Social change - Religion as a conservative force
Functionalism: Durkheim believes that one of religions major functions is to socialise society’s members into the ‘collective conscience’. Durkheim also believes that religion strengthens social solidarity. He emphasizes the importance of collective worship, together its members express their faith in common values and beliefs. This means that societies members are not going to want to change if they have shared norms and values and are in social stability. Therefore religion inhibits social change.
Marxism: Opium of the poeple, social control and making the poor feel they will be rewarded for their oppression is all just an illusion that will make the exploited members of society (working class) feel that there is no need for change as they believe thay will be rewarded for it in the future.
Feminism: Male dominance and patriarchy justifys female oppression and disceaves them into thinking that everything's alright.
Social change - Religion causing change
Weber: Argued that in some cases religion can cause social change, he examined the Calvinist teachings of Calvin and found that believers were required to pursue an intensely active life of labour. He argued that work was a calling and God was most effectively worshipped through a disciplined life of work and denial of indulgence, anything that detracted from work was viewed as evil and over socialising or sleeping was regarded as sins. Weber argues that these teachings had a significant consequence for the capitalist system as it encouraged a rational calculating, efficient, highly committed approach to work which provided capitalism with the foundations to grow.
Tawney: Disagrees with Weber and suggests that it was a technological change not religious ideas that bought about capitalism.
Kautsky: Disagrees with Weber and believes as a Marxist that it was economic factors that caused capitalism.
Nelson: Points to a number of cases where religion has undermined or promoted social change. In Northern Ireland, Roman Catholicism has long been associated with Irish Republicanism; that is the desire to end British rule. In America Martin Luther King lead the role of establishing civil rights to reduce racial discrimination.
McGuire: Argues the ability for religion to cause change depends on certain factors such as: the beliefs of a particular religion, the culture of the society in which the religion exists, the social location of the religion.
Social change - Changes in society causes changes
Most sociologists agree that changes in society leads to changes in religion.
Parsons: believed that as society developed religion lost some of its functions, that is the process of ‘structural differentiation’ (when an institution loses some of its functions).
Marx: believed that a change in the economic base would lead to a change in the superstructure.
Social change - Regressive change
Fundamentalism: Involves the reassertion of traditional moral and religious values against changes that have taken place. If Fundamentalists are successful they change society by reversing innovations that have taken place. So rather that inhibiting social change, religion supports the social change but it is a regressive ‘conservative’ change to traditional values. An example of this is the Taliban regime of Afghanistan.