Using material from Item A and elsewhere assess the contribution of religion to social change (18 marks)

1005 words 5 pages
Religion can be powerful under the right certain circumstances for social change. However it can be argued that religion can be a conservative force.
Weber argues that religious beliefs contributed to major social change- specifically the emergence of modern capitalism in Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Modern capitalism differs from capitalism as it is based on systematic, efficient and a rational pursuit of profit and profit for its own sake rather than consumption. Weber calls this the spirit of capitalism.
Calvinism is a form of protestant that was formed during the reformation. Weber argues that it is the Calvinist’s beliefs that helped bring about social change and modern capitalism. For example one of Calvinists
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Weberians point out that this was due to the lack of investment capital and skilled labour- which supports Webers point that religion simply contributes to social change- does not entirely cause it. Moreover it must be noted that Weber uses secondary data for his argument as he was not alive in this period- this can make his argument invalid as it probably will differ in some way of the truth.
Another example of religion being a force for change is the American civil rights movement. Bruce argues that religion was the back bone of this being a success, he believes this due to support that black clergy gave the people. For example the churches provided meeting places and a sanctuary from the threat of white violence, and rituals such as prayer meetings and hymn singing were a source of unity in the face of oppression. In this context Bruce sees religion as an ideological resource – it provided beliefs and practises that protestors could draw on for motivation or support. The civil rights movement becoming involved in secular struggle and helping to bring about change. It achieved this by taking the moral high ground by black clergy pointing out hypocrisy of white clergy who preached ‘love thy neighbour’ yet supported racial segregation. Also the movement had the moral majority which was beneficial as it was motivating for all followers.
Bruce also points out an example of the new Christian right which is a protestant fundamentalist movement


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