Belief systems and ideologies.

  • Created by: parvos98
  • Created on: 26-02-15 17:30

Belief system VS ideology

Belief system-This is defined generally as "a framework of ideas through which an individual makes sense of the world". This may seem quite vague but it is in fact an umbrella term used to apply to most organised sets of ideas and principals including religions, philosophies and even science! 

Ideology-A set of beliefs or principals. While appearing similar to belief systems, an ideology is different as it is a singular term, used to refer to 1 type of belief. For example, democracy, hegemony and capitalism can be defined as ideologies as they are just one set of beliefs. Furthermore, ideology is often seen as a secular term as opposed to belief systems, which is more religious. 

Ideologies were described by Popper (1945) as "SECULAR RELIGIONS" as, not all religions are trying to explain the world with a metanarrative, they are also giving moral and personal guidelines on how to live.  For example, Marxismis an ideology that advocates hostility towards capitalism and that it is morally wrong.

Just as belief systems are commonly associated with religious ideals, ideologies are frequently connected to political or economic beliefs. Certainly, Marx would have not allowed Popper to call Marxism a religion. He believed that the "sacred" concept, was a social construct, and the only way that people can truly be free is when they have realised this.

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Belief system VS ideology Part 2

Another key difference between the two is values. Belief systems do not seem to hold a strong opinion on ideas in debate, often acting as a neutral perspective. In contrast, ideologies hold very direct and strong views on topics. Popper (1945) argued that ideologies were viewed as rigid and inflexible, used to oppress others who held different views. This is because ideologies frequently claim a monopoly on the truth and the answers to "big questions". Every one claims a true explanation of metanarratives and refuse to accept alternative viewpoints. 

BUT, Popper was a liberal theorist, and Liberalism is also an ideology though it accepts and understands other perspectives.

Ideologies are frequently deemed as negative statements, as though defining the subject as small-minded and ignorant. For example, feminists would NOT call their beliefs ideological. 

Marx reserved the term ideology for that which he saw as distorted and false. Often pointing it at the ruling class' views that they used to ensure the subjugation of the poor. 

This is how ideologies can be used by one social group to dominate another.

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Belief VS Knowledge


  • Something we think may be true, built on little or no evidence.
  • Beliefs involve doubt
  • We can believe whatever we wish but it will never be knowledge unless it is proven.
  • We believed the earth was flat until we discovered it was spherical.


  • Knowledge is something we are certain of, with proven evidence to support it.
  • Knowledge involves facts.
  • We know the earth is spherical because we have discovered and proven it with evidence.


  • Faith VS evidence debates often occur here.
  • Postmodernists would argue that scientific evidence is only perceived as fact by what we define as fact.
  • Belief systems such as religion and philosophies are not based on fact but still offer ideas to explain the world.
  • They are all based on faith rather than knowledge.
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Religion as a belief system.

Religion has been used since prehistoric times to try and explain the world. The history of religion is examined by investigating primitive cultures. Weber (1922) claimed that every society in history has held some form of religious belief.  Malinowski (1915) would examine the religious rituals of the Trobriand islanders via participant observation. He found that their religion is based on animism. This is the belief that focuses on spirits and magic as a power. 

Tylor (1871) said that animism is the earliest and most basic type of religion and it still exists today in primitive cultures around the world. Malinowski also found that the islanders only ever resorted to magical practice when the limits of their practical knowledge had been reached.

This hints that we only resort to religion when we encounter something we cannot factually explain. Furthermore, it also suggests that as we discover more about the world through science, the popularity of religious belief will diminish over time.

However, religions possess normative dimension (something science lacks). Normative dimension is how religions provide us with guidelines and morals on how God wants us to live, how we are supposed to live. This is followed up by the promise of a reward in the afterlife.

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The development of scientific knowledge

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