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20 markers beliefs
Evaluate the claim religion performs ideological functions for powerful groups.
An ideology is a set of ideas or beliefs, usually to form the basis of political and social values. As I will discuss in the following essay, a range of political theorists believe religion performs ideological functions to benefit powerful groups etc etcetera.
One way in which religion may perform an ideological function is through legitimising class inequality. Marxists such as Lenin argue religion acts as a ‘spiritual gin’ and distorts the working classes view of society. Religion misleads the poor into believing their suffering is virotious and they will be favored in the afterlife. Through passages like ‘it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven’ the wc feel as though they are not being exploited but rather serving God. This suggests that religion can blur and distort the exploitation of a capitalist society and act in the interest of upper classes by stopping a revolution. This is why Marx has referred to religion as an ‘opium of the masses’ as it dulls the pain of exploitation - a mask rather than a treatment. However, this neglects the positive functions religion can have, such as its psychological benefits.
Another way in which religion may perform an ideological function is by reinforcing the patriarchy. Feminists argue that religion plays a role in the subordination of women. For example in biblical passages such as genesis, females are portrayed in a negative way, with Eve being seen as the downfall for mankind. Other examples include the feature of male Gods and segregated places of worship- in synagogue.. This leads to women being seen as inferior and less relevant, and thus maintains the patriarchy by keeping women in subordinate positions such as lower income jobs. However, other biblical references would neglect this, Armstrong argues - even mother nature being considered a she.
Functionalists neglect the above points and argue religion has benefits for society. Malinowski investigated the use of religion on a tribal island in the western pacific. He found that when lagoon fishing, a rather risk free option, religious beliefs or traditions were not present. However, when ocean fishing, the tribe would perform a religious ritual of ocean magic. This is as religion helps in uncertain situations, and puts the tribesmen at ease. Furthermore, religion can be used in times of life crises to help individuals to cope, such as funeral rituals allowing for a comforting goodbye. This ultimately suggests religion has positive impacts on society by helping those in uncertain or unpredictable circumstances seek guidance. However, due to the increase in religious diversity, such rituals are becoming less relevant due to the impacts of secularization and thus the decreased plausibility of religious values.
Another benefit religion can perform is unify us. Durkheim stated religion helps establish a ‘collective consciousness’. Such claims are pursued by Bellah, who argues the prominence of a civil religion, which integrates society. In America, due to the diverse cultures no single religion can achieve a collective consciousness. Rather, the values of American society can help unify people, such as a belief in a God, the American national anthem and so on. This proposes religious values help bring people together and allows society to function. Ignore religion as a source of conflict.
To conclude, though religion has undoubtedly some positive effects, due to the effects of secularisation such effects are becoming less meaningful. Instead, religion is losing its plausibility, and as argued by marxists and feminists, is in place to oppress those in less prileveeded positions.