“Religion can be both a conservative force and an initiator of social change” to what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view?

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"Religion can be both a conservative force and an initiator of social change" to what extent do
sociological arguments and evidence support this view?
Sociologists such as Durkheim and Marx have argued that religion is a conservative force in the sense
that it maintains the status quo, disagreeing with sociologists such as Weber and Gramsci who say it is
a more radical force and prompts change, and even some fundamentalist groups have gotten
involved to argue that religion is conservative in the sense that it keeps tradition and the old ways.
Even feminists such as De Beauvoir have had a say in this matter.
Functionalists and Marxists have the general consensus that religion maintains the status quo within
society rather than it causing social change. They believe that religion acts as a conservative force
preventing social change. However, if any change happens it is due to the changes in society that
shape religion. Religion as a conservative force can be defined in two ways; the first way of defining
religion as a conservative force is to refer to religion as preventing change and maintaining the status
quo. The functionalist perspective and Marxists perspective both provide arguments to support this
definition of religion as a conservative force.
Durkheim supports the idea that religion is a conservative force with his idea of a collective
conscience, which is the shared morals and beliefs uniting society. Durkheim believed that "religion
promotes social solidarity." his example of religion acting as a conservative force came from
totemism within the Arunta tribe, who he described as a clan, and discovered that they would
worship the totems. He said this was like the clan was worshiping society but they didn't realise they
were doing it. He saw this as being a conservative force because it generates a feeling of awe and
amazement throughout the clan, which keeps the status quo because according to Durkheim that is
what religion does. However we can criticise Durkheim by saying that his theories can only apply to
small societies that are monotheistic because many societies today are polytheistic and much larger,
so there is more chance of conflict within the society between the different religions. We can also
say that there isn't really a distinctive line between the sacred and profane like Durkheim says there
is because many clans will worship the same totem.
Another key idea by Malinowski also supports the argument that religion acts as a conservative force
is how religion supports society through times of life crisis. Religion helps people cope during times
of crisis such as death or puberty by having rituals to surround these events to help people cope,
which helps prevent social change, by telling people how they should be dealing and coping with
such events in life, for example when a key figurehead in the world dies, the media in a way tell us
how we should be feeling towards that dead, when in reality some people may not have found that
person to be important to them. We can criticise Malinowski and say that does religion actually help
us in these times of crisis, for example in a Greek Orthodox funeral it is traditional for the priest to
say to the congregation that the person has died for their sins, which i know in my opinion did not
help me, in fact it made matters worse, but then this does also show how it is trying to maintain the
status quo, because the priest would have said that to the person if they were alive anyway, which
backs up Malinowski's view of religion preventing social change.
Marxist sociologists also share the same view as the functionalists but have some other ideas as to
why it is a conservative force and prevents social change. They believe it comes through a false class
consciousness. Marx argues that religion creates a false class consciousness by controlling the way
people think and limiting the working classes ability to see their real situation, which in turn prevents
social change. Marx said that religion was the 'Opium of the people', which dulls the pain of

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oppression to prevent social change by giving them that false class consciousness. He also sees
religion as justifies social inequality between the ruling and working class. This can be seen in the
hymn 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' which says "the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly, to order his estate".…read more

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because of King we no longer have legal segregation, even though we know that today some
people are not happy about what came along with the revolution and all of the new laws. We can
criticise Maduro and say that although his ideas of Liberation theory helped to bring democracy and
change it still didn't threaten capitalism in the way he intended it to, it never made it unstable.…read more

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thought there are two sides to every story and we can argue that no it does not change things and it
keeps things the same as they have always been that is only if we can see it from the view point of
the Marxists, Functionalists and Feminists, we can say that the fundamentalists have this view point
that religion keeps the traditions but at the same time they want to change what has happened
within society and turn back time to a more…read more



An excellent essay which can be used in order to identify structure for those struggling with essay writing by identifying the key components of the essay such as key theorists, key terminology, points supporting the questions and the relevant counter arguments.

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