Marxism theory of religion

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Marxist theory

Marxists see religion as preventing individuals from having a true understanding of themselves and their Situation. Marxists see religion working to maintain class divisions and the power of the ruling class.  

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Religion as the opium of the people

Religion acts to cushion the effects the oppression it achieves this is a number of ways 

  • It promises an afterlife
  • Suffering is seen as virtuous
  • Possibility of supernatural intervention 
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Lenin's view

Lenin agreed with Marx: he used the term spiritual gin

Religion is seen as a form of escapism which numbs and blinds peoples awareness’s to the reality around them  

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Religion to legitimise the power of the ruling cla

  • Religion helps reproduce, maintain and justify class inequalities. It fulfils an ideological role benefits the ruling class.
  • Religion legitimates and justifies class inequalities the existing social order is god given
  •   Religion is an instrument of oppression because it blinds people from their true position it produces a FCC  

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Criticisms of Marxism

  • Marx predicted that communism religion would disappear because people will no longer suffer FCC
  • If few people attend church religion cannot be used to control people
  • Religion in some cases can be used to overthrowing the ruling class- liberation theory 
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Neo Marxism

Neo Marxists believe the supper structure has a degree of independence form the economic base

  • Religion can be used to change society
  • Religion is revelatory force
  • It can challenge authority  
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Hegemony the ideological control the ruling class elite have over the masses

  • Argues that beliefs are no less real or important than economic forces


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Religion can be a force for change – it can undermine stability and challenge power

It can be a revolutionary force used to support the proletariat to challenge the ruling class

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Also claimed that groups could turn to religion as a way of coping with oppression, and can develop into political movements, which seek change on earth rather than salvation in heaven.

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Liberation Theology

A religious justification for the liberation of oppresed peoples  The poor take control of their situation and accept responsibility for the end of their poverty  This means the poor understanding their own conditions and the reasons for it

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