Marxism

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Religion as an Ideology:

Marx argues an ideology is a belief system that distorts people’s perception of reality in ways that serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. He argues that the class that controls economic distribution also controls the production and distribution of ideas in society, through institutions such as the church, education and the media. In Marx’s view, religion operates as an ideological weapon used by the bourgeoisie to legitimate the suffering of the poor as something inevitable and God-given. Religion misleads the poor into believing their suffering is virtuous and that they will be favoured in the after-life. For example, in Christianity, it is stated ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a wealthy man to enter the kingdom of God’. Such ideas create a false consciousness – a distorted view of reality that prevents the poor from acting to change their situation.

Lenin describes religion as ‘spiritual gin’ – an intoxicant doled out to the masses by the ruling class to confuse them and keep them in their place. In Lenin’s view, the bourgeoisie use religion cynically to manipulate the proletariat and keep them attempting to overthrow the bourgeoisies by creating a ‘mystical fog’ that obscures reality.

Religion also legitimates the power and privilege of the bourgeoisie by making their position appear to be divinely ordained. For example, the 16th century idea of the divine right of Kings was they belief that the King is God’s representative on

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