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Assess The View That Religion Inhibits Social Change

1217 words - 5 pages

Assess the view that religion inhibits social change (33 marks)

The views as to whether sociologists believe that religion does or doesn’t inhibit social change will be discussed throughout this essay. Whereas some sociologists, such as Marxists and Functionalists, believe that religion acts as a conservative force, thus inhibiting social change whether it be positive or negative, however, others believe that religion is a radical force and a major contributor to social change.

Firstly, functionalists believe that religion socialises its members through promoting shared norms, values and morals that prevent change as it promotes integrity and social solidarity. Functionalists, such ...view middle of the document...

Bellah found this evident in America where the concept of civil religion was first developed, also known as ‘Americanism’. Bellah found that whilst traditional religion binds communities, civil religion in America acts as a unifying force. With America being evidently made up of immigrants and a wide variety of different cultural and religious traditions, their faith in Americanism enables a collective worship and allows individuals to express their shared values and strengthens group unity, therefore justifying that religion could be seen as a conservative force.

However, there are others that are critical of the functionalist perspective on religion inhibiting social change. This accounts for Durkheim’s idea of religion allowing a collective conscience where people come together to worship what they believe to be a religion, like his study of totemism and the aboriginal tribes, his evidence was flawed and didn’t account for a wider society and with contemporary society being more culturally diverse, it’s difficult to see how Durkheim’s analysis can be applied to all socities.

In addition, Marxists shared similar views with Functionalists on whether or not religion inhibits social change. For example, Karl Marx views religion as a conservative force like functionalists, however, he believes that it has become a conservative force through legitimating exploitation and inequality therefore creating a false class consciousness within the working class. Marx believes that religion serves as a means of controlling the subject population through the promotion of the idea that the existing hierarchy is natural and unchangeable. He also points out that these ideas promote that there is no point in changing society now. Because religion mainly targets the working class, they are easily influenced and with the religious ideologies being forced onto them as they believe they will be rewarded in heaven if they do not question their position is a way that religion inhibits social change, by keeping the working class in their place.

Moreover, Halevy’s study on the Methodist religion supports the Marxist view of religion. Halevy argued that Methodist religion played a key role in preventing working-class revolution in 19th century Britain. The working class expressed their dissatisfaction with the church by deserting it to join the Methodist movement. Halevy claimed that Methodism distracted the proletariat from their class grievances by encouraging them in spirituality rather than revolution. This therefore, stopped a major social upheaval and inhibited social change.

Another example of religion inhibiting social change can be seen in America where religion was used to support dominant groups. It was suggested that modern protestant fundamentalist religions in America support right-wing conservative values. They often suggest that wealth and prosperity are an indication of being in...

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