The above question appears on the AQA’s 2016 Paper 2 Specimen Paper.
The Question and the Item (as on the paper)
Read Item B and answer the question that follows.
Many sociologists argue that religious beliefs and organisations act as conservative forces and barriers to social change. For example, religious doctrines such as the Hindu belief in reincarnation or Christian teachings on the family have given religious justification to existing social structures.
Similarly, it is argued that religious organisations such as churches are often extremely wealthy and closely linked to elite groups and power structures.
Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate the view that religious beliefs and organisations are barriers to social change (20)
Suggested essay plan
- The question asks for beliefs and organization, so deal with both.
- Remember you should look at this in global perspective (it’s on the spec).
- Remember to use the item. NB all of the material in item is covered in the plan below, all you would need to do in an essay is reference it!
- Stay mainly focused on the arguments in the first section below.
Arguments and evidence for the view that religion is a barrier to social change
Parsons argued religions maintains social order: it promotes value consensus as many legal systems are based on religious morals.
It also maintains stability in times of social change (when individuals die), and helps people make sense of changes within society, thus helping prevent anomie/ chaos and potentially more disruptive change.
Religion prevents change through ideological control and false consciousness. It teaches that inequality and injustice are God’s will and thus there is no point trying to change it.
Religion also prevents change by being the ‘opium of the masses’. It makes a virtue out of suffering, making people think they will be rewarded in the afterlife and that if they just put up with their misery now, they’ll get reward later,.
Simone de Beauvoir – religion is used by men to justify their position of power, and to compensate women for their second-class status. It oppresses women in the same way Marx said it oppresses the proletariat.
The Church (typically a conservative force)
The church tends to be closely tied to existing political and economic power structures: the Church of England is closely tied to the state for example: the Queen is closely related and Bishops sit in the Lords. Also most members and attendees are middle class. It thus tends to resist radical social change.
World Accommodating and World Affirming NBMs
World Accommodating NRMs can help prevent change by helping members cope with their suffering in the day to day.
World Affirming Movements (such as TM) reinforce dominant values such as individualism and entrepeneurialism.
Arguments and evidence against the view that religion is a barrier to social change
Some Catholic priests in Latin America in the 70s took up the cause of landless peasants and criticized the inequalities in the region.
However, they were largely unsuccessful!
The protestant ethic gave rise to the spirit of Capitalism (Calvinism and Entrepreneurialism etc.)
El Saadawi – It’s Patriarchy, not Islam that has oppressed women… but it is possible for women to fight back against it (as she herself does)
Carol P Christ – believes there are diverse ways to ‘knowing the Goddess’ and criticizes dualistic thinking and the idea that any religion can have a monopoly on truth
Some World Rejecting NRMs
E.G. The Nation of Islam have aimed to bring about radical social change
The New Age Movement
Encourages individualism and pick and mixing of different religions, so encourages diversity and hybrid religions to emerge.
Means religion has less power in society, and thus is less able to act as a barrier to social change.
Thoughts on a conclusion
Make sure you distinguish between beliefs and organisations and types of social change
Beliefs in Society is one of the options taught as part of A-level sociology, usually in the second year of study.
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