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Is religion a conservative force

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Natashia Pettet 13.1 Is religion a conservative force? 'Conservative forces' in this context can be defined as forces, which protect the existing social order, and radical forces being the opposite of conservative forces are those, which promote change. '' Religion is essentially a conservative force in society and if that is true than it would also be true that religion can also play a part in social change.' To evaluate whether religion is a conservative force or a force for social change I am going to first look at the different perspectives of what role religion takes in a society. The functionalist perspective on religion examines it in terms of society's needs and is mainly concerned with the contribution religion makes to meeting these needs; Durkheim presented an argument from the functionalist perspective he stated that all societies divide the world into two separate categories: The 'sacred and the profane'. Durkheim also put forward another argument, called totemism. Durkheim studied an aboriginal society "the most basic form of religion. Durkehim believed that the totem pole was a symbol and its true nature was symbolic of the aboriginal society that worships the totem pole. To put it simply he points out that they are worshipping their own society. This is because the totem stands for the values of the society that worships it. ...read more.


Malinowski argues that religion promotes social solidarity by dealing with situations of emotional stress that threatens the stability of society. Talcott Parsons, another functionalist, argued that human action is directed and controlled by the norms provided by the social system. However, the cultural system provides more general guidelines for action in the form of beliefs, values and systems of meanings. Such values are not isolated standards for behaviour, but they are integrated and patterned by the values and beliefs provided by the cultural system. Criticisms of functionalism are it neglects that religion can be disruptive and divisions between religions themselves and other religion, divisions that can lead to open conflict. And in some religions where religion can strongly be seen as a cause for social change by creating open conflict. Marxists argue that religion is a form of social control that maintains the capitalist system, which is ruled by the elite and exploits the lower classes. This would basically be a system of keeping people in their place. This Marxist theory basically implies religion is used to control society in such a way that it benefits the ruling-class. Manduro is a contemporary neo-Marxist argued that religion is not always a conservative force, and that it can be revolutionary. This is a very different perspective view of religion and Manduro being a neo Marxist implies it can cause both conservative and radical changes. ...read more.


It is now accepted that religion can be force for social change. Despite the examples used by functionalists and Marxists to support their perspective of religion promoting conservatism there are other examples which I wont look into now that contradict this view. To conclude I personally feel that religion can be a force for social change if you look at the arguments put forward by Weber's view in "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism", yet through the functionalist and Marxist views it can also prevent social change if the ideology of the ruling-class is a strong enough force to keep society subservient and under capitalist control Due to this, I tend to agree with the neo-Marxists mostly, as they allow for both theories, religion being a force for social change and act as a conservative force to be put forward. However I can't ignore that the functionalists and Marxists put forward some good arguments and a very good and interesting point in saying that sometimes it is the society changing that shapes religion not religion that shapes society. This means that there are four different reasons as to whether religion is a conservative force for social change, as it takes into account how society can prevent change and maintain the same religious views or shape religion differently throughout the changes that occur in society. ...read more.

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