Marxism and Religion Essay Question (33 Marks)


Assess the arguments for and against the view that religion is an ideological control of the working class (33 Marks)

P1. Introduction to Marxism
Society is divided into two classes: The ruling (capitalist) class  who own the means of production & exploit the labour of the working class. For Marxists, not only does the ruling class own the means of production but they also control the production and distribution of ideas in society through instituions such as the church.

Marxists see religion as a feature of our modern day, class-divided society. It distorts people's views on reality that only benefit the ruling class by creating what Marx called a "false class conciousness" - religion prevents the working class from recognising their injustices and prevents them from rebelling. 

P2. Marx and the "Opium of the People"
For Marx,  religion operates as an ideological weapon used by the R.C (ruling class) to legitimate and justify the suffering of the W.C (working class) as something inevitable and god-given. 

He believes that religion is the "opium of the people", it acts as an opiate to dull the pain of exploitation. Just like an opiate masks the pain rather than treating it's cause, religion masks the underlying problem of exploitation that creates the need for it. 

Religion misleads the poor into believing that they will be favoured in the afterlife through it's different teachings, for instance, in Christianity people are taught that it is "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven" - Matthew 19:23. 

Such ideas create a false conciousness - a distorted view of reality that prevents the W.C from uniting and acting to change their situation (revolution) as they are taught that they will be rewarded in the afterlife.

AO2 Evaluation
Functionalists, however, argue that religion as a unifying force that strengthens the value consensus and is a feature of all societies, disagreeing with Marxits. 

Parsons, one of the founding fathers of sociology, sees religion as helping individuals cope with unforeseen events and uncontrollable outcomes. It provides answers to ultimate questions like why do the good suffer and why do some die young. By performing such roles, religion enables people to adjust to adverse events, in turn, maintaining stability. 

Religion therefore has many positive functions that Marxists ignore. 

P3. Lenin and religion as a "Spiritual Gin"
Lenin similarly argues that religion is a "spiritual gin". It is an intoxicant doled out to the masses by the R.C to confuse them and keep them in their place. 

In Lenin's view, the ruling class use religion cynically to manipulate the masses


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