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Assess the extent to which different types of religious theory can encourage or inhibit social change.

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Assess the extent to which different types of religious theory can encourage or inhibit social change. Different religious theories have suggested their own concepts into explaining how religion functions within the society. Some have stated how it can encourage a social change and other theories have suggested how it is a conservative force and preserving the status quo. All the religious theories have their evidence explaining how religion encourages or prevents social change. One theory is functionalism. The functionalists approach to religion state that it has a positive effect in society. What they imply by this is that religion reinforces the societies norms and values so that everyone is socialised in the correct manner. A functionalist named Durkheim believed religion was a 'collective conscience' meaning that everyone in society shared and abided by the same norms and values and these for them were seen as sacred. Durkheim believed that religion was a means of maintaining the norms and values of the society. For functionalists religion promotes social integration and social solidarity, which is preserved and cannot be a subject to change. Durkheim also stated that through collective worship the members in the society expressed, communicated and understood the moral bonds that united them, this therefore inhibited social change as religion was seen as a positive aspect. Talcott Parsons states that religion provides guidelines for human action and answers their questions relating to the world, so by doing this it helps to make sense of all the experiences and why events occur. ...read more.


The feminists see religion inhibiting social change as it will only benefit men and keep the women oppressed however some evidence has shown that women are beginning to gain more rights, such as women allowed to be priests in the church and in Islam, the wearing of Veil, indicates that men can communicate to women in a intellectual way and not just see them as sex objects. Mainly functionalists and Marxists believe that religion cannot cause any social change in society and it acts as a conservative force and that it changes in society that shape religion. The functionalists claim that it is conservative because it promotes social cohesion and integration. In this way it facilitates the society from one generation to another. Marxism has a similar view but they believe that religion is seen as maintaining the status quo in the interests of the ruling class and keep the working class oppressed through ideology on order to maintain the capitalist society. However there are examples and studies that show how religion can act as a means of social change. Both functionalists and Marxists emphasize that the role of religion is a conservative force and does not bring about any social however the study by Weber of the 'protestant ethic', is an example of how religion can act as an agent of social change. In this he examines the relationship between the rise of a certain group of Protestants known as Calvinism, as well as the development of the western industrial capitalism. ...read more.


Later he was replaced by Ayatollah, who wanted to maintain traditions and bring the old culture back. This was then later done with the support from the country and Iran remains a religious country that makes laws abiding by the Qur'ran to block out the westernised and capitalist ideas. This shows how religion acted as a source of agent that encouraged social change for the Islamic group in Iran. Rastafarianism, liberation theology, Islamic Revolution serve to suggest that far from being the 'opium of the people' religion can often be used as a force for radical and political social action and social change. Therefore social change can be radical as well as conservative. Overall the question remains, whether or not religion encourages or inhibits social change. However it can be said that people now accept that religion can be a force for change, due to the many examples of how oppressed groups have used the religion to aid them to bring a change in society or to simply resist of another culture and religion overtaking. So it can be said that religion does not act as a barrier that prevents social change from occurring, however this can only be achieved if the group are aware of what is happening to them and they are able to voice their opinions and make changes within the society, also the aid of someone leading them can also assist them to gain freedom, e.g. Martin Luther King. So overall religion can be used to bring about social change within the society and it does not inhibit it. tarun Sociology ...read more.

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