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Assess the extent to which Marxist and Feminist theories help our understanding of religion in society today.

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Introduction

(3) Assess the extent to which Marxist and Feminist theories help our understanding of religion in society today (33 marks) Marxist theories of religion mainly relate to how religion helps the domination of society by the Bourgeoisie. They believe that society is always based on conflict between two classes, the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie. Feminist theories of religion explain overall how religion identifies gender differences and inequalities, and in particular how religion helps men to maintain their dominance over women in society. One Marxist view on religion is that religion is an ideological apparatus. Ideological apparatus is a form of social control, and the primary function of religion is to reproduce, maintain and justify class inequality - the controlling of the Proletariat by the Bourgeoisie. This helps our understanding of religion in society as it is relevant to today's society. Evidence to support this view is from Leach, where he found that 80% of higher Church of England positions were still recruited from Bourgeoisie (Oxbridge and private schools). However, this view of religion maintaining class inequality and controlling the Proletariat can be criticised. Religion doesn't always control the Proletariat. There are some examples of religious movements that have brought about radical social change and have helped remove ruling elites. This is called liberation theology. An example of this is Fr Rogelio Cruz, a catholic priest who led 200 families in a mighty protest at a temporary ...read more.

Middle

The cause of the oppression (an exploitative economic system) needs to be addressed, and not the symptom (pain and suffering). Once cured, no pill will be needed, and therefore religion will be unnecessary. A feminist view of religion is that the church reinforces traditional gender roles that serve the interests of men. This shows religion being an instrument of domination and oppression by men. It is useful to our understanding of religion in society as this point helps explain why influential ideas are formulated by celibate men in Christianity. However, this point can also be criticised. For example, some Muslim women claim that the wearing of the hijab is actually liberating them, rather than being a form of male exploitation. This is because it frees them from being seen as a sexual object by men. Marx and Engels claimed that Religion legitimises social inequality. By this, they mean that religion controls people by promoting the idea that the existing hierarchy is natural, God given, and therefore, unchangeable. This was seen during the Feudal period, were Kings believed they had a divine right to rule. Evidence to support this point, which helps our understanding of religion in society, is from Halevy, where he claimed that Methodism distracted the Proletariat from their class grievances by encouraging them to see enlightenment in spirituality rather than revolution. ...read more.

Conclusion

El Sadaawi believes that female oppression is evident in early forms of religion. For example, the Bible and Koran were written in extremely patriarchal societies, when men were able to write texts and justify their dominant position at the time. A classic example of this is the story of Adam and Eve. Eve tends to be depicted as an evil seductress, corrupting Adam and bringing sin into the world. This helps to aid our understanding of religion in society to a great extent as it explains why in Islam, Muslim women are not allowed to touch the Koran or enter mosques whilst menstruating, and it also helps to explain gender differences in other religions such as Buddhism, were monks are considered to be superior to Buddhist nuns. However, the theory of religion is weakened by changes that have shown equality between men and women. For example, Sikhism allows males and females to hold office. Overall, both the Feminist and Marxist views of religion help us in our understanding of religion. Simone De Beauvoir found that religion acts for women in the same way that it does for the Proletariat in Marx's analysis (basically it is a form of drug that makes oppression bearable). In addition, like Marx's Proletariat, women are given the false belief that they will be compensated for their sufferings on earth by equality in heaven. ?? ?? ?? ?? A2 Sociology 18th October 2010 Past Paper # 3 Chris Cartwright ...read more.

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