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RELIGION. RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS. RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS. RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS. Religion as a force for stability and change. Religion creates passive individuals who do not attempt to change the world for the better, but simply accept spiritual alternatives. Religion prevents

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Religion as a force for stability and change l.jpg
Religion as a force for stability and change

Religion creates passive

individuals who do not

attempt to change the

world for the better,

but simply accept

spiritual alternatives.

Religion prevents

change in society.

It retains and

reinforces

conservative and

traditional values.

Religion

Religion can often

have a close

relationship to the

State – reinforcing

a political and social

ideology.

Religion restricts

social change and

justifies social

inequality. It is

patriarchal and

condones many

to suffering here

on Earth.


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Religion as a force for stability and change

Some religious organisations

emphasise doing good here

on Earth. These organisations

are more likely to bring about

change. Liberation Theology

emphasises salvation from

repression – particularly

in Latin America.

Radical religious

movements fight for

change in society.

The Religious Right

in America have

great influence over

politicians and

leaders in society.

Religion

Religious groups that

recruit their members

from less-privileged

people are more likely

to want social change.

E.g. Roman Catholic

priests in Latin

America and radical

Islamic groups.

Religious groups

with a strong sense

of authority and

good organisation

are more likely

to bring about

social change.


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Religion and Social Class

  • Mainstream religions are inclusive so recruit from a broad range of classes.

  • Established religions like the Church of England tend to be middle class, with its leaders tending to come from privileged backgrounds.

  • Many denominations tend to have more working class members.

  • Cults often recruit from deprived and marginal groups in society, though they can attract a cross section of society.

  • NAM and NRM tend to appeal to the middle classes, particularly young professionals.


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Religion and Age Groups

  • The old and young tend to be more religious, though many established religions have support from a wide age group.

  • The elderly often “turn to religion” as a comfort or social experience.

  • Middle aged groups are more likely to be attracted to NAM and world affirming NRM.

  • Young people often rebel against the religion of their parents or chose to opt out. Many become attracted to cults and sects – often as a result of a change in lifestyle or influenced by the Mass Media or peer groups.


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Religion and Gender

  • Though the Anglican Church is male dominated, women are more likely to attend church than men.

  • Women are also more likely to be involved in NRM and NAM.

  • Women are often attracted to NAM because they emphasise “feminine” characteristics such as caring and healing.

  • Older women turn to religion for a sense of community.

  • In most religions women play a secondary role to men, often sidelined or marginalised, which many see as a form of social control.


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Religion and Ethnicity

  • Many ethnic groups are more religious and participate readily in religion, as it is more significant to their culture.

  • People of Afro-Caribbean descent have a huge input in the rise of Pentecostalism and Gospel Evangelism.

  • There has been a steady rise in the number of people in the UK attending non-Christian places of worship.

  • Many non-Christians in the UK see their religion as a way of life rather than simply an act of faith.

  • Religion can maintain a cultural identity and a form of community amongst ethnic groups.


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Growth of Alternative ReligionsNRM & NAM

  • Postmodern society has led to increased choice and diversity, creating greater emphasis on individualism. Individual beliefs are trusted more than established religions.

  • Founders of new religions develop new ideas/products to convert people to.

  • Many people reject traditional religious explanations of spirituality and do not accept/trust scientific theories of the natural world.

  • Many people feel marginalised by society and seek new movements to make sense of their lives/the world.

  • Social change such as cultural diversity, breakdown of society, secularisation, crisis of identity, terrorism, general uncertainty, give new movements greater appeal.

  • People who have become dissatisfied with established mainstream religions, seek alternative belief systems.


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Growth of Christian Fundamentalism

  • People have rebelled against globalisation, postmodernism and secularisation, accepting the certainty that fundamentalism provides.

  • Relaxation of the divorce laws, legalised abortion, gay rights, the increase in pornography, secular education, have given rise to powerful groups such as the New Religious Right in the USA. They believe that liberal reforms have brought about a state of moral crisis and wish to return to the literal interpretation of the Bible.

  • Strong charismatic leaders promoting their views through mass communication can provide trust and meaning in times of uncertainty.

  • E.g. of Christian Fundamentalism – bombing of abortion clinics; challenging, through the courts, the teaching of evolution.


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Growth of Islamic Fundamentalism

  • Globalisation, postmodernism and modernising governments have led to a rise in Islamic Fundamentalism, seeking to return to Muslim beliefs.

  • Western values are seen as corrupt, creating uncertainty, class inequality and an erosion of tradition and traditional beliefs.

  • Strong charismatic leaders, promoting their views through mass communication, promise salvation and eternal life to adherents who carry out their orders – e.g. suicide bombers.

  • E.g. of Islamic Fundamentalism – Iranian Revolution 1979; al Qaeda – Osama bin Laden; bombing of Pentagon and World Trade Centre 2001; July 7th bombing in London 2005.


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Religion – Marx

  • Marx viewed religion as something that inhibits change – a form of social control that keeps the working classes in a state of false consciousness.

