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

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Introduction

"Far from generating an agreed set of values that hold society together, religion has more often been the cause of conflict and division." Assess this claim in the light of sociological argument and evidence. Religion is an incredibly important issue within society in general, it played an important part in the past and is still at the forefront of attention even today when some claim it is in recession. Key religious figures are often seen in the media, like the Pope or Archbishop of Canterbury because they hold a position of respect and their opinions are seen as important. Therefore this topic is one which is extremely emotive and can produce major results. This is why religion can be seen as a cause of conflict and social division while also being categorised as a form of cohesive measure. However these seemingly contradictory ideas stem from the fact that the role of religion is also undefined and not agreed on. This important debate within the sociological world has been a huge dividing point but despite copious research neither argument can produce substantial evidence to prove their claims. The functionalist viewpoint is one which has led the way for the idea that religion is a tool which generates an agreed set of values that hold society together. Functionalism is one of the mainstream sociological viewpoints from the social systems perspective which believes that society is held together through consensus. This means that society is a unit of elements working together in order to maintain social order. ...read more.

Middle

(8 marks) Church attenders can be seen to be predominantly female because of the socialisation of women. Women are taught to be passive and obedient and have traits which are compatible with religiosity. These include a loving and caring perspective which is often synonymous with child bearing. Miller and Hoffman (1985) suggested that this was enough to explain the fact that women were more religious than men because it gave them easier access to the church. Greely (1992) complements this idea from his theory that women often join the church after child birth because they have 'care' responsibilities. However there is also the point that there is a differentiation in the roles of men and women that affects religiosity. Women are stereotypically more orientated with the domestic sphere and have less professional and paid work. With more time spent rearing children and within the home environment there is also a closer link with community spirit and therefore church attendance. As more women enter the world of full time paid work they also often still attend church because it is socialised into them and internalised from gender role models i.e. parents. Hence men have less connection and accessibility to the Church and also less time to enter into religion. 1b) Examine the extent to which religion acts as an agent of social control over women. (12 marks) The idea that religion is a form of social control stems back to ideas of Marxism and false class ideology. Karl Marx famously commented that: "Religion is the opium of the masses." ...read more.

Conclusion

This destroys the idea that religion is somehow oppressive and that religion is a form of social control. Veiling is often criticised by the West as being repressive; Burchill (2000); "carry round a mobile prison" However it is important to remember that this is a very ethnocentric view point that is challenged by a high Muslim response. Watson (1994) identified through interviews that felt safer and more liberated. Once again this challenges the idea that religion is a form of social control because religion is seen as benefiting women. Women also have higher attendance in sects with Bruce (1995) recording a ratio of 2:1, many were even established by women pointing to the fact that religion is not oppressive and a form of social control but actually once again positive for women. With regards to the issue of role models it is also important to remember that Mary is presented as a very important figure within the Catholic Church. She is pure and in no way presented as having any connection to sin or negative attributes. In conclusion I believe that religion is a form of social control, however I subscribe more to El Sadawi's (1980) theory that men have interpreted the bible in a patriarchal manner. Over time the power of man, which stemmed from the expansion of the monotheistic religion has led to religion being altered to better suit man. A key example of this comes from the execution of women by the Christian Church as witches in the middle ages for administering medicine. Personally this appeals to me the most because it explains the transition from the previously very matriarchal religions to patriarchal domination. ...read more.

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