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


Extracts from this document...


ASSESS THE SOCIOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS AND EVIDENCE THAT RELIGION IS A CONSERVATIVE FORCE IN SOCIETY BUT MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH SOCIAL CHANGE IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES. A number of sociologists argue that religion is a conservative force in society, that is, it produces stability not change within society and it reinforces the shared needs and values of society. For some sociologists this is a positive effect - the view of the functionalist theorists, for some is a negative one - the view of the Marxist theorists. Emile Durkheim, a functionalist theorist, supports the view that religion is a conservative force in society, reinforcing the existing society of society. Durkheim's standard definition of religion was based on a study of totemism amongst Australian aborigines. He claimed 'Religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden - beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a church, all those who adhere to them'. In other words, he says that religion brings the tribe/group/society together. Durkheim suggests that the totem is sacred because it is symbolically representative of the group itself. It stands for the values of the group and by worshipping it people are essentially worshipping the group (society). ...read more.


It also serves to help owners of production rationalise and justify their position of power and privilege. Religion under these circumstances appears to take on the character of an ideology. Such an ideology justifies and legitimises an unjust social order in such a way as to make it seem inevitable, pre-ordained and unchangeable. Religion promises some form of salvation or reward in some other life conditional upon complete acceptance of condition in this life, one's place in it and the appointed places of other. Another perspective on religion is the feminist one. Feminists argue that religion is a conservative force in society and prevents social change, allowing the ongoing dominance of the patriarchy and of male ideology within society, thus preventing women from fully achieving equal rights. This is not a desirable effect for feminists who say that women will not be equal while religion plays an important part in society as it promotes the male dominated existing social order. However other sociologists argue that religion is a radical force in society, causing conflict, a lack of stability and change within the society which it is in operation in. Weber argues that religion is a radical force in society - a force for change. ...read more.


Madurron argues that most religions tend to take a traditional and conservative line but some churches have undergone significant internal reorganization which may fuel social change in wider society. For example, the hierarchy of most religions tends to be recruited from elite groups. However, when clergy are recruited from the subordinated class, conflict between bishops and clergy can lead to the emergence of a more radical religion. This seems to have been the case in relation to liberation theology in Latin America. It grew out of discontent with the first world idea that third world poverty could be ended by aid from wealthier nations. Liberation ideology is religious beliefs that the poor themselves should end their own impoverishment. The Vatican was concerned that Liberation theology analyses the condition of the poor in Marxist terms e.g. Father Comilo Torres, a Roman Catholic priest who encourages the Columbian poor to join in a revolution to change the conditions. In conclusion, although the likes of Durkheim and Marx provide very good evidence of how Religion may act as a Conservative force, once you consider modern examples such as Islamic Fundamentalism and the apparent process of secularisation it seems that religion is maintaining nothing like Durkheim and Marx described. If Religion is maintaining anything then it seems to be conflict, can this be viewed as part of the conservative force? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology 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 GCSE Sociology essays

  1. Compare and contrast the Marxist and Functionalist explanations of the role of religion in ...

    Weber argues that state religions can offer legitimacy and power to governments, which Marxists view. Weber argues there are three types of authority, Rational legal authority, where people rule because they see it makes sense to do so, Traditional authority where people obey because they always have done and there

  2. "Marxism and other theories of social conflict are irrelevant to an understanding of modern ...

    a common battle against another class; otherwise they are on hostile terms with each other as competitors". Weber defined sociology as 'a science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action'. This 'social action approach' allow sociologists to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effects.

  1. Evaluate the view that religion acts as a Conservative force in Modern society

    Religious campaigns against racism, violence and even experimentation on live animals have been highly successful. A good example of this consensus can be seen from the protests against the invasion of Iraq which clearly showed a varied degree of religions joining together.

  2. Primary Sources and Social Change in the industrial revolution

    Contrasting with life in a working class family, whose very survival was dependent upon each member's wage including the women and children. Since women were no longer working at home as in the domestic system, and the older children were also employed in the factories, the problem of childcare becomes acute.

  1. Determining the Elite within Politics and the Judiciary.

    British economic prospects, as well as having a direct impact on them itself. The major way in which the City's influence is felt is through the price it and other lenders charge the government for loans. "British governments often spend more than they take in revenue.

  2. Is religion a force for social change?

    The existing social order and hierarchy was justified as religion explained that God decided it. The oppressed accepted this philosophically as they believed there was nothing that they could do about it. Religion made the proletariats unsatisfactory lives bearable a it gave them hope in the future (in the form of an afterlife)

  1. The position of widows in Nepalese society - sociological study.

    Hence, a woman's power to accept or reject marriage partnership is evidently an index of the degree of freedom she exercises in the management of her own life, and thus also of her status. In the case of early marriage, the children concerned are too young to comprehend the issues involved.

  2. Defining religion.

    o It helps humans make sense of all experiences - can cope with horrible/horrendous situations o Stops people feeling angry towards others & upsetting society o Apparent injustices of life can make life appear meaningless o Core values in society are given additional force & power because they're part of

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