• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Most sociologists do not believe there is any straight forward relationship between religion and social change.

Extracts from this document...


Is religion a force for social change? Most sociologists do not believe there is any straight forward relationship between religion and social change. Instead, they try to identify the particular factors that can influence the role of religious beliefs and institutions in specific social context. Sociologists argue that there are a number of factors that determine whether or not religion promotes social change. Max Weber is most famous for his work on this topic and combined with the Neo-Marxist view; argue that religion is a force for social change. However, it is the Marxist, Feminist and Functionalist theories that provide strong opposition of Weber and convincingly argue that religion is a force for social control. Many sociologists see religion as a means of providing answers to fundamental questions of society and these answers are sometimes called 'theodicies'. Max Weber, in 'The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism', identified one particular theodicy that helped to facilitate dramatic social change. Calvinists were a Protestant group who emerged in the 17th century and believed in predestination. They believed you destiny was fixed in advance, you were either damned or saved and nothing you or anyone could do would improve your chances of going to heaven. However, it was believed that any form of social activity was of religious significance; material success that rose from hard work and an ascetic life would demonstrate God's favour and, therefore, a place in heaven. ...read more.


showing that religion can act as a force against the consensus, if it so wishes. The religious, especially Calvinist, role in the development of capitalism is a primal example that religion is a force for social change and progress. Religion is shown to directly contribute to the development of the new ideology that is capitalism. The position and values of religious leader, especially with enough followers, in theory, are equipped to influence and encourage social change within their society. However, to a large extent religion is not a force for social change, but a force for social control. Both functionalist and traditional Marxist sociologists agree that religion is a conservative force. However, functionalists tend to view this as a positive thing, unlike Marxists who see this as a negative thing. Functionalisms main focus on the study of religion is religions contribution to social stability and value consensus in society. Durkheim argues that religion is rarely a matter of individual belief as most religions involve collective worship, ceremony and rituals, during which group solidarity is confirmed. The continual act of group worship and celebration through ritual and ceremony serves to create group identity, creating cohesion and solidarity. In maintaining social solidarity, religion acts as a conservative force; when it fails to perform this function, new ideas emerge that effectively become new religion. ...read more.


Mary Daley goes as far as to suggest that Christianity itself is a patriarchal myth. Women's bodies and sexuality have also been seen as dangerous by many religions. Women menstruate and give birth so are considered to have a greater capacity to pollute religious rituals. In addition, their presence may distract men from their more important roles involving worship. Bird points out that sexuality is an important issue in many religions. Roman Catholic priests are expected to be celibate, while some religions are still opposed to homosexuality. This reproduction of gender inequality and sexism with religious institutions directly hinders social change. Overall, Max Weber and Neo-Marxists argue that the values within most religion allow for social change through supported ideologies and the ability of religious leaders. Religious organisations have supported social movements and organisations that have resulted in social change. However, the socialisation of these religious values onto the individual means that religion being used to shape and control the individual. Therefore, as religion acts as a tool for the ruling class to justify the exploitation of the working class and encourages the working class to passively accept this position, religion is acting as a force for social control. Religion also promotes inequalities within gender and it reproduces traditional views of women, discouraging social change. It is clear that religion is used as a vital force for social control, whether this is seen as a positive thing or not is, in theory, irrelevant. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification essays

  1. Free essay

    Is religion a conservative force or a force for social change?

    The women in society felt the main brunt of these changes, by losing many of their rights and freedom. Religion as a force for social change has been identified by Weber, a social action theorist, that proposed the idea of the 'spirit of Capitalism' which supports the idea that religion is a force for social change.

  2. Demography topic revision notes. The study of populations and their characteristics is called ...

    and almost as many again arriving from continental Europe. Despite this, however, a series of immigration and nationality acts from 1962 to 1990 placed severe restrictions on non-white immigration. By the 1980s, non-whites accounted for little more than a quarter of all immigrants, while the predominantly white countries of the

  1. Assess the view that cults, sects and new age movement are fringe organisations that ...

    popularity and many people are turning away from traditional religions and following there idols in something new. Although Scientology is new it has become very popular among the young and older generations of society. In addition new religious movements have become very popular and are on the increase due to

  2. Critically examine the relationship between gender, religious participation and religious organisations

    For example, in Buddhism both men and women can have a role as a monk or a nun. However, a monk is always seen as senior to a nun. Similarly, in Chinese religions, women are seen as Yin and men are seen as Yang.

  1. Analyse and Evaluate the relationships between religion and social change.

    However, functionalist, Marxist and feminism argues that religion acts as a conservative force. The key concern of functionalist writing on religion is the contribution that religion makes to the well being of society, its contribution to social stability and, value-consensus.

  2. Examine the extent to which husbands and wives now have a relationship based on ...

    She found that domestic tasks were shared more equally within couples in the middles classes than the working classes however in both there were few men who had a high level of participation in housework and childcare with only 15% in housework and 25% in childcare.

  1. Assess The Extent To Which Marxist & Feminist Theories Help Our Understanding Of Religion ...

    However this only helped his cause as many saw him as a martyr and in 1968 many Priests followed his example and rebelled against the injustices. This shows that religion is not really conservative, it can be used as a vehicle of opposition by repressed classes.

  2. This essay will evaluate three groups within society; the Feminists, Postmodernists and the Marxists, ...

    Medicalisation forms a key part in the control of different societal groups however, many institutions are also using surveillance as a form of social control. Foucault (1973) dubbed this form of surveillance, ?The clinical gaze?. This centred on medical training and is characterised by its emphasis on intrusive clinical observations.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work