Religion’s Relationship with Science and The Arts
Galileo (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer. Like Copernicus, his studies and
measurements of the heavens led him to believe that the sun is the centre of
our solar system and that the earth spins and circles around the sun.
At this time the Roman Catholic Church banned these views as heresy.
Although Galileo’s books were very popular in Florence, the Pope ordered the
presses to be stopped and Galileo was called before the Inquisition in Rome.
To avoid being put to the rack, he eventually agreed not to say or write such
things. He was put under house arrest for the rest of his life. The book on earth
physics he then wrote was only published after his death in the Protestant
1.How does this illustrate the action of religion as a conservative force?
2.Find other examples of conflict between science and religion.
3.In groups, carry out research to find examples of European paintings,
architecture, music and medicine before the 15th century. What do they tell us
about the power of the Church?
Alternative Starter or Extension Task
Religion and Social Change
LO: To describe and evaluate the explanations of the role of
religion in promoting social change, using specific examples.
Starter: Read/listen to Dr Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.
1. Which biblical references
highlight racial inequality and
injustice in America?
2. Which biblical references did
Dr King use to motivate
people to change society?
Ext: Which reference do you
find most powerful and why?
All tasks complete? Read ahead –
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
Religion as a conservative force…..
Thinking back to the last set of lessons:
- In what ways does religion ‘defend’ traditional customs,
institutions, moral views, roles, ways in which society should
be organised? (Think back to feminism, Marxism…….)
Religion’s function as a
conservative force is to
preserve things the way
they are – maintain the
It does this in three main
Religion and Consensus –
promoting social solidarity and a
Religion and capitalism –
Legitimising exploitation and
inequality – discouraging change
Religion and Patriarchy –
Legitimising patriarchal power
and women’s subordination.
Max Weber – Religion can be a force
for change (social and economic)
He rejected Marx’s ‘economic reductionist’ model
which argues that religion justifies and reproduces
wealth and power for certain social groups.
Will you stop using people’s financial status as an explanation for
Weber believed that people’s social and economic status is
a product of culture and the way in which society is
organised – it is not random, nor is it a product of divine
intervention. HOWEVER, people need to use religious
explanations to make their world feel more meaningful and
A religious explanation or justification for something
e.g. “God made the volcano erupt because he is angry
Marx suggests that these theodicies are used to
legitimise inequality and discourage social
change……can you think of any examples which
illustrates this? Think back to previous lessons.
Max Weber – religious theodicies can lead to
social and economic change……Calvinism.
Religion and Oppression
• Marx identifies two aspects of the role of religion:
• It ‘cushions oppression’, by making people feel better
about their oppressed situation.
• It acts as an ‘instrument of oppression’, by keeping
people ‘in their place’.
• Read the section on Marx (pages 12 to 13), including the
example of the caste system, and find five phrases to
illustrate the two aspects of religion that Marx
Weber – The Protestant Ethic, the Spirit of Capitalism
and Social Change
Religion – specifically the Protestant religion Calvinism
– was one of the catalysts for capitalism in the 16th
and 17th centuries.
TASKS: Calvinist beliefs and the emergence of capitalism
Task 1: Read the information sheet on Calvinist beliefs and
highlight any references to capitalism. We will then discuss as
Task 2: Watch the two video clips and answer the set of
questions provided – can answer in pairs.
Task 3: Write a summary paragraph on how Calvinism led to
the development of modern capitalism in Northern
Calvinism and the emergence of capitalism
Using the videos and the reading materials in your lesson hand
out, answer the following
How did Calvinism lead to the development of modern capitalism
in Northern Europe?
The idea here is to explain how this social change came from a
theological source. You must include reference to the following:
• Calvinist theodicies e.g. predestination, salvation panic, ‘this
worldly asceticism’ and how these led to social change.
• How these Calvinist views differ from Chinese and Indian
religions, as well as Roman Catholicism?
• Explain how this development challenges Marxist views that
theodicies are used to legitimise inequality and discourage social
What was the Calvinist doctrine of predestination and how
can this idea be linked to capitalism and social change?
