Explain the Difference Between Marxist and Neo Marxist View on Whether Religion Is Conservative Force or Not

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Explain the difference between Marxist and
neo Marxist view on whether religion is
conservative force or not
There is great debate concerning the role of religion in society, and whereas some may claim
that religion acts as a conservative force (that is, it inhibits change), others argue that
religion is a major contributor to social change. As would be expected, many sociologists
have took the middle ground, and argue that religion can act as both as conservative force,
and an initiator of change.
The view that religion acts as a conservative force stems from the structuralist theories of
Functionalism and Marxism. Both see religion as facilitating the existence of society in its
current form, although their views do differ widely. For the Functionalist Emile Durkheim,
religion, like many other social institutions, acts in the same way as one of the body's vital
organs, in that it "keeps society alive". In other words, religion has a number of functions
that serve the purpose of maintaining social stability and harmony. For example,
functionalists believe that through the act of collective worship in the form of religious
practices, religion helps bond and unite individuals; it acts as "social glue" that promotes
value consensus and social solidarity. Functionalists see religion as a conservative force in
that it helps to integrate individuals. In contrast, Marxists see religion as acting as a
conservative force by preventing revolutionary change. The idea that religion has a dual
character is taken by Friedich Engels. Engels argues that although religion inhibits change by
disguising inequality, it can also challenge the status quo and encourage social change, For
example, religion sometimes preaches liberation from slavery and misery.
Indeed, there are many examples which show religion acting as a conservative force. The
stance of successive popes against contraception for example, has limited the use of
artificial birth control in many catholic countries. In this case, religion created a value
consensus that contraception should not be used. In support of Marxist views of religion,
the caste system of India was justified by Hindu religious beliefs. Such examples are strong
support for the view that religion is a conservative force.
Although both Functionalism and Marxism offer an arguable account of religion's role in
society, many are critical of such narrow views, arguing that religion does not act as a
conservative force, and actually has the completely opposite purpose. Neo Marxism, a
subset of Marxism, holds such a view. In particular, Neo-Marxist Otto Maduro comments on
how religion has the power to spark revolutionary change. He points to the example in Latin
America, a predominantly catholic country. During the Somoza regime, many priests began
to break away from the Catholic Church, claiming that it was their God-given duty to help and
liberate those who are oppressed. They began collaborating with Marxists, and started to
preach "liberation theology". These religious views challenged the status quo, and led to a
revolution in Nicaragua.

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This example highlights how religion can acts as a force for social change, and there are many
other examples which support the claims of advocates of this view. Nelson mentions a
number of examples of when religion has undermined authority or promoted change; such
as when the Catholic Church in Poland opposed Communism, and how Archbishop Desmond
Tutu was a strong opponent of apartheid.…read more


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