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Critiques of Religious Beliefs
Sociological Critiques
Emile Durkheim
Functionalist theory of religion
Religion serves to unite and preserve the community
Creates a sense of moral obligation and adhere to
societies demands
He saw the `function' of religion was to shore up a
threatened social order
Durkheim compared a religious community to a
primitive clan that worshipped a totem
The clan and God are one and the same, hence no
separate entity called God…read more

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Emile Durkheim
What does exist is a unified social system which believes that it
owes its being to God
This belief is expressed in shared rituals, values and identity; it
discourages change and explains phenomena that otherwise
make little sense
Religion is society divinised
The deities are projections of the power of society
He suggested that we must `discover the rational substitutes for
these religious notions that....have served as a vehicle for the
most essential moral ideas'
He was keen to urge people to unite in civil morality,
recognising that we are what we are because of society…read more

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Criticisms of Durkheim
Religious believers can distinguish between the community of
worshippers and belief in God and although they recognise the
importance of community, their primary loyalty is to God
Some religious believers are sometimes prepared to go against
the norms of society e.g. Martin Luther King, OT prophets
Durkheim's thesis was based around primitive aboriginal
societies and it can be questioned how relevant it is to modern
religious beliefs and practice
In many cases religion resists the changing nature of societies
beliefs…read more

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Political ­ Karl Marx
Argued that God was an intervention of the
human mind; to satisfy emotional needs
He said `the first requisite fro the happiness
of the people is the abolition of religion'
Ruling classes used religion to dominate and
oppress their subjects by offering an illusion
of escape
Religion was economically driven
It eased pain as it created fantasies
Man created God
Man had lost control of his own destiny…read more

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Karl Marx
Come the revolution.......when the ruling classes are overthrown
and religion is abolished, then the working classes will be
Only by loving one another, rather than loving God could man
reclaim his humanity
Religion had lost its roots and had become a tool to be used by
the ruling classes to get the poor to accept their lot, to ignore
the real situation and want to rise above it
Inequality had been legitimised
Marx claimed that although religion offered release from
distress, it was a false hope and he therefore called `the opiate
of the people'
Only supernatural intervention would solve problems on earth
and therefore this too meant keeping the poor in their place…read more

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Karl Marx
Marx wanted a non-religious community
which would be based upon primitive
community societies
All members of the community owned
resources jointly, their work would fit with
their personality and skills
Goods would be shared so all basic needs
would be covered
In such a society religion would no longer be
needed to fulfil the function that a capitalist
society forced upon it…read more

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