  • “Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world…. It is the opium of the people.” Religion acts as a drug that does not solve problems but merely eases the pain.

  • Religion is a tool of class exploitation – it provides the basis of ruling class ideology and justifies the social order. The hymn All things bright and beautiful contains the verse.. The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate.

  • Religion is a conservative force which prevents social change. The masses are promised rewards in heaven, so they put up with suffering on Earth.

  • Religion, therefore, involves the distortion of reality. It is ideological, in that it legitimises an unjust social order that makes it appear inevitable and unchangeable.


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Religion – Weber, Berger and Interactionist Theory

  • Weber assumed that as societies advanced technologically and scientifically then individuals would cease to rely on religious meanings. They would use rational explanations to understand their world, which would become less enchanted and sacred.

  • Weber suggests that religion deals with the problem of theodicy (justice of god) – how to make sense of a benevolent god in a world full of evil and suffering. E.g. Calvinist belief in pre-destination; Hindu belief that everyone, no matter how unfortunate, deserve to be in the position they are in.

  • Berger suggests that one of the most important aspects of religion is its ability to explain phenomena such as evil, suffering and death.

  • Berger speaks of the theodicy of disprivilege – the promise of salvation may be seen as compensation for poverty. Such ideas promote the view that it is pointless trying to change the here and now.


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Religion - Functionalism

  • Functionalists also see religion as something that inhibits change. But they view this as a good thing – something that creates social order based on shared values.

  • Durkheim – The sacred (holy or spiritual) stands for the values of society or the community. By worshipping the sacred people are effectively worshipping their society.

  • Religion maintains social solidarity by providing unifying practices and beliefs – a collective consciousness.

  • Religion strengthens values and promotes a sense of belonging and commitment. Social change and deviant behaviour are restricted, as religion binds people to society.


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Religion - Functionalism

  • Parsons – Religion lays down guidelines for individuals and societies in terms of core values.

  • Religion helps integrate people into a community or society and helps make sense of their lives.

  • Malinowski – Religion helps deal with the emotional stress and anxiety of events such as death. Religious ceremonies at funerals create group unity and help manage tension.

  • Bellah – Civil Religion (secular symbols, rituals and ceremonies) creates social cohesion. Thus flag waving, royal marriages and deaths bring about a collective feeling that generates order.

  • Functionalists see religion as a force to socialise and integrate people into society, to maintain societies norms and values – preventing anomie, and to enable people to come to terms with life changing events.


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Religion - Feminism

  • Women see God as a god of love, comfort and forgiveness – men see God more as a god of power and control. (Davie, 1994)

  • Women are often excluded from power in many religions – Roman Catholicism allows only male priests, Orthodox Jews only male Rabbis and Islam only male Imams.

  • Feminists believe that religion is patriarchal justifying male domination. Scriptures and religious texts often state that women are imperfect, temptresses or distractions to men. E.g. Eve created from Adam; Eve and the apple.

  • Though many women are venerated in Christianity, it is generally through acts of chastity, charity or as child bearers. The virgin Mary is seen as divine through being the mother of Jesus.

  • The ordination of women priests in the Anglican Church has led to great divisions. Many see this as further proof of the subordination of women in religion.


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Secularisation

  • “A process whereby religion loses it’s influence over the various spheres of social life”. (Wilson, 1996)

  • Church attendance and membership has gone down by over 1 million in the last 20 years. In 2000 only 7.5% of the population attended, and church membership was 10% of the population. (Religious Trends, 2000)

  • Baptisms have decreased by nearly 40% since 1900. (Religious Trends, 2000)

  • The average age of church goers is increasing rapidly and only 4% of the population attend Sunday School. (Religious Trends, 2000)

  • Church weddings now account for 50% of marriages compared to 75%, 30 years ago.

  • In 1900 there were over 45,000 clerics in Britain. This has dropped to just over 34,000 clerics in 2000 – despite the population having doubled.

  • The UK has become increasingly multi-cultural and established churches are losing their influence in integrating people into shared values.

  • Science and rational explanations are undermining religion.


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Secularisation – an over-generalisation?

  • It is difficult to measure secularisation – different groups measure membership in different ways.

  • Religion is a private experience for many and therefore may not be reliably measured. Davie (1995) has characterised the situation in Britain as “believing without belonging”.

  • Surveys still show high levels of religiosity or some religious beliefs. In 1998, 21% of those surveyed agreed to the statement “I know God exists and I have no doubt about it”. Only 10% said that they did not believe in God at all. (British Social Attitudes survey, 1998)

  • Religious programmes such as Songs of Praise on the BBC attract between 7 and 8 million viewers.

  • While established religions may be in decline in Britain the growth of the immigrant population has led to an increase in religiosity. Islam is the fastest growing religion in Britain and non-Trinitarian church membership is growing.

  • Religious participation also varies between social groups, with ethnic minority groups continuing to be religiously committed.


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