religion and social change

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religion as change inhibiting

It is a conservative force- dose not encourage social change


  • Durkheim: saw religion as functioning to reinforce S/S- though collective worship/ helped produce a V/C and A C/C
  • Malinowski: helped people cope with tension/ life crises: rituals help reinforce C/V this helps to maintain the S/q 
  • Parsons:  saw religion as providing a V/C helping to maintain S/O though dealing with stress/ uncertainly- provide meaning/ answering fundamental questions   

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functionalism continued

Bellah: C/R unites people and gives them an identity (US) helps them feel integrated- don’t challenge society- inhibiting social change   


Functionalism summary:

Because religion functions to reinforce collective values, to unite people and to help them adjust to difficulties- works to maintain the existing social system


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Religion as a conservative force: Feminist’s religion is an ideological force which serves to perpetuate patriarchy.  

Religion as a force for social change : religion can be liberating for women e.g. Woodhead points out that women use religion to gain greater freedom and respect.

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traditional marxism CONSERVATIVE FORCE

Religion part of the SUPPER STRUCTURE – reflects and legitimates the social structures

Religion/ instrument of oppression and it cushions the effect of oppression

Religion is the opium of the people

It provides hope while hiding the real source of inequality  

Present s the world as god given 

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NEO marxism can encourage social change

Weber: Calvinists beliefs ensured that the right attitudes and values were in place for capitalism to prosper

Maduro shows how religion may have a degree of independence from the economic base and become a source of radical change e.g. liberation theology 

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The growth of religious fundamentalism could also be seen as an agent for change – e.g. the Taliban -  they want to return to a more strict following of traditional religious beliefs.

It has become popular as a response to a rapidly changing world

It is a problem in society as Fundamentalists may value their beliefs above tolerance of others

An example of recant fundamentalism is malala yousafzai

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Religion as change promoting and change inhibiting

The evidence so far suggests that there have been a number of times when religion promotes change and inhibits change.

e.g The peasant revolt

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McGuire argues that whether religion is a conservative force or not, depends on 5 factors:

  1. Charismatic leaders
  2. Beliefs and practices
  3. Relationship to society
  4. Religious organisation
  5. Alternative avenues to change
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