Belief in society: Is religion a source of conflict or harmony



Marxists believe that religion is a source of conflict – an ideological tool that channels ruling class ideology that the poor should accept their position in society and not attempt to change it. Religion tells us that to cause conflict in society is a sin and punishable in the afterlife; it also tells us that riches await us in heaven and that we will be rewarded for compliance.  

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Feminists see religion as a source of conflict between men and women. Men are the Gods, prophets and preachers and oppress women through threat of divine punishment. This is supported by the fact that there are more female worshippers than male which suggests that they are more vulnerable to control. Not all women see religion in this light, though and there are many Muslim women who see their faith as their weapon of destruction against a patriarchal culture.

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World rejecting NRMs or sects

World rejecting NRM’s or sects are a source of conflict between themselves and the rest of society. They withdraw into their own communities and Moonies, for example, forbid contact with previous friends and family members who are not Moonies too. Once in their communities, however, there is little day to day conflict between them and the rest of society and the Amish, for example, invite members of the public to visit and keep their gates open.

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Many fundamentalists are in conflict with society’s norms and values too. 9/11 was an attack by Islamic fundamentalists who disagreed with Western secular values dominating the Middle East. Many fundamentalist regimes, however, are trying to bring about a new consensus based on old traditional values.

 Consensus refers to an agreement between people whereby everyone can live in harmony with one another. They see religion as reinforcing society’s norms and values and pulling people together into a shared identity. 

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Postmodernism claims that religion is a meta-narrative and that postmodern society rejects meta-narratives.  Postmodern sociologists argue that there are no definitive shared norms and values anymore, so with increased secularisation there is a decrease in the conflict caused by religious beliefs.  In addition, postmodernists point to the increase in NAM’s. NAM’s make little demands of people and encourage individuals to find the spiritual beliefs that are beneficial to themselves.  This focus on individual fulfilment moves away from the constraints of traditional belief systems and encourages individuals to live side by side, in harmony, respecting others free will to define and shape their individual beliefs. There is no room for conflict, just a mutual respect for the range of choices available in postmodern society.


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Any Question that links to ‘conflict and harmony’ is based on the appropriate theoretical views. 

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