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Evaluate the view that religion acts as a conservative force in modern society

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Evaluate the view that religion acts as a conservative force in modern society Functionalists and Marxists do not agree that religion causes a change within society. A conservative force means that religion prevents change within modern society. Feminists believe that religion doesn't act as a conservative force as it has helped to bring some changes within modern society, for example equal rights for women. Weber believes that religion is the force for change within society. Although these views are 'out of date' they still provide an understanding for society which helps to understand why some views agree with the view that religion acts as a conservation force on modern society. The main contributor to the Functionalist view of religion was Durkheim. Religion is seen as performing 5 key functions in society. Firstly, the function of social integration, i.e. making people feel part of the society to which they belong. It is also seen as strengthening collective values and moral codes and is seen as contributing to the development of the collective conscience. Religion is seen as helping people through life crises such as bereavement. Rituals such as marriage ceremonies are said to help people with social change. Finally, religion is seen as helping people because it explains the unexplainable. Durkheim studied Australian Aborigines to illustrate the way in which religion performs these functions, especially strengthening collective values. ...read more.


4. This is achieved through the ideological powers of religion - to condition people into acceptance and passivity. Karl Marx said that 'Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world...It is the opium of the people.' He argued that the capitalist system alienates and exploits people and that religion, rather than challenging the capitalist system, allow people to escape within their own beliefs. Most religions believe that if they suffer in this world their reward will come in the next. Religion can be seen as a method of social control where people accept rather than challenge the status quo. Marxists argue that religion is an ideology i.e. a system of thoughts and ideas that works in the interest of those in power. Marxists believe that religion alone cannot bring about social change. Neo-Marxists fundamentally agree with Marx's views on the role of religion in a Capitalist society i.e. that it is predominantly a tool of oppression used to keep the working-class in its place. However, they argue that in certain circumstances religion can change and become independent from the economic base and thus ruling-class domination. They argue that religion can actually be a tool of liberation, hence the term liberation theory. It can be used as an organising vehicle to challenge and possibly overthrow ruling class domination. ...read more.


Most religions stress a subordinate position for women in society, with very few exceptions, and it could be argued that this supports Capitalism's need for a 'reserve army of labour' etc. Marxists-Feminists would generally suggest that women couldn't become truly liberated until the Capitalist system. A number of radical feminists argue that until about 4000 years ago images of women as goddesses were widespread, based on archaeological evidence. Often people worshipped nature and women were seen as closer to nature because of their childbearing role. Armstrong argues that the invasion of these prehistoric societies by more male dominated cultures from the Northern hemisphere led to more monotheism and the goddesses gradually disappeared and one God emerged. Most radical feminists e.g. Millet would simply see religion as one aspect of patriarchal ideology, deliberately used by men, to support their dominant position in the family and in society in general. Overall, feminists see religion as a negative social force and one that contributes to the patriarchal control of women in society. However, there are some strong arguments to suggest that this is an over-simplification of a complex relationship between gender and religion overall. After evaluating the view that religion acts as a conservative force in modern society, we can see from the evidence given that, Functionalists and Marxists believe that religion acts as a conservative force in modern society. Whereas, Feminists believe that religion doesn't act as a conservative force as it has helped to bring some changes within modern society. ...read more.

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