Is Religion a Conservative Force or a Force for Social Change?

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Is religion a conservative force or a force for social change? Some Functionalist and Marxist approaches believe that religion is a conservative force meaning that they want to keep things how they are. However, Neo Marxists see it as a force for social change. Functionalists believe that religion makes to the wellbeing of society- its contribution to social stability and value consensus. They have 5 key functions of religion in modern society. One of these functions is socialization. They say the main function of religion in modern society is to socialise society’s members into a value consensus by investing values with a sacred quality. These values become ‘moral codes’. For example, The Ten Commandments are ‘moral codes’ which influenced both formal and informal control. Another function is social integration and solidarity. Functionalists say encouraging collective worship is particularly important for the integration of society, since it enables members to express their shared values and strengthens group unity. By worshipping together, people develop a sense of commitment and belonging: individuals unite into a group with shared values, reinforcing social solidarity, deviant behaviour is restrained and social change restricted. Another function they believe is civil religion. This refers to a situation where sacred qualities are attached to aspects of the society itself. For example, in the UK street parades, swearing allegiance to Queen and country, and being part of a flag-waving crowd all remind us of our relationship to the nation. Another function is preventing anomie. In other words, a state of confusion or normlessness. This could occur in modern industrial society where individuals would become less integrated and their behaviours less regulated meaning society would not be able to function as the members would not know how they should behave relative
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