Religion impedes progressive social change in modern Australia. Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber sociological theories have a difference of opinion in the substantive area of religion, social inequality and social change. Contemporary religious movements in Australia have organised social groups such as The Right To Life group, which have strong conservative approaches. Contemporary organised social religious groups in Australia are welcoming for people who are isolated and suffering from inequality. Sociological imagination for people living in anomie conditions such as poverty or living in social isolation use religion as a hope that life will get better. Functionalist sociological theories elucidate how religion in modern society is likely to impede progressive social change. Social forces formed through radicalisation within religious groups such as Islamic extremists can cause social inequality, leading to negative social change.
Inequality is based on meritocracy and social inequality which causes equilibrium. In a competitive capitalist society such as Australia, people are influenced by their religious beliefs, both positively and negatively. Religious groups provide a social support network, a meaning of existence and a coherent belief in being able to make social change. Unfortunately recent times have seen criminal convictions and anthropological sensibility through highly immoral religious practices causing deglobalisation in Australia. Religious groups exert their influence on others and this can have a negative impact on social change and impedes progressive social change.
This paper will evaluate the impact of religion and critic sociological theories of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. Next will be substantive area of religion with a precise analysis concerning inequality and social change in Australia. Karl Marx Marxist theory and social conflict theory will be analysed as this theory is the most compelling for making sense of contemporary religious movements critiquing how constituted religious subgroups and social classes impedes social change. Final evaluating how religion is conversely shaped by its social context in ways that affect its social role.
The founding Fathers of sociology Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber had three contrasting theories on how religion affects social change. Karl Marx Marxist conflict theory, Emile Durkheim functionalist theory and Max Weber social action theory all have different perspectives in their sociological theories of how society perceives religion.
Karl Marx, Marxist theory and social conflict theory are the most compelling for making sense of contemporary religious movements. Marx materialistic perspective was formed from the understanding that religion played a critical role in forming a capitalist society. Marx historical materialistic dialectic approach was formed from his study into how religion and politics implemented social change (McGivern & Little 2014). The Marxist theory perspective explains that social life is governed not substantially by economic forces which causes conflict from social changes, not benefits. Conflict theory of Marx extended his Marxist theory to include other forms of oppression, such as religion. Marx argued that economic pressure forces influence through social expression from religious groups. Marx critiqued religion and believed that the cause of inequality was due to social change because religion gave people a false consciousness (Van Krieken, Habbis, Smith, Hutchins, Martin & Maton 2017). Religion encouraged inequality instead of resistance, religion taught that weakness and suffering in this world would be compensated in the next. The opinion of Christianity and Marxism formed a liberation theory that religion exerts a radical influence on society (Woods 2005). Domination of religion produces inequality through division, critical sensibility and contributes to oppression (McGivern & Little 2014).
Emile Durkheim functionalist sociological theory included social structure, the division of labor and individuals left in a state of anomie. Durkheim functionalist theory examined the view that faith was necessary for society and that religion contributes to social solidarity. Durkheim’s theory of religion exemplifies how functionalists examine sociological phenomena, with a conservative approach that religion in society is progressive for social change. Durkheim functionalist theory looked at how different religions brought together society (Van Krieken, Habibis, Smith, Hutchins, Martin & Maton 2017). Communities come together for Christmas, weddings, funerals and major life events religion gives significance to social solidarity. Durkheim stated that human sociability required explanation, he argued that in any society social solidarity is achieved through the establishment of the moral universe which he called the collective conscience (Van Krieken, Habibis, Smith, Hutchins, Martin & Maton 2017). Durkheim’s theory is criticised as Australia is a multicultural society and the coexistence of differences in religious beliefs and rituals which is seeing negative social change. An example is the wording of Easter being removed from Easter egg packaging, replaced with non religious wording of holiday eggs, causing social unrest.
