Traditional Marxist Perspective

The traditional Marxist perspective on Religion as a conservative force

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The Marxist Approach

The Marxist approach suggests that religion eases the pain of oppression and exploitation in three main ways:

  • Religion promises an eventful escape from suffering and oppression in this life with promises of an ecstatic future in life after death.
  • Religion sometimes offers hope of supernatural intervention to solve problems on Earth.
  • Religion provides a religious explanation and justification for inequality.

MARX thought religion did two main interrelated things:

  • It acted as the 'opium of the people', cushioning the pain of oppression and exploitation in unequal societies.
  • It legitimises and maintains the power of the ruling class.
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Criticisms

Religion can act as a form of resistance to the powerful, and as an agent of social change, and not simply as a conservative force, as the following suggests:

  • Some early Christian sects opposed Roman rule.
  • Islam, particularly Islam fundamentalism, is often a vehicle for resisting the influences of Western CULTURAL IMPERIALISM.
  • In Iran, Islam produced revolutionary change to overthrow the Shah establishing the Islam republic in 1978/9.
  • In South America in the 1960s/70s. Roman Catholic Priests played a major role in fighting against political dictatorship and poverty.
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