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"Religion may encourage rather than inhibit Social Change," Critically discuss this statement with reference to contemporary society.

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Introduction

"Religion may encourage rather than inhibit Social Change," Critically discuss this statement with reference to contemporary society. Religion as a force of social change is not an idea that is generally accepted by traditional Marxists, they generally favour the idea that religion keeps society stationary. The main sociologist that argues that religion is a force of social change is Weber, he sees it as away of promoting change. However the relationship between religion and social change is complex, in some cases religion promotes social change and in others it hinders it. Functionalists and Feminists support the Marxist belief that religion is a conservative force. These perspectives believe that it is the changes in society that shape religion and not the other way round. Marxists believe that religion acts as a conservative force by maintaining a status quo for the benefit of the ruling class. The working class are kept in their place, and the pain caused by oppression and exploitation is eased. Functionalists believe that religion promotes integration and social solidarity, norms and values are promoted that help individuals cope in times of stress. Feminists also believe in religion being a conservative force, maintaining patriarchy. Not only does religion maintain the status quo, but it also encourages traditional beliefs and customs. ...read more.

Middle

He spans both structuralist and interpretive perspectives. Weber believed that social inquiry must begin with the individual, and attempt to understand the motives and ideas, which influence behaviour. Weber argued that ideas and beliefs can have important consequences for the way people think and act, only by understanding the meaning given to situations can we understand social action. In Weber's work "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" he pointed out that religion itself could be a source of major social change through the intervention of significant ideas or people. Weber looked at Calvinists, which he believed has key teachings and values that encouraged capitalism. Calvinists believed in predestination, an idea that people were already allocated places in heaven in advance. Calvinists would look for "signs" that they were among those chosen for salvation and reduce fear they may not be saved. These "signs" included working hard, material success gained through work and living a sober life. Weber believed that the idea of predestination lead to the rise of capitalism by making it possible for people to accumulate wealth and reinvest it, seeing poverty as a moral degradation so people were under moral obligation to look after the poor and because people did not enjoy their wealth by spending, instead reinvesting it to make more money. ...read more.

Conclusion

However Sects attract less privileged groups who have less to loose from social change. The presence of alternative non-religious avenues for change can promote change through religion. If change cannot be achieved through non-secular methods, perhaps a religious alternative might result. E.g. E. P. Thompson said on the role of Methodists, 1790-1850, that before this period the working class had a great hope of political change and only turned to Methodism when these hopes achieved very little. Finally, those in a powerful position in religious institutions have more of an impact of influencing social change. However, this can restrain parts of an organisation, e.g. the Pope clashed with Latin American Roman Catholic Bishops and Priests over Liberation Theology. In conclusion, according to Marxists and other perspectives coming from a structural perspective, religion does not promote, rather keeping society stable and encouraging the social structure. Weber and Nelson see religion as a promoting social change and undermining stability. They believe that religion can act as a catalyst for social change. However, religion can both encourage and inhibit social change, but it depends on the circumstances and of course the role of religion in society and how influential it is. Many may argue that religion is not as influential in today's society as it once was due to society becoming more secular, therefore is neither a force of social control, nor change. ...read more.

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