Beliefs of Society - Neo-Marxist Accounts of Religion

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  • Religions act conservatively and that the hierarchies of such religions tend to side with the interests of the ruling classes.
  • Every now and then religion surprises us and takes the side of the poor and oppressed against the powerful.

Engels: religion as a radical force.

  • Engels - recognised that religion in some special circumstances could bring about radical social change.
  • Ruling capitalist class sometimes blocked all conventional avenues for social change using through repressive agencies of force.
  • EXAMPLES = politics, trade unions, pressure groups etc.
  • Ideology too could be a powerful force in convincing people that there was little they could do to change their situation.
  • Religion could be a useful tool for bringing about change because:
  • (a) Few rulers have attempted to prevent mass participation in religion.
  • (b) Religios leaders are more likely to recognise exploitation, oppression and inequality because of their religious education.
  • (c) Religious leasers are not so easily repressed - they may occupy a 'special' or sacred place in their societies which means they are not so easily targeted for assassination and imprisonment.
  • Engels - recognised the active role that may be played by some religions in effecting revolutionary social change.

Antonio Gramsci

  • Rejecting the traditional Marxist view that the superstructure was dependant on the economic infrastructure and therefore functioned solely to transmit ruling class ideology.
  • The superstructure is more autonomous and independant that Marx acknowledged - the superstructure could produce 'ideas' that were not always in tine with ruling class ideology.
  • At different historical times, popular forms of religion had emerged which expressed and supported the interests of the oppressed…

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