• Created by: harry
  • Created on: 27-05-13 16:08


Marx saw religion as part of the dominant ideology -  the ideas or belief system of the ruling class which shape peoples view of the world and reporudce and reinforce the false class consciousness by the working class of the fact that they are being exploited. 

Althusser - Religion is an Ideological State aparratus (institution spreading dominant ideology) and developing what Gramsci called Hegemony. Consent and acceptance by people that their positions were unchangable. 

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Marx- two main functions

  • Marx saw religion to do TWO main things. 

OPIUM OF THE PEOPLE (cushioning the pain of oppression and explotation in unequal socieities) Religion acts like a hallucinatory, pain-relieving drug creating illusions among the oppressed - helped dominant keep power. It eases the pain produced by poverty, explotation and oppression. It gave meaning to lives. Overcome effects of alienation (lack of control, fulfilment and satisfaction). 

  • Legitimized and maintained the power of the ruling class


  • 1. Promises an eventual escape from suffereing - ecstatic future after death. Virtue of suffering and poverty. God's will, a test of faith, rewarded in afterlife. They may accept or welcome their sitch and not try to improve it. E.g. the Bible states 'the meek shall inherit the earth.
  •  2. Religion provides explanation and justification for inequality. Hindu religion provides a religious ustification for the inequalities of the Indian Caste system, rules about behave, wear and eat, who marry. People obey this - reincarnation, if they dont obey there cast will be reborn lower level. People still hold strict belief (1,000 years).
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  • Traditional Marxists - Religion is instrument of social control and oppression, used by RC to justify their power and material wealth. They argue this is God-given - legitamised and inevetable. Differences between rich and poor cant be challenged - challenges God's will. Hindu caste, protects positioning of those in higher casts. 
  • FURTHERMORE - Divine Right of Kings, suggesting it was the will of God
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  • Marxism ignores the positive benefits of religion to society, such as the way it creates stability and shared values which are necessary for society to function effectively. Religion benefits everyone, not just the ruling class.
  • Feminists would argue relgion is in fact preserving male patricarchal power, not ruling class. Marxists ignore gender equality.
  • Marxism focuses on one possible role of religion in society. Not broad range. 
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