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Evaluate the contribution made by studies of sects and other religious movements to an understanding of the role of religion.

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Introduction

Evaluate the contribution made by studies of sects and other religious movements to an understanding of the role of religion. The role of religion was defined in many ways by the classical sociologists Marx, Durkheim and Weber. Each had a different perspective regarding religion and its place within society. Marx wrote from a conflict viewpoint, his main argument was that religion served as a conservative force, benefiting the dominant classes by systematically deceiving the exploited working classes. Religion, as Marx saw it, was keeping the proletariat "falsely conscious". As religion was based on ruling class ideology it prevented the working class from seeing that their problems would be solved only when alienation and exploitation were abolished. On the whole Marx believed religion was constructed as a means to suit the further growth of Capitalism hence also the Bourgeoisie. Marx predicted a social and political revolution conducted by the working class, they would no longer remain passive to their situation by believing the privileges of the dominant classes were "divinely ordained", God's will. ...read more.

Middle

This links in with the notion of secularisation, the decline of religion, and though early ideas on religion given by the classical sociologists help to understand how religion was defined, in contemporary society there is the ongoing debate that in fact religion is of less importance or the differing view that, perhaps, its even stronger then ever. There is much evidence to support and refute this idea, for example using statistics (positivist approach) there seems to be a drastic decline in church attendance figures, which is argued by Bruce to indicate secularisation. However, Grace Davie uses the phrase "Belief without belonging" which refers to people not necessarily having to attend an institution in order to be religious therefore, the figures are an unreliable form of measurement. Furthermore, Stark asserts that religion is not in decline simply because it was never that popular anyway, he claims that this golden "Age of faith" in the past did not exist. Whilst organised forms of religion may be in decline, there is the persistence of religion as suggested by the growth of new religious movements and fundamentalist groups. ...read more.

Conclusion

Heelas argued that some New age religions are in fact linked with capitalism and consumerism (e.g. cleansing crystals and therapy.) and some as a rejection of this (e.g. adoption of a simple way of living). This idea of capitalism and religion as almost being a product links to scientology, a large-scale business with members paying huge fees to "clear" their minds. Furthermore, in this pick and mix society there is evidently an entire global market regarding religious groups, wider choice and the ability to create your own identity. Here, functionalists would argue that religion is still on some level performing a function however, there is great controversy in society as to what people believe in and whether such beliefs should be regarded as religious at all. It is clear that the role of religion is ever adapting and changing, that different areas of the world hold different beliefs and that though on the surface religion may not seem apparent it is still greatly present in society. Anjana Chauhan ...read more.

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