Explain what Weber means by ‘this worldly asceticism’.
Why does Weber argue that Calvinists experience
‘salvation panic’ and how has this contributed to capitalism
and social change?
According to Weber, why do Indian and Chinese religions
discourage social change?
How does Weber’s view of social change differ from the
Marxist view? How would Marx challenge Weber?
AO3: Evaluation – Criticisms of Weber
1. Capitalism did not develop in every country where there
were Calvinists e.g. Scotland had a large Calvinist
population but was slow to develop capitalism.
2. Marxists argue that Weber overestimated the role of
religious ideas and underestimated the role of economic
factors already prevalent before Calvinism e.g. slavery, and
Weberians, such as Marshal (1982) points out that
Scotland lacked the other factors necessary for
development e.g. investment capital and skilled labour –
which may explain why capitalism took longer to arise.
Britain gained the capital
colonising in other
countries and gaining
access to cheap raw
materials and labour.
This developed Britain’s
capital and therefore
Thus capitalism is not
due to Calvinism ‘back
home’, but to expanding
the empire elsewhere.
AO3: Calvinism – economic success as
God’s will……is this too optimistic?
MacKinnon (1993) argued that Weber misinterpreted
Calvinist theology and that the religion was opposed to greed
and the pursuit of money….perhaps the opposite was true.
Perhaps it was all about the money! (Difficult to determine, as
much of the theory was based on assumption, rather than
He accused Weber of only selecting parts of the Calvinist
religion that suited his hypothesis which questions the
validity of Weber’s findings –WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Others argue that capitalism predates Calvinism and that the
bourgeoisie have adopted the Calvinist ideas in order to
legitimise their pursuit of economic gain.
Religion and Social Protest
Like Weber, Steve Bruce (2003) is interested in the
relationship between religion and social change. He
compared two examples of religious inspired protest
movements in America; the civil rights movement and
the New Christian Right.
One of the above movements was successful in
creating social change, whereas the other is
VIDEO: The most hated family in America
Followed by…..Next slide….
Write up tasks using pages 15-16.
Religion and Social Protest - Tasks
Read pages 15-16.
1. According to Bruce, why were the black clergy so important
in the black civil rights movement?
2. Briefly outline four ways in which religious organisations
can support and contribute to social change.
3. Briefly outline the aims of the New Christian Right in
America. Give some specific examples of their ideas.
4. According to Bruce and your own interpretations of the
documentary, what are the two reasons why the New
Christian Right have been unsuccessful in their aims?
5. What can be learnt from this comparison, with regards to
religion and social change?
EXT: What would Marx say with regards to social change?
Keyword check: Without looking!
•Spirit of Capitalism
You must be able to define the following key terms
AND understand how they are used in context.
Starter: Define each key
Extension: Use ALL the
keywords in context -
write a few sentences
using the keywords.
• Asceticism - Abstinence, self-discipline and self-denial.
Two different types: ‘Other wordly’ and ‘this wordly’
What is the difference?
• Spirit of Capitalism - having an attitude to be industrious and
entrepreneurial; having a duty to prosper.
• Salvation panic - Calvinists did not know whether they would
be saved or not, so they developed a theodicy to help them
deal with the ‘not knowing’, in order to be saved.
• Predestination - God has already decided what souls to save.
• Conservative force - preserving traditional customs,
institutions and moral views, roles etc, maintain status quo.
• Theodicies - an explanations for why there is evil in the world,
or why God permits evil - Justifications.
Social Change - so far…..
• Max Weber – Religion can be a force
for change (social and economic)
• Theodicies can be used to encourage
social change e.g. Calvinism and the
emergence of capitalism
• AO3: No capitalism in Scotland,
economic factors before Calvinism
more likely to have caused
capitalism e.g. colonialism, theory
based on assumption.
• Religion and social protest -
American Civil Rights movement vs
New Christian Rights,
The Dual Nature of Religion
Whilst Marx argues that religion is a conservative
force shaped by a set of ruling-class ideas, he also
acknowledges that religion can have its positives:
He describes religion as “The soul of soulless
conditions”…..”the heart of a heartless
world”……what do you think he means by this?
