Religion and social change

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Religion as a conservative force

Religion is conservative because it defends traditional views. It upholds traditional beliefs about how society should be organised.

It's conservative because it functions to conserve/ preserve things as they are. It stabilises society and maintains the status quo. 

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Religion's conservative beliefs

Most religions have traditional conservative beliefs about moral issues. 

Many of them oppose changes that allow individuals more freedom in personal and sexual matters. (e.g. the catholic church forbids divorce and contraception, gay marriage and homosexuality) 

Most religions uphold family values and often favour a patriarchal domestic division of labour. E.g. the belief that the man should be the head of the family is embedded in the wedding ceremony. Wife promises to 'love, honour and obey' whilst men only had to 'love and honour' until 1996.

Traditional conservative values predominate non-Christian religions e.g. Hinduism endorses male domestic authority and practises arranged marraige. 

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Religion's conservative functions

Religion and consensus 

Functionalists see religion as a conservative force because it functions to maintain social stability and prevents society from disintegrating. It promotes social solidarity by creating a value consensus. Reducing the likelihood of society disintegrating through individuals pursuing their own selfish interests at the expense of others, and helps people cope with stress that would otherwise disrupt society.

Religion and capitalism 

Marx sees religion as a conservative force because it prevents social change, by legitimating/ disguising exploitation, it creates a false consciousness in the working class and prevents a revolution, therefore maintaining the stability of a capitalist society. 

Religion and patriarchy

Feminists see religion as a conservative force because it acts as an ideology that legitimates patriarchal power and maintains women's subordination in the family and society. 

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