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Is religion a force for social change or “conservative social force” preventing social change?  There are conflicting arguments about this issue but all the social scientists regard religion as an important social force. Some social theorist is of the view that religion has a conservative spirit that impedes the way of scial change and is inclined toward maintaining the status quo. Whereas some other sociologists are of the view that that religion is a substantial radical force that paves the way for social change.To embark on the analysis of the above-mentioned assumption i.e. role of religion in social change, a synopsis of the classical sociologists’ view of the religion as a force of social change will be quiet helpful. Functionalist viewpoint, for example, of Durkheim presents two prime roles of religion i.e. endorsement and promotion of social solidarity and social integration. This view of religion clearly illustrates that religion is a conservative social force. Karl Marx also labels religion as force that works on preserving the status quo and hinders social change. For Marx, religion is an ideological tool in the hands of the ruling class to justify their rule and monopolize the social control. He further reinforces the idea that religion “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”He asserts that religion rationalizes the present nature of things i.e. possession of land and the domination of knowledge in society) and vitalizes the notions that this natural order is approved by God and unattainable and sacrilegious for people to alter this natural order. In this way it helps the feudal society and maintains social and political status quo.But another classical sociologist, Weber, hold the view that religion is a radical social force. His assumptions are in total contrast with Durkheim and Marx Giddens (“Sociology”, 1989) observes this distinction in the following way:”Weber’s writings on religion differ from those of Durkheim in concentrating on the connection between religion and social change, something to which Durkheim gave little attention. They contrast with the work of Marx because Weber argues that religion is not necessarily a conservative force; on the contrary, religiously inspired movements have often produced dramatic social transformations.”Weber bases his empirical suppositions in history and draws his conclusion from investigation of diverse societies. He is of the view that ideological impulsion needed to transform the society according to new forms and necessities, was provided by religious ideas. He provides the example that Calvinist ideology provided appropriate impetus for the social, political and particularly economical change and transformed the society from Feudalism to Capitalism.Weber asserts that clique of Calvin believed in the notion that a single individual could not perform good works or do acts of faith to guarantee one’s place in heaven. One is either the “elect” or chosen one or not and wealth is a sign that an individual is chosen one. Thus acquisition of wealth, imputed by a religious motive, encouraged the people to inculcate in them spirit of thorough regulation, enabling them to apply rational measures to acquire wealth. This spirit brought the social change and transformed the feudal society into a capitalistic one.In order to comprehend the connection between social change and religion, we must also look at the current and contemporary religious movements that manifest the emergence and development of new social milieu. All the new religious movements, from the primitive time until now, breaks the shackles of conformity and nurture or help tio nurtire a new code of life. Bryan Wilson describes these new religious movements this phenomenon in his work “The Social Impact of New Religious Movements” in this way;;”…exotic provenance [that is, history]; new cultural lifestyle; a level of engagement markedly different from that of a traditional church Christianity; charismatic leadership; a following predominantly young and drawn in disproportionate measure from the better-educated and middle-class sections of society; social conspicuity [that is, highly visible]; international operation; and emergence within the last decade and a half”. (Wilson, 1989);In conclusion, if we identify “conservatism” in association with assertion of “traditional values and beliefs”, ultimately social change occurs in this context but if we attribute a “looking back” attitude to religion then change is not possible. Another perspective of this relation is that in “backward looking” change is not healthy for the society but a change can happen from present social status to a primitive one.

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