Unit 3: Marxist Views on Religion (Summary)

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  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 18-02-13 15:20

General points:

- Religion = part of the Superstructure model

- Althusser: Religion is an ISA- a tool of social control

- Conservative ideology/ force which encourages a philosophical acceptance of the status quo

- Some Marxists would argue that religion does have the potential to bring about revolutionary change.

From the Marxist perspective, religion does not simply cushion the effects of oppression, it is also the instrument of that oppression. It maintains Capitalist exploitation and disadvantage. Religion promises happiness, but this is an illusion and operate as a 'false consciousness.'

Marx argues that religion has its origins from primitive people- a response to the fear of the unknown. He anticipated secularizing tendencies and believed that religious power and influence would decline, however he argued that with the rise of industrial capitalism, religion was taken over by the bourgeoisie and incorporated within their ideology to justify their emerging wealth and affluence.


- "Communist Manifesto"- Blueprint for change

- 'religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.' -> Religion dulls the pain and is a source of solace and compensation. However it does nothing to solve the problem of alienation so is therefore a misguided attempt to make life more bearable, a form of self-delusion.  Religion can dull the pain of oppression in a number of ways:

1) It promises a paradise of eternal bliss in life after death:

- It provides a fantasy escape of heavenly rewards- something better to look forward to.

- Reflecting this: Engels: Christianist, Judaism and Islam provide a vision of heaven which makes life more tolerable.

2) It can make a virtue out of the suffering produced by oppression:

- Religion followers are offered hope and are promised redress for injustice and reward for suffering.

- Bible: 'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.'

3) Religion can offer hope of supernatual intervention to solve problems on earth:

- The present can be made more acceptable and tolerable as followers anticipate Divine intervention.

4) It is often used to justify the social order and a person's position within it:

- God has ordained your position in the social structure (God-given, determined)

- All things bright and beautiful: "The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly and ordered their estate."

How does religion operate in the interests of a ruling class?

- 'Opiate of the…


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