Critically assess the view that religion is always a conservative force in society
Religion is generally described as either a conservative or dynamic force in society. If religion is a conservative force, that means it leaves society unchanged and functions to maintain the status quo. This can be seen as a good thing by many theorists but undesirable by others. Differently, if religion is described as being dynamic that means it is an active force that changes society. Functionalists, Marxists, Social Action Theorists and Feminists see religion as a conservative force, whereas Neo – Marxists and Weberians see it as dynamic.
Functionalists see religion as a good conservative force in society. After studying the Aborigines, Durkheim, a consensus theorist, concluded that it promoted collective consciousness, integration and social solidarity. Malinowski studied the Trobriand Islanders and found that religion was what helped believers during the crises of life – birth, puberty, marriage and death – these events caused stress and anxiety and religion helps the individual deal with these emotions, the individual is then stabilised and any threat the unstable individual might have posed to the group is wiped away. Different to Durkheim and Malinowski, Parsons said that religion promotes consensus by doing two things; it answers the big questions in life and religious laws and society’s laws go hand in hand. For example, questions like ‘is there life after death?’ and ‘how was the world created?’ both can be given plausible answers from religion. Bellah also says that society is in need of collective rituals and civil religion reaffirms these group values. An example is Americanism and Football, they aren’t religions but they bring people together in the same way. Overall, the Functionalists ignore secularisation and conflict and their focus on the positive functions religion performs works only in single faith societies.
Similar to Functionalists, Social Action...