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

How far is religion a radical or a conservative force?

Extracts from this document...


How far is religion a radical or a conservative force? Religion consists of beliefs, actions and institutions which assume the existence of supernatural entities with power of action or impersonal powers possessed of moral purpose. Some sociologists claim that religion acts as a conservative force, depending on the perspective this can be seen as a positive or negative affect for individuals and society. Functionalists and Marxists have generally dismissed the possibility that religion can cause changes in society. They claim that religion acts as a conservative force and that it is the changes in society that shape religion. Religion can be seen as a conservative force, in that religion prevents change and maintains status quo. However some sociologist may argue that changes in society leads to changes in religion this resulting in a radical change. Tischler believed that there are five functions that religion transmits. He believes that religion promotes social cohesion by bringing people together and reaffirms group norms/beliefs and values, this promotes a conservative society because it maintains the status quo. He also believes that religion helps maintain norms and sanctions, transmits culture from one generation to another. His last function that he believed religion does is to offer emotional support. Functionalists claim that religion acts as a conservative force to promote integration and social solidarity. Religion provides shared beliefs, norms and values and helps individuals to cope with stresses that might disrupt social life. ...read more.


Although Durkheim linked religion to socialisation and control, he did not translate this into modern day society. Durkheim did work on an aboriginal tribe with a clan based social organisation belief of totems. A totem is a sacred object represented by the clan regular rituals served to unite clan members into collective unity. Development of collective conscience as members worshipped totems but sacred objects was clan or society. Religion for Durkheim was constructed by society. Instead of worshipping God, the clan were worshipping society within their religious practice. Malinowski was concerned with the religious rituals which minimise anxiety. He was interested in pre-industrial - Trobriand islanders. It is also a way to counteract unpredictable events, it deals with emotional stress and allows you to adjust. Through his primary research he found rituals associated with fishing in open sea but not when sailing in the lagoon which was safer, he also noted that tension generated by sea fishing was a potential threat to community stability. Malinowski complements Durkheim in that religion contributes to social solidarity and reinforces a value consensus, However he challenges Durkheim by saying that he community is threatened and in times disrupted and anxious. However emphasis on consensus of values and norms ignores the dissent, deviance and resistance found in modern, industrial society. Parsons believed that religion is the primary source of meaning in society, it provides the core values and thereby promotes social solidarity. ...read more.


The doctrine of Calvin seems less likely to produce capitalism. If certain individuals were destined for heaven regardless of their behaviour on earth and the rest were equally unable to overcome their damnation, there would be little point in hard work on earth. Therefore, the interpretation than the Calvinists put on the doctrine of predestination contributed to them becoming the first capitalists. Many sociologists do now accept that religion can be a force for change. Despite the examples that can be used to support the functionalist and Marxist view on religion promotes stability other examples contradict their claims. For example Nelson points to a number of cases where religion had under stability, promoted change: "In Iran, Islamic fundamentalism played a part in the 1979 revolution, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini" Examples such as these lead Nelson to conclude that far from encouraging people to accept their place, religion can be spearhead resistance and revolution. In many cases when religion has been a force for change in society that results may be strongly influenced by that religion. Engels unlike Marx did realise that in some circumstances religion could be a force for change. He argued that groups which turned to religion as a way of coping with oppression could develop into political movements which sought change on earth rather than salvation in heaven. Some contemporary neo-Marxists have followed Engels and developed this view. It appears to be generally agreed that first religion helps to maintain the status quo and that second, changes in religion result from changes in the wider society. ...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. Peer reviewed

    Assess the view that religion is a conservative force within society (40).

    5 star(s)

    and explained to them that there was nothing they could do to change their situations. Marx also saw religion as creating false class consciousness, whereby the subject class were blinded to their situation and therefore the interests of the ruling class, powerful and elite, were maintained.

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

    This is seen as a major form of social control by women. Hence feminists believe that religion functions in a way that creates and maintains divisions within society. Finally, Interactionists like Weber wrote a great deal about religion in their studies which covered a wide variety of topics.

  1. Functionalist views on Religion.

    All people are welcome to join. Accepts people can play a large part in society. Not over restrictive. Rejects the values of society Attitude to other religious groups Jealously guards monopoly on religious truth-intolerant. Tolerates other religious beliefs-compromises. They believe they possess the truth and reject other approaches.

  2. Defining religion.

    Trobriland Islanders in detail - Small scale, premative societies o Unlike Durkheim he doesn't see religion as reflecting society as a whole nor worshipping society o Religion is concurred with specific areas of social life - situations of emotional stress which could threaten society o Eg.

  1. Is religion a force for social change?

    by the appearance of Wesley and Methodism, thus religion prevented a potential revolution. However, criticisms have since been made of this theory, in particular it has been suggested that the rebellion was quelled during this period because the ruling classes knew when to make concessions, rather than there being an underlying religious reason.

  2. Analyze how Far From Heaven employ mechanisms of cinematic identification.

    She has a strong character, she is very beautiful and she is adored by her friends and neighbors. Everyone wants to be like her, even the audience. And despite her weaknesses discovered later on, the audience tends to sympathize with her, secretly wishing she will find her happy ending.

  1. Discuss the view that the influence of religion on UK society is declining.

    This adds to the point that people have not stopped believing in god but merely openly practicing in public, this could be that a conventional church does not fit in with there views of a religion or their lifestyles. In America Evangelical Christians have used the TV to their advantage

  2. Max Weber: Basic Terms (The Fundamental Concepts of Sociology)

    The individual was forced to follow the path of his own destiny decreed for him from eternity without help from others or from the Church -- complete elimination of salvation through the Church and the sacraments (which Lutheranism retained). This meant the elimination of magic from the world.

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