Compare and contrast the views that religion is either a force for social stability or a force for social change (33 marks)

Rougly what a 33 mark answer should look like, got an A for this however, after looking at the mark scheme I think this could be a little bit too in depth but u get the jist =)

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Preview of Compare and contrast the views that religion is either a force for social stability or a force for social change (33 marks)

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Compare and contrast the views that religion is either a force for
social stability or a force for social change (33 marks)
Functionalists, Marxists and Feminists all in some ways see religion as
stabilising society as it is and preventing social change. However, many
sociologists argue that religion can also be a force for social change in
some circumstances
Durkheim believes that the key feature of religion isn't just the belief in
God but also the distinction between the sacred and the profane found in
all religions, the sacred being holy things, set apart and forbidden that
inspire feelings of awe and fear. The profane on the other hand are
ordinary things. For Durkheim although sacred symbols vary from religion
to religion, they all perform the same function of uniting believers into a
single community. He uses the Arunta Clan to illustrate this point. He
found that the clan consists of kin who come together at different times to
perform rituals that involve worshipping a sacred totem which is the clans
emblem. These rituals reinforce the groups solidarity and sense of
Some criticise Durkheims view that religion is unifying because it is
difficult to say that as in postmodern society there isn't one overarching
religion. However, there are civil religions such as remembrance Sunday
which Bellah says performs the same functions as one religion.
The essential functions of religion for Talcott Parsons are that it creates
and legitimates society's values as well as being the primary source of
meaning. These functions could be said to prevent social change. The fact
that it legitimates society's values stops individuals from questioning the
traditional ideas and therefore they will never change. Being the primary
source of meaning means that people turn to religion for answers, this
could be said to prevent social change because traditional religious
teachings are often quite old and rarely change.
In situations where the outcome is important but is uncontrollable and
therefore uncertain, the psychological functions that religion provides for
believers could give believers the sense of strength and/or courage to go
through with the action despite the outcome. In context, this could help
impede social change.
If applied to modern industrial countries Functionalism could be criticised.
This perspective fails to take into account that some people have no
Cheynee RobinsonFenton

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Structural Feminists regard religion as a patriarchal institution that reflects
and perpetuates the inequalities between men and women. They believe
that religious beliefs function as a patriarchal ideology that legitimates
female subordination. However, structural feminists emphasise that not all
religions are patriarchal. Linda Woodhead argues that there are ways in
which women use religion to gain greater freedom and respect, she refers
to these as `religious forms of feminism'.…read more

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In contrast to structural Marxism, Neo Marxists are interested in how the
ruling class maintain their control over society through the use of ideas as
opposed to just force. Gramsci uses the term hegemony to refer to the
way the ruling class use idea like religion to maintain control over society.
When hegemony is established, the ruling class can rely on popular
consent to their rule so there is less need for force.…read more

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Kautsky argues that Weber overestimates the role of ideas and factors in
bringing about capitalism. He argues that capitalism came before
Calvinism as opposed to following it.
Although all of the perspectives see religion as a conservative force there
is sufficient evidence to suggest that in some cases such as the Black civil
rights movement, religious ideas can also act as a force for social change.…read more


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