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The Role of Religion As a Conservative Force and As an Indicator of Change.

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THE ROLE OF RELIGION AS A CONSERVATIVE FORCE AND AS AN INDICATOR OF CHANGE. THE ROLE OF RELIGION AS A CONSERVATIVE SOCAIL FORCE FUNCTIONALISM Emiline Durkheim believed that religion is central to the reproduction and maintenance of social order in societies. The major function of religion is to socialise society's members into value consensus by the following. o Setting certain values apart and infusing them with special significance. These values become moral codes or beliefs which society socialises children into. Such codes control our social behaviour. For example, some of then commandments have become embodied in law (thou shall not steal) and some have become part of informal morality (honour thy mother and father) o Encouraging collective worship. Through worship, the individuals encouraged to feel part of a wider community - e.g. a Church of England member may feel part of a larger Christian community. Durkheim strongly believed that the worship of god symbolised the worship of society - god and society are the same thing. This idea has been developed into a theory of civil religion by other functionalist thinkers. Shills and Young argue that it is difficult to separate national identities from religious identities. We can particularly see this in Islamic societies in which every aspect of social, cultural, political and economic life is shaped by religion. ...read more.


politics, trade unions, etc. through force of ideology. Religion therefore may be the only agency of change for some oppressed groups. The potential for change through religious avenues is enhanced by the presence of a charismatic leader (e.g. Mather Luther King) who provides a focus for expressing discontent. Max Weber Like Marx, Weber subscribed to the idea that religion could be ideological in two ways; o It gave assurance to the most fortunate, .i.e. the powerful and wealthy, by stressing that their position was natural or god-given o It offered religious reasons for poverty and suffering in term s of themes such as wickedness, sins committed in former lives. Weber argued, like Marx, that both these themes legitimate status quo. However Weber believed that some religious ideas specifically protestant beliefs, had initiated the economic and social conditions in which capitalism emerged. From his comparative studies, Weber noted that while similar economic conditions prevailed in china, India and Europe, capitalism only developed in the latter. He noted that capitalism had developed in those parts of Europe where a particular set of protestant beliefs known as Calvinism were dominant. He concluded that Calvinism had brought about the right cultural climate for capitalist ideas practices to develop in two ways. Weber noted that; o Calvinists believed in predestination =, i.e. that they were chosen by god for salvation. ...read more.


Maduro argues that most religions tend to take a traditional and conservative line but some churches have undergone significant internal reorganization which may fuel social change in wider society. For example, the hierarchy of most religions tends to be recruited from elite groups. However, when clergy are recruited from the subordinated class, conflict between bishops and clergy can lead to the emergence of a more radical religion. This seems to have been the case in relation to liberation theology in Latin America. The view held by many Roman Catholic priests in South America working with the poor is that Jesus Christ and Karl Marx had a great deal in common and that the clergy should work towards ending poverty and the political oppression of ordinary people by elites. Maduro points out that such religions may become the focus for protest if the ruling elite block all normal and democratic avenues of social change and arrest opposition politicians. The church may then become the opposition. Support for revolutionary change from religious leaders may motivate the mass to rise up against their oppressors. The Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua is seen as a good example of this, whilst the role of religion in south Africa, Iran and eastern Europe is also seen as important in bringing about profound social change in those societies. In conclusion, then, religion can be an ideological tool of the ruling class but it can also be transformed by internal changed or a charismatic leader into a force which can assist major social change. ...read more.

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