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'Religion may encourage rather than inhibit social change'.

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Introduction

'Religion may encourage rather than inhibit social change' Many sociologists have found some form of correlation between religion and social change, some argue that religion inhibits social change and others state that it may bring about a change, in particularly in contemporary society. The work of G.K Nelson supports the above view as he pointed out a number of cases where religion has encouraged stability and promoted change. In his claim he shows how in the USA (1960's) Martin Luther King and the Christian council worked together as a team to establish civil rights legislation and reduce racial discrimination. Another example is in Iran, where the Islamic fundamentalist played a major role in encouraging the 1979 revolution. All these examples show how religion does not always encourage people to accept their place in contemporary society, but can promote resistance and revolution. And often it has been found that in areas where religion has been used as a force to demand change, the society that results is strongly influenced by that religion. Again this shows how strong the influence of religion is in changing social norms and in society overall. Engel who argues that sometimes in some circumstances religion is used as a force for change has also supported the work of Nelson. ...read more.

Middle

And that it is extremely important for the clergy and the revolutionary group to have a maintained and close contact. These clearly show that in a situation where these three factors are present, revolutionary groups are able to use religion to demand change. And this is even more effective in countries where the revolutionary groups all share same religious ideas and this is different to the ideas of those in power. The work of Weber also shows how religion can lead to social change. Weber discourages the belief that religion is always shaped by economic factors. And that religious believes can be a major influence on economic behaviour. Weber's social action theory states that humans are directed by meanings and motives and so religion is often used to direct action. This is because religion gives humans a detailed understanding and meaning of the world. This statement shows just how social groups turn to religion to guide their actions and as a result can be used to cause change in society. Weber's view explored a range of detailed examples where religion has been used to promote change- in particular where capitalism developed initially in areas dominated by religious values. However Weber's examples and views refer more to the traditional aspects of society such as the feudal system rather than the contemporary society - which is the focus of this essay. ...read more.

Conclusion

McGuire examined some of the factors that influence the role of religion plays in society. She identified four factors that would answer the above question and determine the extend the to which religion can change society. These factors are belief, culture, social location and internal organisation. Belief refers to the belief of the religion. If a religion stresses the importance of equality then it is more likely to have an impact than a religion based on sacred and spiritual matters (Buddhism). If a religion plays a major role in terms of culture of a particular group, than it is more likely to justify changes in society. Social location concerns with whether the religion plays a major role in the political and economic life, and then it is likely to produce change. And finally internal organisation stresses the importance of a central source of authority. The greater the importance of the authority the more likely the society is liable to change. This work is highly valuable to the argument here as her work outlines the factors, which determine whether religion acts as a conservative force - maintaining status quo, or as a force for change. This shows that in a situation that demands changes if these factors are lacking change is less likely to be successful. Most importantly this work provides a strong starting point for analysing and interpreting the relationship between religion and social change. Habir Moaso ...read more.

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