Religion and Social Change

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  • Religion and Social Change
    • Weber: Religion as a Force for Change
        • God has predetermined which souls would be saved, these were called 'the elect'
        • Calvinists led ascetic lifestyles in which they refrained from luxury.
        • Calvinists believes that idleness was a sin and therefore worked long hours and practised rigorous self-discipline.
        • Thorugh this hard work, and their ascentic lifestyle, they accumluated large amounts of wealth and reinvested this back into their businesses.
          • This created a divide in classes as they became rich but weren't spending it. This caused social class divide and created capitalism.
        • Weber notes that there have been other societies with high leevls of economic development but still failed to develop modern capitalism.
          • Ancient China and India were materially more advanced than Europe but capitalism didn't take off there.
        • He argues that the failure of capitalism was due to the lack of religious belief system like that of Calvinism
        • Confucianism was a this-worldly religion that directed it followers to a material lifestyle, it was also not ascetic
          • Therefore, they both lacked the drive the accumulate the wealth that is necessary for modern capitalism.
        • Kautsky argues that Weber overestimates the role of ideas and underestimated the economic factors.
        • Tawney argues that technological change, not religious ideas, caused the birth of capitalism.
          • It was only after economic growth has the ruling class adopted the Calvinist beliefs to legitimate their pursuit of economic gain.
        • Capitalism did not occur in every country where there were Calvinists, such as Scotland.
    • Religion and Social Protest
        • Bruce described the struggle of the black civil rights movement as an example of religiously motivated social change
        • The black clergy played a decisive role, giving support and moral legitimacy to civil rights activists.
          • Churched provided meeting places and rituals were used as a source of unity in the face of oppression.
        • The black clergy were able to shame whites into changing the law by appealing to their shared Christian values of equality.
        • He believes it bought about change by shaming those in power to put in practice the principle of equality.
        • The aims of the New Christina Right is to make abortion, homosexuality,gay marriage and divorce illegal.
        • They believe strongly in the traditional family and traditional gender role.
        • They have used the media to recruit new members and make converts
        • Bruce describes the New Christian Right as a failed movement for change.
          • He believes this because a survey shows that most Americans are comfortable with legalising activities they personally don't believe are immoral.
            • The New Christian Right failed to connect with mainstream beliefs about democracy, equality and religious freedom, and therefore did not cause social change.
    • Marxism, Religion and Change
      • Engels believes that religion has a dual character, that is that, although religion inhibits change by disguising inequality, it can also challenge the status quo and encourage social change.
        • For Bloch, religion is an expression of the 'principle of hope' - our dreams of a better life that contain images of utopia.
        • Religious beliefs may create a vision of a better world, which, if combined with effective political organisation and leadership, can bring about social change.
        • Liberation theology helped change Latin America, it used to accept poverty and support wealthy elites and military dictatorships.
        • Priests helped the poor to establish communities and helped workers fight oppression under the protection of the church.
          • Priests took the lead in developing literacy programmes, educating the poor about their situation, raising awareness and mobilising support.
        • Maduro believes that religion can be a revolutionary force that brings about change, in Latin America, religious ideas radicalised Catholic clergy in defence of peasants and workers.
        • Lehmann contrasts the liberation theology and Pentecostalism.
          • Liberation ideology offers an option for the poor of community consciousness-raising and campaigning for social change.
          • Pentecostalism offers an option of the poor for individuals to pull themselves out of poverty through their own efforts.
        • Worsley argues that such movements expect the total transformation of this world
        • Cargo cults, islanders felt wrongfully deprived of material goods and this unjust social order was overturned by these cults.
        • He describes the movements as pre-political - they used religious ideas and images, but they united native populations in mass movements that spanned tribal divisions.
        • Gramsci argues that popular forms of religion can help workers see through the ruling lass-hegemony by offering a visiion of a beter, fairer world.
        • Gramsci sees religion as having a dual character, and can challenge as well as support the ruling class.
        • Billings study of miners and textile workers, both were working-class and evangelical Protestant.
          • The miners were much more militant, and the textile workers accepted the status quo.
        • Billings identified three ways in which religion either support or challenged the employers' hegemony
          • LEADERSHIp the miners benefitted from the leadership of organic intellectuals, textile workers lacked such leadership.
          • ORGANISATION the miners were able to use independent chirches the hold meetings, and the textile workers lacked such spaces.
          • SUPPORT the churches kept miners morale high with supportive sermons.


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