Marxism and religion
- Marxism reconise the ideas, including religious ideas can have relative autonomy. That is, they can be partly independant of the economic base of society. As a result, religion can have a dual character and can sometimes be as force for change as well as stability.
- Example: Marx does not see religion in entirely negative terms, desribing it as 'heart of a heartless world'. He sees religion as capable of humanising a world made inhuman by exploitation.
- Engels believes that religion has a dual character. 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.
- Ernst Bloch, sees religion also to have a dual character. He argues for a view of religion that recognises both its positive and negatice influence on social change. He accepts that religion inhibits change but it can also inspire rebellion and protest. Images of utopia (the perfect world) can sometimes decieve people with promises of rewards in heaven. Religious beliefs therefore create a vision of a better world.
- Liberation Theology is a movement that emerged within the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 60's, with a strong commitment to the poor. Liberation theology was a major change of direction for the Catholic Church in Latin America.
- The factors which led to the emergence of liberation theology were:
- 1. Deepinging rural poverty and the growth of urban slums throughout Latin America. 2. Human Rights abuses following military take overs, such as false imprisonment, torture and death squads murdering political opponents, for example in Brazil and Chile. 3. The growing commitment among Catholic Priests to an ideology that supported the poor and opposed violations of human rights.
- Liberation Theology set out to change society. For example, priests help the poor by creating support groups, and help them fight oppression under the protection of the church. Priests took part in developing literacy programmes, education the poor about their situation and raising awareness.
- Neo-marxists Maduro believes that religion can be a revolutionary force that brings about change. In the case of liberation theology, religious ideas radicaslised the Catholic clergy in defence of peasants and workers, making them see that serving the poor was part of their Christian duty.
- Neo-marxists see liberation theology as an example of religiously inspired social change.Marxists disagree and believe that much depends on how social change is defined. Liberation theology may have helped to bring about democracy but it did not threaten the stability of capatalism.
Gramsci: Religion and hegemony
Hegemony refers to the way the ruling class are able to use ideas such as religion to maintain control.
Gramsci describes hegemony as ideological domination or leadership of society. When hegemony is established, the ruling class can rely on popular consent to their rule, so there is less need for coercion.
Gramsci sees religion as having a dual character and he notes that in some circumstance, it can challenge as well as support the ruling class. He argues that the popular forms of religion can help workers see through the ruling class hegemony by offering a vision of a better fairer world. Some clergy help by supporting working class organisations such as trade unions.