Religion and social change- A* grade essay

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  • Created on: 18-05-13 10:36
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(a) Identify and briefly explain three reasons why the New Christian Right
might have failed to achieve its aims.
One reason could be because of their aim to take America `back to god'. They wish to
make abortion, homosexuality and divorce illegal, turning the clock back to a time
before the liberalisation of American culture and society began. `Bruce' suggested
taking America `back to god' failed because they were trying to force protestant
fundamentalist views on an American society that had mainly liberal and democratic
values. Another reason could be because this particular movement's religious belief
failed to be consistent with those of the wider society, something that the civil rights
movement achieved. The New Christian right therefore failed because they didn't
connect with mainstream beliefs about democracy, equality and religious freedom.
Also, numerous surveys showed that most Americans are comfortable with legalising
activities that they personally believe are immoral, such as abortion, homosexuality
and pornography, and are unwilling to accept other peoples definition of how they
should live their life's, which was another reason why the Christian Right failed to
achieve its aims, even if people agreed with the immorality of issues such as abortion.
(b) Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the contribution of
religion to social change.
Social change refers to any significant alteration over time in behaviour patterns and
cultural values and norms. It is debateable whether religion creates or inhabits social
change; functionalists and Marxists would argue that religion helps maintain stability
in our society but as item A suggests, "Sociologists have identified a range of
examples, taken from different societies and historical periods, which show that
religion can play an important part in social change".
As it states in item A, some sociologists recognize that religion can drive social
change, for example, Max Weber's study of the Protestant ethic and the Spirit of
capitalism. Weber argues that the religious beliefs of Calvinism (a form of
Protestantism) helped to bring about major social change- specifically, the emergence
of capitalism in Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Calvinists believed
that god had predetermined which souls would be saved and which would not, and
individuals could do nothing about this. They also believed in asceticism, that is,
self-discipline and self-denial which led them to wearing simple clothes and avoiding
excess in order to devote themselves to god and a life of prayer. Also, they saw work
as a "religious duty" in order to glorify god. Weber argues that these specific beliefs
led Calvinists to lead an ascetic lifestyle, excluding all luxury, working long hours and
practicing rigorous self-discipline. This subsequently improved their wealth and
success, and in doing so, people saw this almost as a `sign' from god about their
salvation. Weber argues that their self-discipline and hard work led to Calvinists
investing in businesses which grew and prospered, producing further profit to

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Weber views this as the very spirit of modern capitalism-where the object is
simply that of acquisition of more and more money. Therefore, arguing that religion
has been a major contribution to social change.
Weber has however been criticized on many grounds. Marxists argue that economic
and material factors were the real driving force of change, whereas Weber says that it
needed the beliefs and values of Calvinism to bring it into being.…read more

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It wasn't just enforcing a `religious law' on the
nation, but instead taking a Christian perspective and influencing equality, something
that was already in the thoughts of much of the public.
Liberation theology is another movement that is said to have contributed to social
change. The movement emerged in the Catholic Church in Latin America at the end of
the 1960s, with a strong commitment to the poor and opposition to military
dictatorships.…read more

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The New Christian Right is an example of where a religiously motivated movement
failed to contribute towards social change. They were a fundamentalist Protestant
group who aimed to take America `back to god' by making abortion, homosexuality
and divorce illegal. The New Christian Right also believed firmly in traditional family
and gender roles. Their support was very little indeed, gaining only 15% of the
populations vote at the most.…read more

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Using the example of the New
Christian Right to suggest how their fundamentalist approach alienated society. Bruce
suggests the difference came down to how the American civil rights movement was
constant with the values of America's wider population.
Overall, I believe it is important to recognize the difference between religion itself
and religiously motivated movements if we are to assess religions total contribution
towards social change.…read more



A great essay which can be used both to review structure required in order to achieve an A but also can be used to create a mind map on the topic of social change by identifying key theorists, terminology. 

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