A2 Sociology: Religion and Social Change

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Religion as a conservative force
1. Conservative in the sense of being `traditional' ­ it upholds traditional beliefs about how
society should be organised
2. Functions to maintain the status quo (keep things the same)
Religions conservative beliefs
Most religion have traditional conservative beliefs
For example, the Catholic Church forbids divorce, abortion and artificial
contraception, gay marriage
Similarly, most religion uphold `family values' and favour traditional patriarchal
domestic division of labour
Religions conservative function
It function to conserve or preserve things as they are and maintain the status quo
Religion and consensus: functionalists see religion as a conservative force becos it
functions to maintain social stability and prevent society from disintergrating. Helps
individuals deal w/stresses that would disrupt the life of society
Religion and capitalism: Conservative ideology, prevents social change.
Legitimating or disguising exploitation and inequality. Creates a false consciousness,
prevents revolution
Religion and patriarchy: Legitimates patriarchal power and maintains womens
subordination in the family + wider society
Weber: Religion as force for change
Study of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Notes that many past societies had capitalism in the sense of greed for wealth or
luxury consumption
However, modern capitalism is unique, because it is based on the systematic,
efficient, rational pursuit of profit for its own sake. Called ­ The spirit of capitalism
Calvinists Beliefs
o Predestination: God has predetermined which souls would be saved ­ the elect,
individuals can do nothing to change this. Gods decision cannot be altered
o Asceticism: Self-discipline and self-denial ­ living a basic life. For example, Monks
devote themselves to God through this
o The Idea of Vocation or calling: The idea of calling or vocation means the constant,
methodical work in an occupation. However, work could not earn salvation ­ it was
simply a religious duty.
Firstly wealth and success performed a psychological function for the Calvinists
that allowed them to cope w/their salvation panic. As they grew wealthier, they
took this as a sign of God.

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Secondly driven by their work ethic, the earned more money as they reinvested in
their businesses which grew and prospered, they continued to make more and
more money and defo though this was a sign of God
Evaluation Karl Kautsky, argues that Weber
overestimates the role of ideas and
underestimates economic factors in
bringing capitalism into being
Tawney argues, technological change,
not religious ideas, caused the birth
of capitalism
Capitalism did not develop in every
country, where there were Calvinists,
for example, Scotland
Weberians reply…read more

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The New Christian Right
o Gained its reputation in the 1960s because of its opposition to the liberalising of
American society
o Aims to "take America back to God" ­ make abortion, homosexuality and divorce
o TNC believes strongly in the traditional family and traditional gender roles
o Campaigns for the teaching of creationism (what the bible says is literally true)
o The Moral Majority (a right wing pressure group) was largely unsuccessful
o The Moral Majority was never a majority, but 15% of…read more

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This was a major change for the Catholic Church in Latin America
Factors led to the emergence of liberation theology were:
Human rights abuses following military take overs, such as false imprisonment,
torture and death squads. For example, in Argentina
The growing commitment among Catholic priests supported the poor and
opposed violations of human rights.…read more


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