to rise above it mainly because of the benefits they will gain in the afterlife. He sees Religion as an opiate for the masses.

Nasser Mustapha in Sociology for Caribbean Students (2009) looks at religion, religious beliefs and theirs practices in the Caribbean. The book also highlights several different theories on religion whereby we look at The Marxist and Functionalist Theories. Christopher Humber, Lecturer Sociology , Wolmers Boys, print and electronic material and lecture notes used in study.


There is no single definition for Religion that would be completely accurate as because of the many complexities any single definition may be seen as inadequate or incomplete. There are a few definitions which are listed below.

The Oxford Dictionary defines religion as:

1) The belief in a superhuman controlling power especially in a personal God or Gods entitled to obedience and worship. 2) The expression of this in worship. 3) A particular system of faith and worship 4) Life under Monastic vow 5) A thing that one is devoted to

Sociological Themes and Perspectives (Haralambos and Holborn 2007 edition) states that one way of defining religion is to see it in terms of the functions it performs. An example is provided by Yinger who defined religion as a system of belief and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life (quoted in Hamilton, 1995).

We will be looking religion in the Caribbean, focusing on Kumina and Revivalism and the role that The Functionalist Theory and The Marxist Theory plays when applied. In the Caribbean, religion is seen as playing an integral part in the lives of its people. It is seen as an important aspect of social life and is linked to the issues of social integration and conflict between different groups within a society or societies. Sociology on seeking to understand the role, significance, and impact of religion in society examine the effects (Sociology for Caribbean Students, 2009).




Functionalism is the oldest and still the dominant, theoretical perspective in sociology and many other social sciences. Functionalism is the first theory in sociology. Based on the findings presented by French Sociologist Emile Durkheim, the Functionalist perspective on religion is probably the most influential interpretation of religion. Durkheim theory argues that all societies divide the world into two categories the sacred and the profane. He sees religion as based upon this division and also beliefs it is a unified system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things He believes that sacred things must be symbols and what they represent must be established (Haralambos and Holborn 2007).

Durkheim based his findings by using the religion of various groups of Australian Aborigines to develop his argument. Functionalists see religion in terms of the contribution that religion makes to the well being of society, its contribution to social stability and the value consensus. Durkheim argues that the function of religious rituals is to maintain social solidarity by affirming the moral superiority of society over its individual members. He believed that social life could only exist if values were shared and society integrated into a coherent whole. Religion is an important aspect of this process as through religion a set of unifying practices and beliefs but also providing a way in which people can interpret and give meaning to the world.

The relationship between God and humans is seen as a reflection of the relationship between humans and society. Without collective conscience, there would be no social order, control social solidarity or cooperation. There would be no society without it. Religion reinforces the collective conscience Durkheims theory is flawed his critics argue that he studied only a small number of Aboriginal groups on which he based his findings. The sample is thought to have been too small to generalize about Aboriginal beliefs much less religion. Functionalists position is weak on socieities with more than one faith. Functionalist Perspectives emphasizes the positive contribution of religion to society and tends to ignore dysfunctional aspects.



Karl Marx the Geman philosopher, political economist, social revolutionary and primary theorist of Marxism had a radically different perspective on religion. Religion for him is seen as an illusion which allows the ruling class to dominate and enjoy the privileges of the working class. It distorts reality and gives the working class false hope and prevents them from developing class consciousness.. The working class was seen as using religion as a form of protest against their poor economic conditions. Marx believed the ruling class used religion as a means of control. Religion is seen as a distortion of reality which provides many of the deceptions that form the basis of ruling class ideology and false class consciousness. It is used to control the working class and Religion according to Marx is seen the

strengthen and support the interests of the ruling class.

further as exploiting the relationship between the owners of the means of production and

owners of labour. In a class society religion is used as a mask that prevents the working class from developing class consciousness that enables them to see the world as formed and shaped by the efforts of human rather than a divine force. In doing so they will never rise above their oppression and will not complain because they see suffering way of enduring because of the

benefits derived at the end of their lives.

They are willing to be deprived of material possessions. Capitalists do not mind this as they use religion as a tool of exploitation. In Marxs ideal society the means of production are

communally owned which results in the disappearance of social classes. Religion is an illusion

which eases the pain produced by exploitation and oppression. It is seen as a collection of mythical thoughts that brings justification and legitimate the subordination of the subject class. Religion disguises and makes acceptable the exploitative relationships of society by suggesting that the world is shaped by Gods will and is therefore not capable of changing. People are distracted from any revolutionary action. Marxist theory is based on the theory that God is made by humans and this was used by earlier societies to explain how the world came about. Religion is seen by Marx as a distortion of reality. It is ideological and is the foundation upon which the ruling class forms their ideology and false consciousness. In doing so the ruling class maintains their power because the working -class are not able to see their true situation and their real interests.



Kumina according to an article in the Jamaica Gleaner is the most African of all religious cults to be found in Jamaica. It occurred among post-emancipation African contract labourers sent to Jamaica in the late in 19th century, but is thought to be derived from the Kongo in Central Africa. Kumina was further developed during the mid to late nineteenth century. Kumina ia a AfroJamaican religion influenced mainly by the Bantu peoples from the Congo-Angola area.

