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The role of theodicies..

·      Berger uses the metaphor of a ‘sacred canopy’ to refer to the different religious theodicies that enable people to make sense of, and come to terms with, the world. An example of religious theodicies is reincarnation.

Theodicies - attempt to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil.

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Weber - The Protestant ethic and the spirit of cap

·      Calvinists were a Protestant group who believed in predestination i.e. your destiny or fate was fixed in advance- you were either damned or saved. However, it was believed that any form of social activity was of religious significance: material success that arose from hard work would demonstrate God’s favour and, therefore a place in heaven.

·      Weber argues that these ideas helped initiate economic development and capitalism. The obsessive work ethic and self-discipline, inspired by a desire to serve God, meant that the Calvinists reinvested, rather than spent, their profits. Such attitudes were ideal for the development of capitalism.

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The influence of religious leadership on social ch

According to Weber, religious and other authority takes one of three forms:

1.   Charismatic-People obey a religious leader because of their personal qualities. Well known charismatic leaders include Jesus and Hitler.

2.   Traditional- Those who exercise authority do so because they continue a tradition and support the preservation and continuation of existing values and social ties. Those in authority give orders because the office they fill gives them the right to.

3.   Legal-Rational – This type of authority is not based on the personal qualities of the individual but on laws and regulations. Orders are only to be obeyed if they are relevant to the situation in which they are given.

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Criticisms of Weber

·      Some countries with large Calvinist populations, e.g. Sweden, did not industrialise. However, as Marshall points out, Weber did not claim that Calvinism caused capitalism; he only suggested that it was a major contributor to a climate of change.

·      Some commentators have suggested that slavery, colonialism and piracy were more important that Calvinist beliefs in accumulating the capital required for industrialisation.

·      Marxists are also critical because Capitalism predates Calvinism. He argued that early capitalists were attracted to Calvinism because it made their interests appear legitimate. (Kautsky, 1953)

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Neo-Marxist views on religion

·      Neo- Marxists argue that ruling-class domination is actually more effective if its members are not directly involved in these cultural institutions. This is because it will then appear that the media and so on are independent when, in fact, the economic power of the bourgeoisie means that no matter who fills particular roles in these institutions, they are still under ruling-class control. Neo- Marxists call this relative autonomy.

·      Gramsci argued that religious beliefs and practices could develop that would support and guide challenges to the ruling class, because the church was not directly under their control. Members of the working class could challenge the dominant class through the distribution of more radical ideas.

·      Maduro also argued for the relative autonomy of religion, suggesting that in situations where there is no other outlet for grievances, such as Latin America, the clergy can provide guidance for the oppressed in their struggle with dominant groups.

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Beliefs - Religions that emphasise strong moral codes are more likely to produce members who will be critical of and challenge social injustice e.g. Reverend Martin Luther King. Religious beliefs that focus on this world will have more potential to influence it than those that focus on spiritual and other-worldly matters.
Christianity and Hinduism, therefore, have more revolutionary potential that, for example, Buddhism, which focuses on improvement of the self rather than society.

Culture -  Where religion is central to the culture of a society, then anyone wishing to change that society is more likely to use religion to help them bring about that change. In India, for example, Gandhi used the Hindu concept of sarvodaya (welfare for all) to attack British colonial rule, inspiring rural peasants and the urban poor to turn against the British.

Social location -   Where a religious organisation plays a major role in political or economic life, there is wide scope for it to influence social change. In situations where the clergy comes from and remain in close contact with their communities, they are more able to mobilise them against negatively perceived outside influences.

Religion and radical change - In some Central and South American countries, such as Chile, where the police and military have been used to crush opposition, religion has become the only remaining outlet for dissent. This fusion of Christianity and Marxism is known as ‘liberation theology’.
0ne other aspect of this discussion involves the reactionary nature of some religions – that is, their desire to turn the clock back to a time when society and its moral order were more in line with their religious ideals. Islamic fundamentalists illustrate this position well.
For Islamic fundamentalists, religion provides the basis for resistance to the process of Westernisation. Iran and Afghanistan are recent examples, but this is not a new phenomenon. In Egypt, the Moslem Brotherhood played an important part in the revolt of Hosni Mubarak back in 2011.

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