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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

The specification:

The relationship between religious beliefs and social change and stability

Functionalism: conservative force, inhibition of change, collective conscience, Durkheim and
totemism, anomie; civil religions
Marxism: religion as ideology, legitimating social inequality, disguising exploitation etc
Weber: religion as a force for social change: theodicy's,…

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

1 Read Item A below and answer parts (a) and (b) that follow.

Item A

(a) (i) Identify and briefly explain two reasons why women seem to have a higher
Participation rate in religion than that of men (6 marks)

(ii) Identify and briefly explain…

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

Substantive definitions

These focus on the content or substance of religious belief, such as belief in God or the supernatural. For
example, Max Weber (1905) defines religion as belief in a superior supernatural power that is above nature
and cannot be explained scientifically. Substantive…

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

The relationship between religious beliefs and social change
and stability

The Big Picture

Sociological theories of religion are mainly concerned with religion's role for individuals and society. These
theories can be broadly divided into two main debates:

1. Religion acting as a conservative force. Seeing…

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

However, while it is possible to see a common religion bringing people together, establishing a value consensus
and integrating small-scale communities, it is hard to see how it can perform this role in contemporary societies,
where there is a wide diversity of different beliefs and…

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

so deeply ingrained through socialization that it may have an effect on the everyday behaviour of believers
and non-believers alike.

For example, if the social rules about killing, stealing and adultery are broken, most individuals will
experience a guilty conscience about doing something wrong, and…

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

unchangeable and inevitable.

Marx thought religion did two main, interrelated things:

It acted as the `opium of the people', cushioning the pain of oppression and exploitation in unequal

It legitimized and maintained the power of the ruling class.

Religion as the `opium of the…

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

2. Islam, particularly Islamic fundamentalism, is often a vehicle for resisting the
global influence of Western cultural imperialism, fighting the Americanization of the world's culture, and
resisting the dominance of Western corporations in the world economy.

3. In Iran, Islam produced revolutionary change, with a…

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

Overall evaluation of the feminist approach
Linda Woodhead (2002) criticises feminist explanations that simply equate religion with patriarchy and the
oppression of women. While accepting that much traditional religion is patriarchal, she emphasises that this
is not true of all religion. She argues that there…

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SCLY 3 Beliefs in Society

Calvinists believed in predestination, i.e. that they were chosen by God for salvation. They were taught to
believe that righteous living was all-important and that their reward for sticking to such religious principles
would be economic success.

Calvinism encouraged values such as self-discipline, hard work,…





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