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Assess the view that religion was once mainly a conservative force but today is more of a force for social change.

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Introduction

Assess the view that religion was once mainly a conservative force but today is more of a force for social change. In the past religion's role as a conservative force was clearly shown by Kings and Queens ruling my divine right in medieval Europe, the Indian caste system and Egyptian pharaohs who were considered both God and King. Feminists and Marxists agree that religion is a conditioning device which oppresses the people, diluting the demand for social change in order to protect the interests of men and the ruling classes respectively. This is partially supported by Functionalist theorists such as Durkheim, who expressed the belief that religion provides social cement, reinforcing traditional beliefs chosen by a religious moral code such as the 10 Commandments for Christianity, for the good of society. However, there are numerous examples of where religion has acted as a force for change, such as the 9/11 bombing, the war in Ghaza and the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and, more positively, the actions of religious leaders such as Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero. ...read more.

Middle

This reduces social mobility and justifies social order. The idea that religion defends Bourgeoisie interests at the expense of other social groups is supported by Steve Bruce, who claimed that the 'Christian New Right' in America support the Republican party which promotes capitalist values such as less welfare spending, less government interference and fewer restraints on free enterprise. Similarly, Feminist theory considers religion to be a conservative force protecting the interests of men. Sociologist Saadawi states that men distort religion to save their own interests and oppress women, a view supported by Simone de Beauvoir who described religion as an instrument of deception used by men to oppress women. This is support by the fact that Fundamentalist groups in Iran, Israel and Afghanistan ruthlessly conserve or reinstate women's traditional positions. This view would however be challenged by Neo-Marxists such as Otto Maduro, who expressed the belief that it was possible for the church to reform if the oppressed took their discontent to the clergy members. ...read more.

Conclusion

Conversely, Liberation Theologists would argue that this is not particularly beneficial, because in order for the poor to be free from poverty and oppression they must do this themselves, rather than being passive recipients of aid from the wealthy. Both in the past and today, there are numerous examples of where religion has acted as a force for change, for example, Martin Luther King achieving equality for blacks, and as a conservative force, for instance, the support by the Christian New Right for the Republican Party, and even both, such as Islamic Fundamentalist Movements. Overall, as society has become more secular religion has been less able to act as a force for either, because as a result of differentiation the church has lost a great deal of its influence. In societies which have remained theocratic or are more traditional than Western countries, religion has remained oppressive, as shown by the lack of women's rights in Eastern Muslim countries. There is no evidence that the role of religion has changed, or that it has transformed from a conservative force to one actively promoting social change. ?? ?? ?? ?? Marilyn Wilkinson ...read more.

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