Sociological and Psychological Critique of Religion

Religious Studies, Edexcel, 2010


Sociological: Emile Durkhiem

Durkhiem believed that religion was man-made BUT was beneficial to society

  • Socialization-> gives moral codes (laws) to society with an authority to them so people would follow them
  • Social Integration-> Provides regular gathering where people express share views or collective conscience. This prevents deviation from the social norm
  • Life-Changing Effects-> Gives back control and comfort during periods of change. Eg, at a funeral the priest consoles the grieving with "they are in a better place, in heaven."
  • Civil Religion-> we become a community with religion to contribute to the community and the individual. This is a worship of society, preventing anomie (normlessness) and anarchy.


  • Only 7% attend church regularly. Meaning it is no central to life
  • Secularization (society moving away from religion)
  • Religion can cause prejudice and hate. For example, Homosexuals and the church.
1 of 4

Sociological: Karl Marx

Marx believed that religion was man-made BUT it is NOT beneficial to society

  • Russia 18th-19th century- In this time Russia's money was held by the few elite families led by the Tzars. The vast majority lived on less than a penny. Marx argued that there was never a rebellion as the religion prevented them from doing so.
  • "Opium of the Masses"- By it he meant that, like opium, it makes people fall into a false sense of calm and happiness. Religion does this to hid the reality that religion is a way of suppressing the lower classes so the upper classes can get richer.

Havley Methodists during the industrial revolution spoke of getting through mistreatment and low pay in the factories as they got their reward in heaven.
Roman Catholic rule on no controseption increases unwanted babies and HIV in 3rd world countries.
Liberation Theology- Priests in Niguaguwa used the bible to convince people to rebel against the unfair government. Today Niguaguwa has a fair government.

2 of 4

Psychological: Freud

  • Inner Psychological Conflict-> Religion is wish forfillment to satisfy supressed sexual desires.
  • Stress from Society-> Religion makes the stress and expectations of society bearable
  • Fear of Danger in the Natural World-> There is a panic of our defenselessness of things like death. Religion proves some feel of control over this. Freud described this like a father (religion) watching over his child (religious believer.)


Some people have a deeper need for religion

Without the authority religion provides, society could fall into anarchy. People would follow an egoistical instinct (selfish instinct.)

Jung- Disagrees. Religion is essential for a balance of the unconscious psyche/ keep a balanced, healthy mind.

3 of 4

Atheism and Agnosticism:

Atheism: A positive belife that God does not exist due to:

  • The problem of evil
  • Religious believers are deluded
  • Dislike for God
  • Religion is bad

Agnosticism: Belief that it is not possible to know if God is true or his nature. This is another form of Atheism and is much like sitting on the fence.

4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »