Marxism, religion and change

Marxists recognise that ideas, including religious ideas, can have relative autonomy- they can be partly independent of the economic base of society- and so religion can have a dual character and can sometimes be a force for change.

Marx describes religion as 'heart of heartless world'- he sees it as capable of huanising a world made inhuman exploitation

Engels 1985- argues that although religion inhibits change by disguising inequality, it can also encourage social change for eg, religion sometimes preaches liberation from slavery.


1959- he argues for a view of religion that recognises both its positive and negative influence on social change. He emphasises that religion can inspire protest and rebellion. Religion is a 'principle of hope' - our dreams of a better life that contain images of utopis (perfect world). Image sof utopia can deceive people with promises of rewards in heaven but can also help people see what needs to be changed in this world.

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Liberation theology

a movement that emerged within the Catholic Church at the end of 60s. Liberation theology was a major change of direction for the catholic church in latin americ. For centuries, it had been a conservative institution , encouraging am acceptance of poverty

The factors that led to the emergence of liberation theology were

  • deepening rural poverty and the growth of urban slums
  • human rights abuses following military take overs, such as false imprisonment, torture and death squads
  • the growing commitment among catholic priests to an ideology that supported the poor and opposed violations of human rights

Priests helped the poor to establish support groups called 'base communities'and helped workers and peasants to fight oppression under the protection of the church.

During the 1970s, catholic priests actively resisted state terror in america. they were the only authority figures who took the side of the oppressed- during the 80s the churches's attitude changed. Pope John Paul condemned liberation theology o the grounds that it resembled Marxism

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