Assess the view that religion inhibits social change

Assess the view that religion inhibits social change

Assess the view that religion inhibits social change (33 marks)

The views as to whether sociologists believe that religion does or doesn’t inhibit social change will be discussed throughout this essay. Whereas some sociologists, such as Marxists and Functionalists, believe that religion acts as a conservative force, thus inhibiting social change whether it be positive or negative, however, others believe that religion is a radical force and a major contributor to social change.

Firstly, functionalists believe that religion socialises its members through promoting shared norms, values and morals that prevent change as it promotes integrity and social solidarity. Functionalists, such as Durkheim and Parsons, argue that life is impossible without the shared norms, values and morals enforced upon society and that without them, they believe that society would fail. Durkheim sees religion as having traditional conservative beliefs about moral issues and many oppose changes that would allow individuals more freedom in their personal lives, for example, the Catholic Church abhors divorce and abortion etc. This supports the idea that religion inhibits social change because it upholds functionalist ideology of ‘family values’ and often favours the more traditional and out-dated idea if the family such as the patriarchal domestic division of labour. However, it’s hard to see how religion can socialise the majority of society and stop social change from happening when in today’s society, only a minority of people regularly attend church or believe in a traditional religion such as Islam or Judaism.

Furthermore, functionalist, Robert Bellah, introduced the concept of a ‘civil religion’ in America in 1970. A civil religion refers to a situation where sacred qualities are attributed to aspects of the society itself meaning that religion is an essential feature of society. Bellah found this evident in America where the concept of civil religion was first developed,...

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