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Religion can be both a conservative force and an initiator of social change.'To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view of religion? Sociological arguments such as Marxists think religion inhibits social change

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'Religion can be both a conservative force and an initiator of social change.' To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view of religion? Sociological arguments such as Marxists think religion inhibits social change and is kept as a conservative force. However, Functionalists think religion is an initiator of social change. Marx said religion inhibits social change and helps to oppress workers. Karl Marx said that in a capitalist society there was conflict between the ruling class and the working class because the ruling class exploit the working class to get the most profit out of them. Marx says the working class are in a state of false consciousness. This is where religion comes in. Marx is very critical of religion. He says it keeps the working class in a state of false consciousness. Marx said 'Religion is the opium of the people' meaning it dulls the pain of oppression like opium. It doesn't take away the pain though. ...read more.


But in some cases, there was evidence to suggest that religion can encourage social change. Engels thought that in some circumstances religion could actually be a revolutionary force. Sometimes religion is the only means of change because all other routes have been blocked. Neo-Marxist Otto Maduro (1982) claimed that religion isn't always a conservative force. In the 1960s and 1970s, Catholic priests in Latin America criticised the bourgeoisie and preached Liberation Theology- using religion to free people from their oppression. This led to resistance and social change - in 1979 Catholic revolutionaries threw out the oppressive government in Nicaragua. Maduro said religion is often 'one of the main available channels to bring about a social revolution.' Functionalists on the other hand see religion as something that inhibits change and helps keep society as it is. They think this is a positive role which creates social order based on value consensus. Durkheim studied Aboriginal society and found that the sacred worship of totems was equivalent to worshipping society itself. ...read more.


Weber spotted two important things in Calvinism: Predestination- Early Calvinists believed in predestination which says your life and whether you have a place in heaven is predetermined by God. Only a specific few were chosen for heaven. This created anxiety- you didn't know if you'd been chosen. Ascetic Ideal - Working hard in your job was a solution to this anxiety. Success might be a sign that you were chosen for heaven. Early Calvinists lived a strict and disciplined life of hard work and simple pleasures. Weber claimed that the ascetic ideal created an ethic of disciplined hard work. This is the spirit of capitalism. Not only was there a build up of capital and business, there was the right work ethic for capitalism. Religion indirectly brought about change. However Eisenstadt (1967) contradicts Weber's theory by claiming that capitalism occurred in Catholic countries like Italy before Protestant Reformation happened and before the ideas of Calvin ever came out. In conclusion, sociologists both have good arguments and evidence to suggest that religion is both a conservative force and an initiator of social change. Christine Haralambous Sociology Essay ...read more.

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