Marxism and Religion


Religion is the 'opium of the people'

religion is an illusion which eases the pain of oppression. It is a series of myths which legitimate subordination and distort reality 

  • helps make life more bearable and dilutes demand for change
  • promises a paradise after death, Engels argues the appeal of Christianity is the 'salvation from misery' it offers
  • suffering is made a virtue of 'camel through the eye of a needle', makes living in poverty more tolerable by offering later rewards
  • offers hope of supernatural intervention 
  • justifies the social order
  • God creates and ordains the classes 
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Religion and Social Control

  • Religion is an instrument for oppression
  • maintains the current social class system
  • prevents revolt of the working class 
  • offers an illusion of hope 
  • false class consciousness diverts the working class away from their real pain
  • it allows the ruling class to justify their position 

Hindu Caste system

Medieval kings and queens

Egyptian Pharoahs 

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Supporting Evidence

  • Halvey (1927) Methodism played a role in preventing a working class revolution in the 19th century, w/c dissatisaction with the church was shown by creating a new church 
  • Class tension was channelled into spiritual healing 
  • Hook (1990) the pope has very conservative views on contraception, women bishops and homosexuality which causes problems in the developing world 
  • Bruce suggests that the New Christian Right consistently support the Republican party 
  • They may have limited influence but they have tended to defend the interests of the rich and powerful
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The Limitations of Marxism

  • Althusser (1971) suggests that the concept of alienation is unscientific and relys on true self too havily 
  • Religion was important in pre capitalist society 
  • doesnt consider secularisation
  • has little ideological power anymore 
  • some religious movements have helped to bring about social change 
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Neo Marxism

  • Maduro (1982) places emphaiss on religion have some independence from the bourgeoisie
  • denies that relgious is always a conservative force
  • claims it can be revolutionary
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