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Religion can both be a conservative force and an initiator of social change. To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view of religion?

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Religion can both be a conservative force and an initiator of social change. To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view of religion? (40) There are a number of possible relationships between religion and social change. Religion can either promote social change, or can be a factor in helping to promote it. On the other hand, religion itself may not influence changes in society, but there is still a relationship between the two. Functionalists and Marxists both argue that religion does not bring about change in society. They believe that religion acts as a "Conservative Force" and that it is changes in society that shape religion, not religion shaping society. A conservative force can have two meanings. It is usually used to refer to religion as preventing change and maintaining the status quo. However, it can also refer to promoting traditional beliefs and customs that can bring about social change. Fundamentalist religious movements usually operate along these lines, asserting traditional moral and religious values against changes that have taken place. Fundamentalists can support social change while at the same time promoting traditional values. This essay is now going to look at the functionalist view of religion. Emile Durkheim argues that social life is impossible without the shared norms, values and moral beliefs that form the collective conscience. Without this, there would be no social order, social solidarity or co-operation. ...read more.


Criswell was part of the influential network surrounding the Bush family who regularly worshipped at the First Baptist Church, which Criswell led. George Bush made strenuous efforts to retain the backing of Criswell's adherents during his own presidential electoral campaign. The relentless energy of this core conservative group- drawn from such disparate fields as the oil industry and the Christian right - led a Washington Post commentator to observe that "For the first time since religious conservatives became a modern political movement, the president of the United States has become the movement's de facto leader" a development which Criswell could claim much credit. However, Criswell's message, went back uncompromisingly to Genesis, where God created the world in six days and made man in his image. This led to a repeated effort to encourage the teaching of creationism in American schools. It also brought about such rulings as its 1998 declaration that a woman's duty was to submit graciously unto her husband's leadership. This evidence suggests that fundamentalists were successful in defending traditional values, but at the same time changed society by reversing innovations that had taken place. Cohen and Kennedy (2000) argue that "the desire to restore fundamentalist religious values and social practices is associated with the fear that any real increase in women's freedom of choice and action will undermine the foundations of tradition, religion, morality and, it could be argued, male control." ...read more.


Catholics and Marxists collaborated in political and social action. In 1979, Catholic revolutionaries played a part in the overthrow of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua and the new government included a number of priests. Another aspect of liberation theology is that some religions decided to turn back to a time when society and its moral order were more in line with their religious ideals. Such religions were opposed to what they consider to be the undesirable state of modern society. Christian and Islamic fundamentalists illustrate the position well. This evidence suggests that Christian and Islamic fundamentalists decided to return to traditional values, as they believed they were more in line with their religious ideals. By doing this, religion acted as an initiator of social change. Liberation Theology has also helped to promote social change as Catholics and Marxists they saw things from the viewpoint of the economically poor and the oppressed, bring justice through political activism. In conclusion, religion can be both a conservative force and an initiator of social change. Functionalists would argue that religion acts as a conservative force in that it inhibits social change by promoting social solidarity and integration. Marxists have a similar view, however, they believe religion inhibits social change in that it discourage individuals from trying to change their position in society. On the other hand, Weber and Neo-Marxists argue that religion can be revolutionary and act as an initiator of social change. This evidence suggests that religion can both be a conservative force and an initiator of social change. Jessica Pemberton ...read more.

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