Marx argued that religion is capable of humanising a
world made inhuman by exploitation.
Friedrich Engels (1895) Marx’s life-long
collaborator and friend argues for the dual
character of religion, an example of which is
Can inhibit change AND
challenge status quo….
This theology combines the teachings of Jesus and
Marx. It encourages people to actively change their
societies, through the use of violence if necessary.
They believe that it's a 'Christian duty' to be involved
in any actions which ease suffering and lead to
In fact, liberationists said the church should
act to bring about social change, and should
ally itself with the working class to do so.
Some radical priests became involved in
politics and trade unions; others even
aligned themselves with violent
Where did it originate from?
Liberation theology grew in South America as a response to
the poverty and the ill-treatment of ordinary people.
The movement was caricatured in the phrase ‘If Jesus Christ
were on Earth today, he would be a Marxist revolutionary’ but
it's more accurately encapsulated in this paragraph from
Leonardo and Clodovis Boff:
“How are we to be Christians in a world of destitution and
injustice? There can be only one answer: we can be followers
of Jesus and true Christians only by making common cause
with the poor and working out the gospel of liberation.”
• Leonardo and Clodovis Boff
But not all agreed…..
The late Pope John Paul II was frequently criticised
for the severity with which he dealt with the
His main objective was to stop the highly
politicised form of liberation theology prevalent in
the 1980s, which could be seen as a fusion of
Christianity and Marxism.
He also closed institutions that taught Liberation
Theology, which led to the removal of the
movement's activists, such as Leonardo Boff.
He didn't mean that the Church was not going to be the voice
of the oppressed, was not going to champion the poor.
But it should not do it by biased politics, or by revolutionary
violence. The Church's business was bringing about the
Kingdom of God, not about creating a Marxist utopia.
Where now? The movement has since lost influence
and the mainstream churches have given up the
struggle of the social gospel in favour of a more feel-
good theology, whilst still defending democracy and
Possible AO3: Liberation theology is
seen as an example of religiously
inspired social change but other
Marxists disagree. Liberation theology
may have helped to bring about
democracy but it did not threaten the
stability of capitalism.
Q: Do you think this
is comparable to
the New Christian
Liberation Theology vs Pentecostalism
In recent years, Liberation Theology has faced competition
from Pentecostal churches which have made big inroads in
Latin America among the poor.
Liberation Theology - The ‘option for the poor’ -
consciousness -raising and campaigning for social
change led by revolutions.
Pentecostalism - The ‘option of the poor’ - people
pull themselves out of poverty with help from the
congregation and church pastors
One is RADICAL and promotes political change, whilst the other
in conservative and promotes personal self improvement.
Millenarian Movements (Worsley, 1968)
Social unrest and loss of power result in religious
movements that may be called millenarian.
Millenarian movement believes in the coming of new
world in part through supernatural action. This will
create a ‘heaven on earth’ and the whole group will
be saved. For example…The Doomsday Prediction 2012
These movements appealed mostly to the
poor, exploited groups as they are promised
They also often arise in colonial situations
e.g. European colonisation of tribal lands and
Millenarian Movements in the Modern World
• Economic rules or vast conspiracies are seen as
generating oppression. Only dramatic events are
seen as able to change the world, with only the few
dedicated groups remaining.
• While many millennial groups are pacifistic,
millenarian beliefs have been claimed as causes for
people to ignore conventional rules of behaviour,
which can result in violence (such as the Jonestown
• In some cases, millenarians withdraw from society
to await the intervention of God.
TASK: The People’s Temple….will watch this later (very
Synoptic link: Cults
Starter: Link back to hegemony and ideological domination
Neo Marxist Ideas - Gramsci and Hegemony
Definition: Ideological domination - When socially powerful
people use their influence to convince less powerful people it
is in their best interest to do what the most powerful people
When the ruling-class uses ideas, such as religion, to maintain
control, hegemony is established.
However, hegemony is
not always guaranteed
and the WC are not
always hypnotised by
the dominant ideology.
