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Analyse and Evaluate the relationships between religion and social change.

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Introduction

Analyse and Evaluate the relationships between religion and social change. This essay looks at the connection between religion and social change in society and how one encourages or inhibits the other. There are different views in society whether social change should change forwards or backwards, these views are based on Marxist, Feminist, functionalist and Fundamentalist. Marxist looks at capitalism within the society, meaning how society is made up of economic groups that can dominant each other with positive and negative effects. Marxist would want society to change forwards as it would lead to a fairer society as religion often legitimates the position of the ruling class for example monarchs in medieval Europe ruled by divine right. According to Marxist religion justifies the dominance of the ruling class and provides consultation for the subject class. Feminist see religion as a conservative force, feminist have seen it as maintaining patriarchy ( the male domination of women) for example; Popes have always been known as men and not women. Feminist might want gender equality rather then male dominance. Religious Fundamentalist want to return to an older society, they see its followers as a return to the basics or fundamentals of religion. Fundamentalist rejects many of the changes in modern society. Functionalist sees religion as a conservative force as it reinforces value consensus, it strengthens social solidarity and it deals with the life crises which threaten to disrupt society. ...read more.

Middle

The idea that religion is the worship of society has been criticised - as an argument it is difficult to substantiate other than through some idea of false consciousness since people clearly believe they are worshipping God. Also, the idea depends on a particular conception of worship; collective, and a particular definition of religion - inclusive. Marxists, would argue that religion, far from being an instrument of social solidarity, is an instrument of social control and exploitation. Clearly, the functionalist position is weak on the dysfunctional aspects of religion, for example, societies with more than one faith, for example; Northern Ireland, Lebanon. Marxist theory starts from the belief that God is made by humans, originally used by earlier societies to explain the world, and gradually becoming an aspect in the legitimation of the status quo. Religion involves the distortion of 'reality', it is ideological. It provides the basis of ruling class ideology and false consciousness. Marx then argued that in communist society religion will disappear since the conditions which produce religion will have disappeared. Religion acts as an opiate (a drug) in that it does not solve any problems that people may have but merely dulls the pain, and therefore, argued Marx, most religious movements originate in the oppressed classes. Some religions make a virtue of suffering produced by oppression. The hope of supernatural intervention. Jehovah's Witnesses, Millenarian movements. Expectation of the future makes the present bearable, moreover they don't have to get off their backsides and change things because god will do it for them. ...read more.

Conclusion

Religious institutions with a strong centralised authority will have more power to affect stability or change. Maguire has outlined factors which influence whether religion acts a force for stability or change, however she does not indicate why the same religion the same beliefs, the same relationship and same culture and the same social location and internal organisation sometimes promotes change and sometimes inhibits change. There is evidence that it can be both, it depends on the circumstances. Thompson 1986, outlines a range of factors affecting the relationship between religion and social change; Charismatic leaders, beliefs and practices, relationship to society. The social status of religious membership, the presence of alternative avenues to change and organisational structure. Thompson believes that the main distinction of beliefs and practices is between this worldly and other worldly beliefs. Thompson is concerned with the extent to which the church is linked to the state. The closer the links the more likely it is that a church will support the state. Additionally, of course within the same society over a period of time the relationship between church and state may differ, and therefore the pressures for change or continuity. Social status of religious membership is linked to the last point that there is tendency for established churches to draw their membership from upper status groups while sectarian movements tend to attract less privileged groups. Overall there is no conclusion on the relationship between religion and social change. Religion both encourages and inhibits social change depending on which view you look at it. By Shireen Prewett ...read more.

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