• Revision:Religion according to Marx

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'Religion comes from the oppressed, but benefits those at the top'

Lenin: Religion is a kind of spiritual gin in which the slaves of capital drown their human shape and their claims to any decent life.

Religion dulls the pain caused by oppression.

It does nothing to solve the problem; it is a bad attempt to make life more bearable.

  • Salvation from bondage and misery by promised after-life
  • Promises people will be rewarded for their virtue
  • Offers hope of supernatural intervention to solve problems on earth
  • Often justifies social order and a persons place within it

Helps people at the bottom accept their situation.

Marx: Religion is an opiate of the masses

Prevents any form of revolt, as it threatens eternal damnation, good for social control.

Helps produce false consciousness.

Diverts people's attention away from real source of oppression and keeps ruling class in power


Criticisms of Marxist Theory

Turner argues there is no single, dominant ideology; there is a different ideology for each class

Engels argues he saw early Christian sects as radical challenge to authority of Roman Law.


Maduro: Religion is not always a conservative force.

Religion one of the few things that can stimulate revolt.

Recently, Catholic priests have acted against interests of bourgeoisie.

Interpretations of religion can show it is critical of rich and powerful.

Turner: Religion rises from a material base.

Relates to physical and economic aspects of social life.

Religion doesn't have universal role, not important part of ruling-class ideology.

Families no longer hold the wealth multinationals etc: Religion less needed, for passing money down etc.

Religion is an optional extra in capitalist society.

Criticisms of Neo-Marxist

Little evidence to show WC were ever especially religious.

Religion can act for change (radical/political) "Liberation Theology". But theory still credits mass of population with little independent action.

Religion acts as a tool of social control, maintaining the existing system of exploitation and reinforcing the existing stratification order.

Paul Tillich Religion encompasses that to which people are most devoted or that from which they expect to get the most fundamental satisfaction in life.

Putting Tillich's and Luther's definitions together, it is possible to see that religion does not necessarily have to be involved with shrines, temples, churches, or synagogues. It does not need complex doctrines or clergy. It can be anything to which people devote themselves that fills their lives with meaning.

Consequently, religion provides adequate answers to the basic questions posed above.


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