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Outline the view that Religion as a conservative force
Religion can be seen as a conservative force in two different ways,
1. It upholds traditional beliefs about how society should be organised and defends traditional
customs. Most religions have traditional beliefs about moral issues and oppose changes that
will allow more freedom in more sexual and personal matters. Functions to conserve or
preserve things, stabilises society and maintains the status quo.
Functionalists see religion as a conservative force as it maintains social stability and prevents it from
disintegrating. It does this by promoting social stability and creating a value consensus because if
individuals were to pursue their own selfish interests this will be at the expense of others. Religion
also allows individuals to deal with stress that will otherwise disrupt the life of society.
The conflict theories see religion as an ideology that supports the existing structure and acts as a
means of social control. Marx sees it as a conservative ideology preventing social change. It
legitimates inequality by creating a false consciousness and preventing revolution, therefore
maintaining the stability of a capitalist society. Feminists see it as a conservative ideology and
preventing social change by legitimising inequality between the sexes. It maintains the stability of a
patriarchal society in the family and wider society.
2. Religion as a force of change
Weber's 1905 study of Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Calvinism helped bring about
social change, especially the emergence of modern capitalism. Weber notes past societies had
capitalism in the form of greed for wealth, which was spent on luxury consumption. Modern
capitalism based on rational pursuit of profit for its own sake, rather than for its consumption - spirit
·Predestination - God has already elected who would be saved at birth and there is nothing to do to
change this like the Catholic's believe, e.g. giving to the poor.
·Divine transcendence - God was so far beyond this world and greater than any mortal that no one
could know the will of God other than what he had said in the bible. Due to predestination, Weber
argued this caused a salvation panic whereby you didn't know if you're saved or not and there was
nothing you could do to find out.
·Asceticism - This refers to abstinence, self-denial and self-discipline to devote fully God and a life of
·The idea of vocation or calling - Other worldly asceticism was said to be renouncing everyday life to
join a convert or monastery as you believed you had a calling to serve God. Calvinism introduced this
worldly asceticism where no one knows the plan of God for humanity, so they were to put on earth
to glorify God's name by our work. So methodical work done in an occupation, not in a monastery and
this did not guarantee salvation but was seen as a religious duty.
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Therefore, Calvinists led an ascetic lifestyle shunning all luxuries and working long hours. This had two
·Their wealth and success performed a psychological function which allowed them to cope with their
salvation panic. As they grew wealthier it made them think this was a sign of God's favour and their
·Driven by their work ethic they accumulated wealth by the most efficient and rational means.…read more