Marxist view on religion

Overview of Marxist view on religion and Marxist theorists

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Marxist general view

Religion is part of the dominant ideology 


  • Religion is a factor of the ideological state apparatus


  • Religion acts as the 'opium of the people' cushioning the oppression 
  • It legitimises and maintains the power of the ruling class

Ideological state apparatus - Spreading dominant ideology and manufacturing hegemony. Forces people to accept that the position they are in is unchangeable.  

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'Opium of the people'

Marx believed that religion acts as the 'opium of the people' as it eases the pain of oppression and exploitation by...

1. Promising an eventual escape from suffering: e.g. life after death

2. Offering hope of supernatural intervention: e.g. Jehovas Witnesses believe that the survivors of the battle of Armaggedon (between God and Satan) will form a new paradise on earth. << This teaches people to accept their position and not change society

3. Providing a religious explanation and justification for inequality: e.g. Hinduism justifys the inequality of the Indian caste system

- Like a drug, religion can only do these things if people take it
- Religion is declining in power in Western societies 

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Power of the ruling class

  • Marxists believe religion is an instrument of social control and oppression used by the ruling class to justify their power and material wealth
  • Inequalities of wealth, power and income are presented as God given (inevitable) 
  • They cannot be questioned without questioning the authority of God 

- Religion can act as a form of resistance against the powerful and as an agent of social control

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