• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

An analysis of the Marxist perspective on religion

Extracts from this document...


An analysis of the Marxist perspective on religion Karl Marx was a 19th century German philosopher who came up with the socio-economic theory of Communism. Communism focuses on the equality of the classes in society through the use of the economy as a medium. You may ask how this relates to religion; Marx viewed religion as a tool used by the bourgeoisie to control the proletariats. Marxism began as a philosophy of dialectical materialism to come up with the theory of scientific socialism. Marx believed that this was the only method that should be used to analyse any social problem and thus looked at the material and economic realities of the world rather than the spiritual. Firstly it is important to note that Marx starts from the standpoint that religion is an ideology. He considers religion in terms of its status as an ideological framework, or a belief system, that plays a part in the way in which people see the social world and their position within that world. However, unlike most non-Marxist sociologists, Marx takes the stand that there is a set way in how we should analyse religion. For Marx, religious beliefs represented a significant way in which people were oppressed and exploited within a non-communist society, namely Capitalism. Marx saw religion not just as an ideology, but as an ideology that is plainly false. Marx argues two points about religion as an ideology. First is that religious ideologies provide people with a sense of well-being and contentment that is an illusion. Religions may make people feel happy in the short-term, but this is not real contentment. Religion serves as a kind of "false consciousness." This is because it directs our understanding away from the world and towards a false, illusory existence. It is a form of social control that attempts to prevent people from understanding their true social condition and true social self. ...read more.


This helps to affirm the social bonds between them as human beings. Production of commodities on a co-operative basis therefore has two main benefits. It binds people together on the basis of mutual economic need. Society needs to work together to ensure the survival of the species. Also, it binds people on the basis of mutual political need. By co-operating in this way we get satisfaction from knowing that the work we do benefits others. We consider ourselves a valued and necessary member of society. Thus, the economic and political systems are seen to be mutually related and dependent. The economic system produces political relationships. This Marx felt was perfectly expressed in Communism. A problem arises, however, when economy and politics are separated, as in a Capitalist society. In Capitalist societies commodity fetishism is prevalent. People within a capitalist society find that their lives are organised through the medium of commodities. They trade their labour-power for another commodity, money. This then in turn is traded for another commodity. The co-operative social nature of society is destroyed by the abstraction of commodities as "use-value" (the usefulness of a commodity) is separated from "exchange-value" (the marketplace value of a commodity). This is what Marx defines as "fetishism". As a result of this "fetishism" producers and consumers have no conscious agreement to provide for each other, or even direct human contact. People no longer produce things for the benefits they bring to themselves and others; rather, a specific social class reaps the major benefit from the production process. Furthermore, by breaking this natural relationship between the economic and political systems, a severe social problem is created. The main mechanism for the integration of individuals into society is destroyed. As a result of this commodity fetishism, people begin to feel alienated. Within a Capitalist society people still need to feel that they are a valued and useful member of society. ...read more.


Even if Weber's theory can be proved wrong, the evidence still shows that there is apparent contradiction between Marx's theory and the realities of life. In conclusion, Marx's theory rests on a series of assumptions, the main being that the only influences on religion are material and economic realities. Perhaps Marx's beliefs can be best summed up in the following quote: "Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand."7 As I have explained, religion is far to complex an ideological framework to be caused by such few reasons. While it may be used to provide us with an illusory happiness to life to prevent us from having to deal with the realities of life, there is no way that we can see this is simply because we are alienated from society. If we remove the assumptions from Marx's theory then the theory comes apart. If religion is not only influenced by these realities then is Capitalism really the enemy? We cannot know the disease if we do not know all the symptoms. Furthermore, while it might be said that alienation leads to religious belief how can we know that this is alienation from the social belonging that accompanies working together to produce commodities or from lack of religious belief in the first place. Marx underestimates the hold that religion has on people's lives. While it may be logical to link religious belief to alienation from society, we must first determine what the true cause of this alienation is before blaming a particular economic system as he has done. 1 Karl Marx, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Franz�sische Jahrb�cher (1844) 2 Http://www.sociology.org.uk/relmarx.doc 3 Karl Marx, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Franz�sische Jahrb�cher (1844) 4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberation_theology 5 Karl Marx, Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts (1844) 6 Karl Marx, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Franz�sische Jahrb�cher (1844) 7 Karl Marx, Unknown ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. "What are the main strengths and weaknesses of Marxist histories"?

    The crux of his argument was that capitalism was irrational. Marx did agree that the capitalist system was unparalleled at the method of production it used. However, under that same system, the problem existed of how to distribute the products its factories have made.

  2. Compare and contrast the pluralist, elitist and Marxist theories of the state.

    As it turned out the results favoured the joining of the EEC. This perfect example depicts the elitist concept that individuals or groups are able to exercise power be preventing those who take a decision by limiting the amount of decisions they are allowed to take.

  1. How did Marx conceive the transition from capitalism to communism?

    To that extent therefore the plan did not conform to Marx's theories, especially on those which dealt with fair pay for an honest day's work.

  2. Why does Marx believe that capitalism will inevitably give way to socialism?

    They owned neither the means of production nor the end products like the artisans of the previous epoch. The only thing they had to sell to those who owned the means of production was their labour power, as this was the only thing they possessed.

  1. What did Karl Marx mean by 'exploitation' in a capitalist economic system?

    Consequently Marx concluded that surplus value is the source of capitalist profit. In other words, the capitalist grabs the surplus value, which should belong to the workers as his own profit: it is the exploitation. Exploitation of labour in today's capitalist system still exists on a large basis.

  2. An analysis of the Marxist perspective on religion

    For that reason Marx suggests the way to 'abolish the problem of Judaism is to reorganise society so as to abolish bargaining'. The importance of these statements is that Marx sees economic life, not religion, as the chief form of human alienation.

  1. Is the Liberal perspective on world politics too idealistic?

    This was evident during the French revolution. During that time the French political system under went refrom. It can be said that dissatisfaction with absolute monarchy was one of the causes of the french revolution. In the United States liberals often combine a devotion to personal liberty with an antipathy to capitalism.

  2. What exactly is Weber's Protestant Ethic Thesis?

    His insistence that salvation was by God's grace and that no good deeds or sacraments could influence God, (along with other challenges to Catholicism) led to the establishment of Protestant Churches. Their approach to the issue of salvation was based on the theory of predestination - only an elect will

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work