Critiques of Religion


Critiques of Religion


Atheism means without God

Agnosticism – the belief it isn’t possible to know whether God exists, or to know his nature.


·      Weak atheism – the absence of belief in God

·      Strong atheism – antitheism, religious is dangerous.


Reasons for atheism

·      All apparent experiences of God can be accounted for in other ways.

·      The existence of suffering in the world.

·      A distrust of organised religion.

·      The view that believers are deluded.



Sociological Critiques of Religion


Sociology – the study of social interactions. Its origins are in the 19th Century.

We are born into a society with its own religion. Individuals didn’t create religion, society did. The beliefs pre-exist the individual whose life will be shaped by them.

Marx (1818-1883)


“Man makes religion, religion does not make man”

“Religion…is the opium of the people”


Writing in Manchester during the industrial revolution.


Main Ideas

Class struggle – different social classes exist in a state of mutual antagonism.

The rulers and the workers have conflicting materials interests – it is in the interests of rulers to exploit workers for maximum profit. This economic conflict of interest is the basis of everything in society.


       All religious, moral and political life is rooted in economics.


Religion is an oppressive structure which alienates humanity from its true purpose. It’s an intellectual justification used by the capitalist society to legitimise exploitation. God is a human construction.


Religion is propaganda – makes it appear that what is in the interests of the ruling class is in the interests of everyone. Religion is empty, meaningless imagery. It deceives us into thinking our lives have dignity, purpose and meaning. It gives nothing of true value, but promises salvation from misery in the after-life. Only supernatural intervention can solve problems, and it justifies the social order as well.


·      Therefore, religion is part of the problem in society, and eventually the capitalist system will collapse and these structures will no longer exist.

“Marx gave another sociological critique which argued that religion was a negative force in society. He described it as the ‘opiate of the people’, and religion as part of the ‘ideology’ that the upper class used to oppress the workers. In his ‘Communist Manifesto’, Marx set out his revolutionary manifesto. He argued that capitalism the workers and production owners with opposing interests, as it will always be in the owner’s interests to exploit the workers. Religion, along with art and music are part of the illusions created in order to keep the workers satisfied, as they are promised a better life after death.”


“Political criticism of religion and a belief in the harmfulness of religion has arisen since the Enlightenment. Today, some atheists and agnostics would defend their position by saying that religion is harmful, a method of control, and should even perhaps be overthrown. Karl Marx


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