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Marxism

  • Date Submitted: 05/07/2014 02:24 PM
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Assess the usefulness of Marxist theories in understanding religion today

In society today, there are many theories and ideals to what religion is, why it is used and how. Marxists believe that religion is a conservative force, used to oppress the proletariat and to keep the bourgeoisie in power. But is this the best analogy for understanding religion today?

Marxists believe that religion is created and promoted by the ruling class in order to pass on their dominant ideology to the working class of religion teaching you that you need to work, as figures such as Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad both had jobs, showing that your job is chosen by God almighty and that in no circumstances should you question your position. The ruling class dominant ideology essentially suggests to the working class that everybody has to work; it is natural and a part of life. Marx points out that this dominant ideology is only half of the job complete. It is up to the ruling class alone to make the working class feel like they are the ones who ultimately benefit from working; therefore the ruling class create a false class consciousness among the working class to stop them from revolting or tackling their oppressors. Lenin famously said that ‘religion is the opium of the people, a spiritual gin that dulls the pain of oppression’, showing that religion acts as a eventual escape from the suffering of the working classes in this life with the promise of a perfect life after death in heaven. To Marxists, religion helps maintain the unequal class structure and as such keeps societies balanced, unevenly.

Evidence to support this Marxist view comes from the industrial revolution in England, where employers – mainly factory owners – used religion as a way of controlling their workers and keeping them sober. This shows how the ruling class can exploit the working class to their own advantage, to make profit based on a profit for profits sake.

Neo-Marxist Gramsci would agree with the...

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