Sociology Essay - Is religion a tool for opression?

Abigail Courtness
Note by Abigail Courtness, updated more than 1 year ago
Abigail Courtness
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A2 Sociology (Beliefs in society) Note on Sociology Essay - Is religion a tool for opression? , created by Abigail Courtness on 09/21/2016.

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Page 1

Introduction Re - word the question Acknowledge that there are a number of sociological viewpoints and ideas on the area Hint at what your viewpoint may be Paragraph One Introduce the second sociological theory (feminism) State the sociologists and what their view on religion is (Simone de Beauvoir) State how this agrees/disagrees with the question (agrees) State criticisms of this theory State how the criticisms of the theory agrees/disagrees with the question (disagrees) Paragraph Two Introduce the second sociological theory (functionalism) State the sociologists and what their view on religion is (Durkheim) State how this agrees/disagrees with the question (disagrees) State criticisms of this theory State how the criticisms of the theory agrees/disagrees with the question (agrees) Paragraph Three Introduce the third sociological theory (marxism) State the sociologists and what their view on religion is (Marx) State how this agrees/disagrees with the question (agrees) State criticisms of this theory State how the criticisms of the theory agrees/disagrees with the question (disagrees) Paragraph Four Introduce the fourth sociological theory (neo-marxism) State the sociologists and what their view on religion is (agrees and disagrees) State how this agrees/disagrees with the question (disagrees) State criticisms of this theory State how the criticisms of the theory agrees/disagrees with the question (agrees) Conclusion Acknowledge the sociologists previously mentioned and acknowledge how they have differing views State how the different view points contradict each other Sate how they relate back to the question Add something new - e.g. postmodernism - religion is no loner relevant to society Make a final conclusion on the question

Page 2

Introduction Both in the UK and across the world religion has faced scrutiny from a number of sources including sociologists. Many argue that religion can be used as a tool for oppression and that at its hands a number of groups within society such as women and homosexuals may suffer. A number of different sociologists have both conducted research into the area of religion and identified a sociological theory to accompany it, they include; Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Simone de Beauvoir all of which take very different approaches to the subject area. Whilst it is possible to argue that religion can be used as a tool for oppression, there are also many sociologists that see religion as a positive tool for society.Paragraph One Much of ones belief on whether they view religion to be a tool for oppression stems from their sociological standpoint. As a feminist Simone de Beauvoir would come down in support of this idea as she sees religion as being a patriarchal institution that acts to prevent women from having fair and equal rights within society. She argues that the belief that women are destined to be caregivers as a result of giving birth causes them to be trapped and oppressed. Many religions such as Roman Catholicism see women as temptresses that act as a distraction. The oppression women is evidenced in the seeming lack of women in high authority positions within religion; which is why many feminists including Simone de Beauvoir would argue that religion is in fact a tool for oppression. However many other sociologists would criticise and counteract her belief including Watson (1994) and Ray (2010) who conducted research and collected data that suggested that Muslim women often choose to wear the burqua and hijab and therefore it cannot be seen as a form of oppression bur rather an expression of free will. This also falls into the idea that religion itself may not be patriarchal but rather the society itself which would counteract this question. Paragraph Two This being said the functionalist Durkheim (1915) would argue that religion acts as a positive force within society and helps to bring about social order through a collective conscience that provides a set of rules, values and beliefs that prevent society from disintegrating. Durkheim would therefore argue that religion is not a tool for oppression but rather an institution that plays a central role in creating and maintaining consensus order and solidarity. However, whilst Durkheim took a functionalist approach to the theory of religion there are many criticisms of his theory that support the idea that religion does act as a tool for oppressing particular groups, instead of creating solidarity between them. Hamilton (2012) criticises Durkheim's theory of social solidarity by arguing it fails to take into consideration the evidence that religion can be harmful, cause damage to society and inspire conflict all of which can result in religion being used as a tool for oppression. an example of when conflict resulted in the oppression of a particular group of society is surrounding the Northern Irish 'troubles' where man Catholics were oppressed for their religion by the protestants of the Christian Church. Paragraph ThreeKarl Marx took a different standpoint from other sociologists about religion and its role within society. Marx argues the religion is a tool of oppression used by the Bourgeoisie to control the proletariat in all areas of society not in those just concerning religion itself. Marx believed that society was split up into two groups; the infrastructure - dominated by the working class and the superstructure - something that works together in unity to reinforce the dominant ideology of the ruling class, this is where Marx would argue religion falls into and why he argues it is a tool for oppression. On the other hand he has been criticised for his ideologies and ideas about the role in which religion plays within the everyday workings of society. Many functionalists including Durkheim as previously mentioned view religion for the positive impact it can have within a society instead of in terms of a God or supernatural and they would therefore argues that religion is a positive for society that through a 'collective conscience' helps to maintain a social order. He is also criticised for being overly Christocentric, with many sociologists arguing that different world religions often play a significantly different role in society not one that focuses on oppression. Paragraph Four A sociologists with similar but yet differing views on whether religion is a tool for oppression is the neo-Marxist Gramsci. Gramsci developed the concept of dual conciseness from Marx's theory of an infrastructure and a superstructure existing within the realms of all societies. Gramsci argued unlike Marx that it was possible for parts of the superstructure to exist independently from each other in their ideologies, particularly religion, which as a result could lead to social change. Therefore according to his theory religion can bring about social change which means that it does not always have to reinforce the ruling class ideologies meaning it does not have to been seen or used as a tool for oppression in today's society. Conclusion Overall many different sociologists have very differing views on religion and its role within society, this is due to the fact that religion is a social construct and is therefore personal to the individual and differs depending on the time, place and culture of a society. As a result religion in some cases can be seen to be a tool for oppression whereas in other cases it can be a tool for social change and liberation. Postmodernists believe that religious beliefs change to reflect changes within society and that although religion isn't used the same way as it once was due, in part to the secularisation of society , it is still important to provide stability within society. This therefore is the argument that religion is not a tool for oppression as it shows people are practising their religion in more private and new ways instead of traditional and generally more oppressive ways. Overall religion works to both unify and conflict people and it is the way people individually and as a society use the religion that affects whether or not it is a tool for oppression.

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