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Outline and evaluate the functionalist perspective that religion acts as a
conservative force.
For functionalists society is a system of interrelated parts or social institutions. Many
sociologists argue that religion is a conservative force within society as it reinforces
the norms and values of a society therefore preventing dramatic change. It can be
seen as a conservative force in two different senses, the first being in the sense of
being traditional, defending traditional customs, institutions, moral views etc. and the
other being that it functions to conserve or preserve things as they are. It stabilises
society and maintains the status quo. However, other sociologists such as Marxists
disagree because they believe that society is driven by ideologies that are
manipulated by the economic elite.
Functionalists such as such as Durkheim (1915), the key feature of religion was not
a belief in gods, spirits or the supernatural, but a fundamental distinction between the
sacred and the profound found in all religions. However, Marxists such as Marx view
that religion operates as an ideological weapon used by the ruling class to legitimate
the suffering of the poor as something inevitable and god-given. Religion misleads
the poor into believing that their suffering is virtuous and that they will be favoured in
the afterlife, for example according to Christianity it is easier for a camel to pass
through the eye of a needle than it is a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Such ideas create a false-class consciousness i.e. a distorted view of reality that
prevents the poor from acting to change their situation.
agree with functionalists as they believe that religion is a conservative force
because if you work hard you are closer to God. However social action theorists
such as Weber argue that we all interpret or make sense of what happens around us
and so construct our own social reality and ideas change society. He believed that
religion could bring about change in the economy and he challenges materialism and
economic determinism of the Marxist theory and notes how society is shaped by
human ideas rather than action directed by ideology, that is manipulated by the
economic elite i.e. the bourgeoisie. Weber conducted a comparative analysis of
many societies and identified the main factors that caused the birth of the industrial
age, he identified that societies can be goal orientated and can follow rational action,
in other words, set targets and meet them. The key factor was the protestant faith

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Outline and evaluate the functionalist perspective that religion acts as a conservative force

  • 1. Outline and evaluate the functionalist perspective that religion acts as a conservative force. For functionalists society is a system of interrelated parts or social institutions. Many sociologists argue that religion is a conservative force within society as it reinforces the norms and values of a society therefore preventing dramatic change. It can be seen as a conservative force in two different senses, the first being in the sense of being traditional, defending traditional customs, institutions, moral views etc. and the other being that it functions to conserve or preserve things as they are. It stabilises society and maintains the status quo. However, other sociologists such as Marxists disagree because they believe that society is driven by ideologies that are manipulated by the economic elite. Functionalists such as such as Durkheim (1915), the key feature of religion was not a belief in gods, spirits or the supernatural, but a fundamental distinction between the sacred and the profound found in all religions. However, Marxists such as Marx view that religion operates as an ideological weapon used by the ruling class to legitimate the suffering of the poor as something inevitable and god-given. Religion misleads the poor into believing that their suffering is virtuous and that they will be favoured in the afterlife, for example according to Christianity it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Such ideas create a false-class consciousness i.e. a distorted view of reality that prevents the poor from acting to change their situation. agree with functionalists as they believe that religion is a conservative force because if you work hard you are closer to God. However social action theorists such as Weber argue that we all interpret or make sense of what happens around us and so construct our own social reality and ideas change society. He believed that religion could bring about change in the economy and he challenges materialism and economic determinism of the Marxist theory and notes how society is shaped by human ideas rather than action directed by ideology, that is manipulated by the economic elite i.e. the bourgeoisie. Weber conducted a comparative analysis of many societies and identified the main factors that caused the birth of the industrial age, he identified that societies can be goal orientated and can follow rational action, in other words, set targets and meet them. The key factor was the protestant faith