Marxism is a Conflict Theory. Marxists see Religion as a Social Construction. Religion is a Conservative Force, promoting stability and stopping conflict.
Alienation - Lose control over something that they have produced or created.
Ideological Force - A way of controlling the proletariat's ideas
Ideological State Apparatus - Education and the media control the feelings of the workers and stop them from wanting a revolution and creating social change.
Religion as a Social Construction :')
Marxists do not see religion as causing conflict in society, more as religion to be acting on behalf of the ruling class to stop conflict.
Marxists argue that Society is split into two classes, the working class (Proletariat) and the ruling class (Bourgeosie).
The Proletariat have became Alienated from the production process and exploited by the ruling class, creating conflict between those who have money and those who dont.
Marx see religion as a Social Construction made by the ruling class to transmit their ideas of capitalism to the working people, Religion being the tool for opressing the proletariat.
Marxism argue that religion has an important role/function in helping the WC escape the alienation of the capitalist production process. Religion disguises the true nature of exploitation by providing an explanation for inequality - making it seem okay. I.e the concept of Heaven being at the end for workers, work hard then rewarded later - taking them to the perfect place when they die.
Religion as an Ideological Force :')
Marxists see religion as an ideological force as religious beliefs aren't true but are manipulated and presented by the most powerful group in society. Ideological state apparatus is used to explain how religion as well as other aspects of society stop people from creating social change.
Ideological control leads to Social Control, i.e controlling through how they feel and how they behave. E.g Secondary Socialization teaches and preaches Norms and Values of the ruling class and value of money and importance of hard work.
'The Opium of the Masses' - means that religion is a type of drug which keeps the workers passive and to stop revolution (Social Change).
An example of Marxist ideas within religion is Scientology, whom put a great deal of emphasis on Wealth creation and enjoys the financial benefits of having rich donors - John Travolta and Tom Cruise.
Hindu Caste System :')
- Sees people being born into groups of differing social status within society, people have little contact with people outside of their caste and its forbidden for people to marry out of their caste.
- Its also believed that behaving well in this world will bring reincarnation into a higher caste, suggesting to the lower classes that if they are obedient now then they will be rewarded later.
Theoretical Evaluation :) :(
1) Marxist theory has gained theoretical support from feminist sociologists.
The Feminist theory is sympathetic to the idea that religion stops conflict between social groups as well as forcing negative norms and values onto certain members of society. Holm (1994) argues that much religious doctrine has been interpreted by men and therefore religion passes on norms and values which benefit men in its teaching. Feminists on the other hand would argue that Marxist understanding of oppression is incomplete as they ignore gender patriarchal oppression entirely.
Suggesting that Marxist ideas have wider theoretical appeal but limited in terms of its explanation of oppression.
2) Marxist theory has been criticised by Weberian sociologists on a theoretical level.
Weber argues that religion does not operate to pass on norms and values to society, but in fact create capitalist society. The move from Cottage industries to large scale industrialized factories could not have occurred without the protestants.
This suggests that the Marxist approach only offers a partial view on how religion functions within society.
Empirical :) :(
1) Marxist ideas have emprical support.
Bruce (1988) studied the role of the New Christian Right played in the 1980 American Election - finding that the NCR helped right wing candidates more than the left wing. Showing the links between the NCR and a capitalist ideology.
Suggesting validity in Marxism
2) Gained Empirical Support in the Journal of Religion and Helath (2011)
Researchers from Yeshiva University suggest that people who attend religious services are less likely to suffer from depression (27%) and more likely to have a positive outlook on life (56%). Evidence that religion is acting like a drug to keep people happy.
Showing Validity in Marxism ideas.
3) Theory criticised on empirical grounds by developments of Neo-Marxists.
Neo-Marxist Maduro (1982) found evidence that religion does not promote ruling class ideas within society. In South America, although Catholicism as a church often supported the ruling class, the clergy acts in ways to help the working class break free from their chains. The Liberation Theory.
Marxists are incorrect, suggesting that all religion exists to control the WC and then their ideas lack validity.
- Difficult to use Britain as an example of Marxism being a correct interpretation of religions role in Society.
- Secularisation has been continuing to reduce the power of religion over British People.
- Only 24% of people in the UK regularly attend religious service, how can it be argued that religion has ideological and social control?
- Fundamentalism in the Middle East and USA is not an example of ruling class or male oppression rather than the fight against Globalization or returning to the 'Golden Age'