Assess the View That Religion Was Once Mainly a Conservative Influence but Today Is More a Force for Social Change (30 Marks)

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Assess the view that religion was once mainly a conservative influence but today is more a force for social change (30 marks)

In the past religions role as a conservative force was portrayed by the monarchy, ruling the divine rights in medieval Europe, and the Egyptian pharaohs were considered as almost God-like figures and so no one questioned their authority. Feminists and Marxists both agree that religion is a conditioning device that oppresses people, diluting the demand for social change to protect the interests of the men and the ruling class. This is partially supported by the Functionalist approach, Durkheim expressed the belief that religion provides social cement, reinforcing traditional beliefs chosen by religious moral code; such as the 10 commandments for Christianity, for the good of society.

However there are numerous examples of ways where religion has acted as a force of change, such as the war in Palestine, the wars in former Yugoslavia and in a positive way, the actions of religious leaders, such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King. In today’s society religion has acted as both a conservative force and a force of social change, as shown by ‘Islamic Fundamentalists’ in Iran and Afghanistan, and Christian fundamentalism reintroducing the teachings of creationism in the US. Religion is also seen to be a conservative force because it functions to preserve things as they are, it stabilises society and maintains status quo. Most religions have conservative moral beliefs about moral issues, many of them oppose more freedom in personal and sexual matters, for example the Catholic Church opposes divorce and homosexuality. Most religions also favour the domestic division of labour, for example in the church of England wedding ceremony the bride is to vow to “obey” her husband while he doesn’t have to say this, however its noted the church of England…...

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