Everything you need to know for religion.

Religion as a conservative force

Functionalism, Feminism and Marxism all view religion as a force in which conservative in nature maintains the social order in society.

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Religion as a force for change

Weber advocates that religion acts to change society.

Weber believed that religion had initiated the social and economic conditions from which capitalism emerged especially where Calvinism was strong:

Calvinists believe in predestination already chosen by God-this would be indicated if they were seen as economically successful in society.

Calvinism encouraged hard work, self discipline and thrift. = Protestant Work Ethic where these ideals led to accumulation of capital needed by capitalism to flourish.

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Functionalist View

Functionalists state that religion preserves the status quo, it binds people together and promotes social control.

Durkheim said that there were 5 functions of religion (CASES) these were:

Civil Religion- the idea of religion as fundamental to the state, for example the Queen as head of state, most aspects of Islam countries shaped by religion.

Preventing anomie-(prevents lack of social norms)

Socialisation- setting moral codes for society which act to control behaviour

Events- coming to terms with life changing events, religion acts to deal with 'rites of passage' and through ceremony acts to deal with the stresses of these difficult times

Social Integration- so people feel part of a community, bringing a society together.

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Criticism of Functionalism

  • How can religion act to promote normality, socially integrate, etc if the majority of people dont attend church.
  • Little evidence, that events such as Diana's funeral, actually do bring people together.
  • Religion can be dysfunctional, for example Northen Ireland, War on terror between fundamentalist Muslim Al Qaeda and the west.
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Civil Religion

Robert Bellah's view of civil religion in the USA is the idea of worshipping all that is 'American'

Funeral of Princess Diana=example of religion coming together with ceremonial trappings of the state plus the outpouring of collective grief

Malinowski-functions of 'rites of passage' ceremonies

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Marxist View

Religion is a conservative force, it maintains, legitimises and reproduces class inequality. religion severs to reflect ruling class ideas.

The key ideas are:

  • Religion transmits the idea that the social-economic hierachy in society is God given.
  • Social inequalities explained in supernatural terms, poor people are poor because they are sinful.
  • Poverty and suffering are seen as virtue which will be rewarded in the next life.

Marxist believe religion creates fatalistic followers who have ni intrest in changing society.-Hence religion is a conservative force.

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Marxist View

Marx called religion 'the opium of the people' where the working class are lulled into a state of 'false class consciousness'-the working class are not aware of the extent of their explotation.

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Criticism of Marxism

Marxists fail to acknowledge secularisation-the fact is less than 10% attend church.

There are some religious movements which have brought about social change. e.g. Martin Luther-Kings speech

Religion can be only agency for change for oppressed groups who have no voice through politics, trade unions, etc.

Maduro-religions can act as agency for social change especially if they have charismatic leader.

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Criticism of Weber

Calvinists are againest greed

Not all Calvinists countries industrialised.

Other more important influences on capitalism= Slavery and colonialism.

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Expressing/Measuring Religiosity

Affiliation to a religion-those who positively identify themselves with belonging to a church community.

Belief-People who say they believe in God.

Attendance-seeing how many people attend religious services.

Membership of a Church-consider themselves to be members of a religious organisation

Practice-people may pray, how are decisions or behaviour affected by religion


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Religious Organisations

Church-Formal, hierarchical with a bureaucracy, worship is formal with predictable rituals

Sect-Usually led by a charismatic leader, believe that they are the 'chosen ones', insular in one nature and tend to repress individuality, tend to surrender personal responsibility, members are disillusioned with established religion.

Cult-tolerate others belief, people who join are 'customers rather than disciples', have less day to day involvement compared to sects

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New Religious Movements

World rejecting NRMs-Sees the world as corrupt an want to either transform the world or remove themselves completely.

World Affirming NRMs-accept the wider world, they focus on self improvement.

World Accommodating NRM- they neither reject or accept wider society, on margins of established churches (born again fundamentalist christian groups

New age movements (NAM)-oppose traditional, scientific approach, usually in favour of environmentalism, vegetarianism, also links to paganism and Wicca.