They may experience a
Ordinary people may subscribe to
some dominant ideologies e.g. the
royal family is necessary, but still be
aware that the capitalist system is
unfair e.g. I do not get paid enough!
According to this view, the WC are not blind
to exploitation and often seek to deal with
it e.g. through trade unions.
VIDEO: 10 Minute Philosophy
Dual Character of Religion
Ernst Bloch: The principle of hope….
Religion often inhibits social change but can
also inspire protest and rebellion.
Religion is an expression of ‘the principle of
hope’ - our dreams of a better life that
contains images of utopia.
People can see what needs to be
changed in this world to build
their utopia. That combined with
effective political organisation and
leadership, can bring about social
Religion and Class Conflict
Dwight Billings (1990)
• Page 18 – A study to emphasise the importance of leadership
and organisation for religion to promote social change.
The Billings (1990) study shows how religion can have a dual
character – it can be called upon to defend the status quo (the
textile workers) or challenge the status quo (the miners).
Briefly describe the study and outline the ways in which religion
either supported or challenged the employer’s hegemony.
EXT: Problems with this study? Only two, specific groups
Summary: Dual character of religion
•Marx: Religion can humanise a world made
unhuman by exploitation, even though the
comfort is an illusion
•Ernst Bloch - the principle of hope
•Liberation theology - Catholic Church in Latin
America - religion can be a revolutionary
•Millenarian movements - raises the hope of a
better world and may create desire to change
Using the above points and your own knowledge, prepare an
opening statement (3-4 minutes) which outlines your general
perspective. After these statements, opposing teams can ask
questions and debate the points raised.
We will end with a closing statement from each side,
summarising why your perspective is right.
will need to
Write up - Answer the debate Q
Using the arguments presented in the debate, write
up the various responses to the debate statement:
“All religions should be abandoned as they cause
more problems than they solve.”
Make sure that you use evidence and examples
NOTE: You can use the ideas
presented for a number of topics -
Marxism, Functionalism, Social
Imagine you have been asked to prepare an opening
statement for each side of this debate.
Using the above points, research and your own knowledge -
prepare a 4 minute opening statement for EACH side of this
debate. This should amount (roughly) to a page.
For a Q like
this you will
need to be
Research - Religion and Conflict (examples)
1. AO1/AO2: Research at least 3 examples which illustrate
religion as a cause of conflict (not Marxism or Feminism.)
HINTS ON WHERE/WHEN TO LOOK: New York 2001, Madrid
2004, London 2005, Burkina Faso 2016, ISIS attacks, Paris and
Tunisia, Boko Haram, Hamas, the Talliban, India – clashes in
Gujarat in 2002, Yugoslavia in 1991/1992.
2. AO3: Some argue that these conflicts are not based on
religion but on other political, cultural and financial factors
e.g. foreign policy, oil, the spread of Western cultures, fights
for land and resources, expansionism.
Research and summarise at least two arguments which
suggest conflict is not due to religion.
10 mark question
• Outline and explain two ways in which religion
promotes social change (10 marks)
• How do we answer 10 mark questions?
• AO1, AO2, AO3?
Write a 10 mark answer to this
Remember you need some AO3
analysis and evaluation - either
strengths and weaknesses OR
comparisons e.g. examples where
religion inhibits social change.
Hinweis der Redaktion
Examples – role of women n in the home, reproducing role, men as the head of the family in a traditional marriage vow, love honour and OBEY, forbidding aboration etc, instiotuions e.g. keeping all priests MC and male, family institution. Examples – Religion and consensus, religion and capitalism, religion and patriarchy
Economic reductionism – reducing all explanations of society e.g. social class relationships, down to economic relationships. Pronounced as VEY-BER
Include the photo from folder – a comic strip.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBPeCQzHu5w – Civil rights images https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QZik4CYtgw&feature=related – Montgomery bus protest.
Video: Most hated family in America (Netflix) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXOEAz46vMk – televangelists in America
Appeal to the tribes as they need an answer to the dominations of their land and the loss of their culture
http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=33127 - info https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7IxGGfpSWk - pt 1 video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9rSN05Pi94 - pt 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3yzkhJVXE4 - whole documentary
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