Conflict theorists would argue that organized religion, though originally created to fulfill basic human needs, has distorted into an organization with one purpose: To preserve the power center. Functionalist would agree with the basic tenant that religion by its existence fulfills basic need, but in an entirely different manner. By providing framework within which society may function in harmony, religion contributes to society's equilibrium. I believe the answer actually lies somewhere between the two, with religion holding the proverbial strings as well as providing a sense of peace and emotional comfort.
Conflict theorists assert that religion operates to preserve the wealthy and the powerful in their privileged positions. Considering news reports of Catholic priests enjoying the protection of their mantles to shield them from prosecution against accusations of sexual abuse, one can only shake their head in disbelief. Surely an abuse of power can be indicated, even if only by a 'few' misguided bishops. As well consider that your average Joe might be reported to the authorities, have the case investigated and a jury trial find the perpetrator guilty. Current law states that any community that person moved to would be notified of a sexual offender's presence. This would allow the families in the community the option of deciding whether or not they would associate with the offender. But with the church not investigating issues of abuse, by suppression reports of said abuse and by relocating the accused offenders, they do more than protect their own privileged positions-they offer the offenders new prey. .
Religion has also been referred to by Karl Marx as ".the sigh of the oppressed creature.it is the opium of the people.” In the world of the working class, dominated by the bourgeois, religion acts as both an anesthetic and a justification. While averting the mind from present suffering and inequalities of society, religion also acts as a validation of class differences.