Max Weber’s social action theory interpreted the understanding causal, explaining the course and effects of social action. Social relation is shaped by politics, economics, culture, religion and interaction through relationships. Weber’s conflict theory argued that social action causing social change derived from emotional and traditional foundations (Giddens 1979). Weber stated that religion was a shaping factor of capitalism. Weber’s sociology explanation was how society is affected by human actions and that religion impacts on social change which impedes progression. Max Weber’s sociological analysis explains power as a capacity, such as religious and its affect on social groups. Weber’s sociology definition reflects on his perspective that human action has subjective meaning to their behaviour through documentation and statistical data, giving an understanding from a holistic point of view (Stark 1964). Max Weber definition of historical materialism was that rationalisation, secularisation and disenchantment gave rise to capitalism and modernity. Weber’s defines social class in relationship to social action a division between class, age, status and religious belief (Little 2016). Concluding that Weber’s social action theory relates to religion, as society encourages certain types of people who motivate action.
Social phenomenon of religion can be pervasive to society. For religion to make progressive social change, beliefs, rituals, rules and morals must be socially cohesive (McGivern & Little 2014). Religious groups command action even when met with resistance from others, power held by some can only be at the expense of others. Empowerment Zero-sum concept of power means a person acquires power even if it means someone else has to loose it (Craig & Mayo 1995). Religious groups in Australia The Right To Life and Family First Group have a strong conservative approaches.
The Right To Life group is religiously influenced by Christian beliefs such as opposition to abortion and homosexuality. The groups demand social action in regards to immigration, drug legislation, homosexual marriage and euthanasia. These religious group approaches cause division between non believers due to their fundamental core beliefs, which impedes progressive social change.
The demonstration of Religion power is a source of social action. Religion is used by domination to justify position and provide the ideological foundation for radical social movements. Religion effects social behaviour due to conflicts and political movements. Islamic movements around the world are seeing strong social conflicts in Afghanistan, Israel, Sudan, Iraq and Chechnya (Van Krieken, Habibis, Smith, Hutchins, Martin & Maton 2017).
Ethnocentrism within extremist religious groups judges other cultures and standards assuming their culture is more natural (Wright 2015). Radical Islam extremists groups cause social division within their own Islamic faith, these extreme groups cause inequality and socially segregate for peaceful Muslims. Islamic terrorist organisations such as ISIS are a risk to Australian national security (Australian National Security 2019). Muslims are expected to increase social action in the west and this will cause secularisation due to to social inequality and division between religions. Extremist groups use religion as a institution to negotiate major cultural and social change. The rise in oppression will come from structural racism facilitated verbal or physical attacks on society. Islamic extremist religious groups cause the majority of social class within Australia to disagree and even fear all Muslims due to the extremism actions such as terrorist attacks and hate speech against non believers. An interrelated set of beliefs and ideas to interpret their religion are interpreted differently within the religion of islam. Civil religion promotes homogenous uniformed national society (Cordesman 2016). Negative social deviance through sanctions are not acceptable normal behaviour. Social psychology society, shaped by the existence of other people feelings and attitudes (Durkheim 1962).
Islamophobia in Australia is causing social change. Max Weber’s social action theory interpreted the understanding causal, explaining the course and effects of social action such as fear of a terrorist attack would cause negative social change. Shalailah Madhora in (2015) stated that three out of four Australians believe a large scale terrorist attack will happen in our country.
Concluding that the powerful social force of religion plays a critical role on human behaviour. Marxist theory and Karl Marx social conflict theory forms an understanding into social formations in society and how groups can cause inequality due to fundamental differences. Emile Durkheim functionalist sociological theory emphasises the consensus and order that exist in society, focusing on social stability and shared public values. Max Weber’s social action theory interpreted the understanding causal, explaining the course and effects of social action of social relationships is shaped by politics, economics, culture and religion. Religious groups such as the interact with economic arrangements, political formations, status groups and this interaction brings social change. Extremist groups use religion as a institution to negotiate major cultural and impede progressive social change. Religion is a powerful social force and plays a critical role on human behaviour.
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