Critically assess the argument that religion necessarily acts as a conservative force in society.
Although religion varies from culture to culture – some are very religious while others are more secularised – Functionalist sociologists still see religion as an institution that fulfils a need in society. Functionalists believe that religion acts as an important part of secondary socialisation; it teaches individuals about norms and values. For example, it teaches children about right and wrong. The functionalist Durkheim argues that these norms and values create social cohesion by giving individuals something in common. The functionalist Malinowski argues that acts as reassurance during times of crisis. It gives people that there is still some control in their lives. Malinowski focuses on the way that religion fulfils a need to help individuals make sense of unexplainable things. This keeps society in order. However, Marxists argue that religion only serves the ruling class. Marxists believe that religion justifies the bourgeoisie’s power over the proletarians by making the poor believe that it is there own fault that they are suffering and giving them false hope of a reward after death. By doing this, religion stops the working class from rebelling. Therefore, both Functionalists and Marxists believe that religion plays a major role in society, but Marxists think that there would be no need for religion if capitalism was over-come. Even though Weber agrees with the Marxist view that religion serves the needs of Capitalism by promoting the values that allow it to thrive, he also states that the development of modern society means an increase in the belief in science and therefore a decline in the belief of religion. Weber suggests that science has produced answers to questions that were previously answered by religion.
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