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Why join sects?

Disillusioned with established churches, turned off by bureaucracy, finds them more spontaneous, less ritualistic and the worship is more attractive

Experiencing types of deprivation:

1) Social deprivation-a lack of power and status-this is gained by satisfying goals within the sect.

2) Organismic deprivation- Suffer physical and mental health problems, hoped to be healed by sect.

3) Ethical deprivation-followers perceive the world in moral decline, joining sects will cut them off from society.

4)Psychic-Want more inner spirtual fulfillment, want more than capitalism can offer= especially attractive to MC

The future of sects is unsure as they may die out with a charismatic leader, may flourish and some are self destructive (suicide sects)

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Gender and religion

In ancient history, women are seen as goddess type figures in religion, linked to the wonders of nature and fertility.

Armstrong-With war and invasion, came the need for men to justify their patriarchal behaviour=one male god.

Women attend church more than men and are also more religious than men,
Some sociologists say that it could be linked to age, or maybe linked to women compensating for subordinate position in a patriarchy. In Islam there is an assumption that Islam oppresses women

Miller and Hoffman-Women socialised to be more obedient, passive as religions require, women traditionally work less and have more time for religious than men

Greeley-once women have their own family they take on more caring role thus linked to the fact that women are more religious

Bird-Sexuality is seen as very important in religion

Anwar and Butler found that Muslim women play a more active rile rather than passive in religion

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Gender and religion (2)

Women play a greater role in NRM. Bird suggests that NRMs appeal to women because they tend to emphasis healing, co-operation, spirituality and caring. women are also more likely to experience social and physical deprivation.

Glock and stark states that women are more likely yo experience economic deprivation, social deprivation, organismic deprivation and are more likely to find answers in NRMs.

Feminism and religion-women are not treated as equals in religion. De Beauvoir said that religion is used by men to control women, it acts as a compensation for women. El Sadawi-Muslim feminists, states that religion is patriarchal, which led to monotheism and has subsequently led to men abusing their power. Badawi and Ahmed argue the opposite the Islam can be positive for women.

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Ethnicity and Religion

Ethnic minority groups are more religious than majority of the population-Madood & Berthold

Ethnic minority's are more likely yo turn to religion where the culture is alien or racist. Davie-this idea is especially strong amongst Asians. Johal states that religion functions to maintain cultural identity. Bird said that maintaining cultural identity can also resist assimilation in to host country

Even 2nd and 3rd generation Asians stick to their religion and teachings e.g. arranged marriages, diet, dress, behaviour and worship.-Jacobson

Afro-Caribbean identity is more shaped by colour than religion but there is a propensity for Afro Caribbeans to follow Pentecostalism-Hennels The Marxists view is that focusing on religion diverts from real causes of Afro-Caribbean deprivation which is the racist capitalist system

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Secularisation debate

Evidence for secularisation:

1) Statistics-1997 only 8.2% of the people attended church

2) Religion is replaced by rational thinking, science more likely to provide answers today therefore people disenchanted with religion.

3) Disengagement of church from society, religion now marginal, religion not at the center of politics today as it was in past; media is now more influential. Church now only for 'hatching matching and dispatching'

4) Religious pluralism-existence of many NRMs=evidence of seculriastion. Often NRM are short lived and society now has more 'spirtual shoppers'

Wilson argues that secularisation is happening

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Criticism of Wilsons view on secularisation

1) Statistics in the past are not always reliable, attendance at church does not always indicate degree of religiosity, rising numbers amongst NRM and other religions.

2) People still want to believe in an element of the supernatural, luck, fate, for example 70% of UK population, say that they believe in God.

3) Religion is still involved in education and welfare, media still interested in religious issues, national events still have link with religion e.g. Diana's funeral

4) A different view of on NRM's is that it shows a reverse in secularisation and instead indicates a 'religious rivival'-Greely and Nelson

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