Assess the view that Religion inhibits social change
Religion can be seen in two different ways by society. Some theories such as Functionalism and Marxism see it as a force for conservative change, however, Feminism address it as a force for social change. Some argue that religion can prevent social change in society which is done by using religion as an act for conservative force, so keeping the status quo the same. Religion is seen as a conservative force in Functionalism, where Durkheim believes that it maintains social stability. He described religion as “social cement” which binds people together through collective consciousness, which is when people within a society have shared beliefs, norms, values and traditions. Durkheim’s study of Totemism illustrated the idea of collective worship and social stability where he studied Australian Aborigines who worshipped the Totem. The totem is believed to have divine characteristics which separated it from average plants or animals. The continued act of group worship of the Totem through rituals and ceremony provided the group a common identity which therefore creates social solidarity which stabilises the society. He stated that the act of collective worship enabled everyone within the society to feel included, which therefore prevented anomie within individuals. However, his study was criticised for being ethnocentric, as he was not part of the Aborigines tribe, therefore it is not certain that he interpreted the rituals and practices that they did in the right way. Additionally, Interpretevist sociologist Berger said that religion was a “sacred canopy” which allowed individuals to deal with social issues, agreeing with Durkheim that religion is used to prevent anomie within a society. This is also because of individuals in society having common norms and values, therefore being able to feel united. He also believed that religion was exceptionally well at keeping society stable as it provided each person with a universe of meaning, providing significance for our everyday experiences as being part of a bigger purpose. The sense of belonging to a society enabled the individuals to have faith in something, which was common in everyone within the society, enabling social solidarity. Simliar to Durkheim, another Functionalist Malinowski studied a small scale society in the Trobriand Islands and also agreed that religion was necessary in reinforcing the social normal and values, however, he was more interesting in how religion served each individuals. He believed that religion provided a way for them to cope with life crises such as birth, death and funerals by providing them with answers for why the events occurred. These answers were because it was Gods will, or that God has something better lined up for the. As a result, religion was useful in helping people deal with day to day stresses as well as reducing anxiety which the crises bring. This was illustrated in his study where he found that when fishing in calm waters, the Islanders did not perform any religious rituals, However, they would only fish in open sea after carrying out religious ceremonies as the open sea was much more dangerous. This reduced their anxiety, gave them better controlled and gave them the mentality that if something was to happen whilst they were fishing, It was Gods will, as they carried out a ritual before. Parsons theory of religion is similar to Malinowski in the idea that religion reduces anxiety. His study was more relevant and modern, as he studied modern societies in America in the 1950/60s. He believed that religion acted as a “mechanism of adjustment” which helped people cope with life crises. He also found that religion provided consensus which was necessary for social order and stability within society, and without it there would be anomie. As a result, religion hrlps people to manage life crises so that society can continue to function though emotional adjustment. This also helps...
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