Kumina refers to both a religion and dance. Dances include the Bailo, mainly entertainment purposes and country, used during the private religious ceremonies. The language used in Kumina rituals for singing and communication with ancestors, as well as with each other is heavily influenced example by Kikongo in grammar and vocabulary. For example, the Kikongo word kumu means meter, melody,rhythmor to play a musical instrument. The ancestors play an integral part in the religious beliefs and practices of Kumina practitioners in Jamaica,

Kumina communities follows the general local character of African religions in Jamaica, Kumina societies are small family based communities or nations. Some nations include Mondongo, Moyenge, Machunde, Kongo ,Igbo and Yoruba. People from Kumina families are given the title Bongo. Marrying into a Bongo family is one avenue to become apart of of Kumina Nation; special initiation is the other avenue. Kumina nations are led by a King and Queen. Central to Kuminas religious beliefs and practices is the possession by and communication with the spirits . The rituals (Kumina plays are used to connect the spirit and corporal worlds with music (drumming and singing), language, dance, and ritual. Possession is a term describing the


temporary inhabiting the living. In Kumina Myal is the good and obeah is the bad. Myal is given given greater stress because of its association with guidance and healing.

The importance of drums at these sessions is evidenced by the respect and position afforded the drummer within the cult. The importance of the use of white rum, striking matches, flashing lights, and lime in the process is explained, as too the importance of colour and their relation to the type of ritual being performed . Kumina is mainly practiced in St. Thomas , a small area in St. James and Waterloo

REVIVALISM The practice of Revivalism in the Caribbean was a result of the time of the great revival. The people who were taken from their homeland needed a time to get back to their roots. This was

where Afro-Caribbean Religion was one such group to emerge. The ex-slaves had continued to maintain and practice religious retentions despite being illegal to do so. The rites and rituals

such as festivals helped to solidify the social bonds while creating the basis for identity among its members. During these festivals the dancing and drumming provided the spiritual awakening of ancestors to join in worship. Revivalism has its genesis in both Christian and African traditions. and began in Jamaica between 1860 and 18 61 as part for a religious movement called the great revival. Pocamania, Obeah and Revivalism while containing many characteristics of each other are different. In most revival groups were located in Western and South Western parts of Jamaica.

Water plays a critical role in in the rituals of revivalism. They believe that w ater has healing properties. Probably the most known revivalist in Jamaica is Alexander Bedward. He originated from August Town, St Andrew. He preached and baptized by a river that ran through the community..The use of plants and herbs in healing ceremonies, singing, drumming and dancing counter clockwise and spirit possession are all essential aspects of the revivalist worship. Dreams and visions play an important role in Revivalism. This is the medium used by spirits to appear to revivalists.


Functionalists believe that religion reinforces the collective conscience of society.


Durkheim believed that social life was impossible without shared values and moral beliefs which

form s the collective conscience. The worship of society helps to strengthen the values and moral beliefs. Religion provides believers with greater power to direct human action. Religion is seen as promoting social solidarity as it strengthens the unity of the group. The attitude of respect that is shown by the group of worshippers to that which is sacred will also be emulated when it Is applied their social duties and obligations. In a society where there are worshippers, people recognize the importance of the social group and their dependence on it. Religion promotes social solidarity by strengthening the group.

This is evidenced in Kumina and Reivalism. In Kumina there are communities where they form a common bond. They are small family based communities or nations. They live and work closely with each other to keep their traditions, practices and religion going. Durkheim believes in Gods or spirits which usually provides the basis for religious ceremonies. This is evident in both Kuminas and Revivalism dependence on the spirits of their ancestors whom they communicate with and are dependent on for their spiritual guidance .Durkheim believes the worship of Gods is the worship of the souls of ancestors. He also believed that it is through the souls of individuals that the collective conscience is realized. He concluded that religious worship is really the worship of the social group of society MARXIST THEORY AND KUMINA AND REVIVALISM

The working class attention has been diverted from the real source of their oppression so they work without complaining which keeps the ruling class in power.


Religion is seen as a tool of exploitation as often supported by the ruling class to further their interests. In the words of Marx and Engel who was also a German political philosopher and collaborated with Marx and co-developed with Marx the communist theory: the parson has ever gone hand in hand with the landlord. This was evident in Feudal England where Religion was an instrument of oppression. The Lord of the Manor abuse of power was often ignored by the church and in exchange the church would be given a lot of money.

Both Revivalism and Functionalism is viewed by Marx as keeping the people in a constant state of oppression. The people who form these religions belongs to the working class One of Marxs most famous quotations on religion is seeing it as drawing an analogy between it and a drug it was seen as an opiate in that none of the peoples problems are solved but it merely dulls the pain and therefore most religious movements usually originate from the oppressed.


Both Kumina and Revivalism are heavily influenced by natives of Jamaica and their African ancestry.

They both incorporate music, dance and contacting ancestral spirits.


Africans In Jamaica found a way of staying connected to each other and keeping their traditions alive through these religions. Even though these practices were against the law during slavery, they found ways for masking deities and other religious practices in the Christian religion as it was seen as natural for survival. Organization of both Kumina and Revival communities follows the general local character of African Religions in Jamaica. For The Functionalists this is necessary for survival as without these shared values there would be no social order, social control, social solidarity or cooperation And with these missing there would be no society.