• Created by: Iveta
  • Created on: 10-03-14 23:11


Karl Marx argues that religion is an IDEOLOGICAL STATE APPARATUS which maintains the interests and ideas of the RULING CLASS and EXPLOITS THE WORKING CLASS. Marx argued it does this in several ways:

  • It provides w/c people with the 'opium of the masses' which means that it is like a drug that distorts reality and helps people deal with the pain from being repressed. This means that the w/c will be content with the ruling class exploiting them and they will not try and do anything to change their position
  • It keeps the working class in a state of FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS which means that they are unaware that they are exploited.

This means that religion is able to MAINTAIN ruling class power, creating class inequalities.

AO2: Postmodernist Bauman argues that in today's contemporary society most people follow their OWN ETHICAL VALUES and BELIEFS. This means that LESS people turn to religion to provide them with the 'opium'.
Also, NOT all working class people remain in a state of fasle consciousness. On Christmas day 2011, bishop Rowan Atkinson actively encouraged the w/c to open their eyes and realise that they were being exploited- made them fight againts oppression:CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS

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Marx further goes on to say that the working class are being exploited and religion does this in several ways

  • It encourages the working class in believing that their position in society is God-given and therefore unchangable for example, some people genuinely believed that god had created the poor and given power to the rich
  • The working class are also encouraged to believe that a BETTER AFTERLIFE awaits for them. This keeps them away from challenging their position in society because they think their life will be better
  • They are promised that a SUPERNATURAL INTERVENTION will END their SUFFERING
  • Jehovas Witnesses strongly believe that on the day of Judgment, those that are not religious will be punished whereas those that are will be saved a life in heaven- ecnourages them to be religious

This shows that religion does encourages the working class to be RELIGIOUS, which means that they will be continued to be EXPPLOITED and so the POWER of the ruling class can be MAINTANED

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There are some examples to show how religion exploits the working class and maintains the power of the ruling class .......

  • The Half Caste System in India: They found that people were split into 5 different castes based on their religious purity. The Untouchables (Brahmin priests) were seen as important so they were at the TOP of the religious purity however the Unskilled Labourers were at the BOTTOM of the religious purity where they were seen as less important.
    Those at the top exploited those at the bottom; shows that class inequalities are created
  • The New Christian Right encouraged the spread of the protestant beliefs in Latin America, especially the shanty/ poor towns. They poor were encoruaged to support US STYLE CAPITALIST VALUES rather than liberation theology. This shows how religion exploits the w.c

Leach supported marists theory which claims that religion creates class inequalities. For example, in the christian church, the priests were all from well educated backgrounds who were middle class (80% of them) and they avoided contact with those below them
In Slave societies i.e. sugar plantations it was found that slave masters used religion to control the slaves i.e. they tried to convert African slaves to european beliefs and control them

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As well as supporting evidence, Marxists theory has also been refuted....

  • Functionalists: they argue that religion BENEFITS EVEYONE EQUALLY. For example, Durkheim used the example of the Austrlian Aborgines to show how people were being exploited in the society
  • Feminists: refute them and argue that religion BENEFITS MEN i.e. Holm, Jean Paul, Birchall, etc
  • Social Change: religion is a force for radical change and NOT a concervative force. Weber's example of the Calvinists
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