Is religion a conservative force or a force for social change?


Is religion a conservative force or a force for social change?


  • Marxism - Religion prevents social change. It legitimises the power and dominance of the ruling class.
  • Enter bullet pointnctionalism - It preserves the norms and values of society whilst creating social harmony and social consensus.
  • Feminism - Religion is a conservative force which legitimises the traditional role of women and the dominance of men.
  • The New Christian Right - 1960's America. They wanted to take America 'Back to God.' - Although they failed this it can be classed as both conservative and a act of social change. They wanted to change society dramatically, but they wanted to go back to traditional conservative values.
  • Iranian Revolution - In 1979 Iran faced a huge change. They had gone from a tradition conservative country to a more liberal country, when the people of society began to rebel against this liberal change they overthrew the government and became more conservative once again. - This can also be classed as both conservative and a force of social change.
  • Gramsci - Hegemony - The ruling class use ideas to control and oppress the under classes. Eg the ideal of religion and its values. Although yet again this can be seen as conservative and a force of social change. In the 1920's and 1930's the Catholic Church helped to get Mussolini into power. Although the clergy in the Liberation theory proves that religion can also create a force of social change.


  • Liberation Theory - In the 1960's in Latin American the clergy began to help the WC to understand the oppression they faced in society. Soon the WC were able to cause a social revolution which creates a communist society where all are equal.
  • Martin Luther King Jr - He used religion to power his journey to equality for all races.
  • Bishop Desmond Tutu - He also used his religion to encourage social change and equality.
  • WebweHis study of Calvinismm shows how religion can create huge social change. Calvinism was one of the biggest contributing factors to a capitalist society being created.


It can be argued that religion can both be a conservative force and a force for social change. The Marxist, Feminist and Functionalists believe that it is conservative for various reasons, but when you take into consideration work done by Gramsci and Weber it is important to know that religion does also create social change and social revolution. 


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