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Religion is more a cause of conflict than of harmony in society(TM)

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'Religion is more a cause of conflict than of harmony in society' To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view? (40 marks) Functionalists believe that religion is a cause of harmony in religion whereas, Marxists would argue that religion is more a cause of conflict in society. Karl Marx believes that religion is an illusion that eases the pain of exploitation, it is a way of providing many of the deceptions that the form the basis of the ruling class ideology and false class consciousness. Religion therefore acts like an opiate to dull the oppression. It does nothing to solve the problem and it is simply a misguided attempt to make life more bearable. Marxists argue that religious movements begin in oppressed classes; their social conditions provide the most fertile ground for the growth of new religions. Engels said that Christianity was originally a movement of oppressed people; it first appeared as the religion of slaves, of poor people deprived of all rights, or peoples subjugated or dispersed by Rome. The Christian vision of heaven can make life on earth more bearable by giving people something to look forward to. This is the idea of promising a paradise of eternal bliss in the life after death, just one of the ways religion can dull the pain caused by oppression. ...read more.


In 1980 they targeted 27 liberal candidates for attack, 23 of them lost. Although Bruce emphasizes that they have had a limited influence on American politics, it is clear that they have tended to defend the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of other groups in the population. However, conflicting evidence would suggest that religion does not always legitimate power; it is not simply a justification of alienation of privilege. This is reflected in Engels later work and in the perspectives on religion. Also the fact that religion sometimes acts as an ideological force does not explain the existence of religion. Max Weber argued that capitalism developed as a result of religious movement, more specifically Calvinism. It was based on the idea that God gave salvation to those who pursued economic interest, in the name of religious duty. They did not spend money too stupidly; instead they'd invest in businesses, engaged in trading and hard work, striving for economic success. Religious duty and a higher calling for a moral meaning were behind the development of capitalism, according to Weber. The church assured the business owners of their salvation, so they became more self assured and confident, allowing them to progress even more. Religion also limited using money for pleasure or donating it to the poor, as they were perceived as not serving God and burdening others. ...read more.


Religion is part of the cultural system, as such religious beliefs provide guidelines for human action and standards against which people's conduct can be evaluated. In a Christian society the Ten Commandments operate in this way. They demonstrate how many of the norms of the social system can be integrated by religious beliefs. For example the commandment 'thou shalt not kill' integrates such diverse norms as the ways to drive a car, to settle an argument. The norms that direct these areas of behaviour prohibit manslaughter, murder and euthanasia but they are all based on the same religious commandment. The Functionalist perspective emphasizes the positive contributions of religion to society and tends to ignore its dysfunctional aspects. With its preoccupation with harmony, integration and solidarity, Functionalism neglects the many instances where religion can be seen as a divisive and disruptive force. It gives very little consideration to hostility between religious groups within the same society, such as catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland or Hindus and Muslims in India. In such cases religion can be seen as a direct threat to society instead of 'keeping it peaceful'. There are many arguments for and against both Marxism and Functionalists theories of religion. Nowadays it would seem that religion can cause major conflict with all the different wars happening between different religions. Perhaps religion could be said to be a cause of harmony for the people living in the same society whom believe in the same religion. ...read more.

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