Sunday, 20 April 2014 Liam Curran Year 13
- Evaluate the contribution of Marxist theories to our understanding of the role and functions of religion in the world today.
We tend to see Marxists as against the idea of religion, on the grounds that it legitimates poverty among the lower classes, to be exploited by the capitalists, and that religion is used as a weapon to legitimate class equality also, however, has been criticised by functionalists and feminists alike on the grounds it ignore many positive functions of society, and this is what many Neo-Marxists have come to recognise.
Firstly, Marx was the one who argued that religion was used to legitimate class inequality, arguing that religion is the product of alienation, and alienation occurs when a crafter becomes separated or loses control over what they have created, and feelings of a loss of identity performing the same menial tasks every day. Marx argued that alienation exists in all societies, but is the most extreme under capitalism when the working class are exploited for their labour. Religion is then introduced to numb the pain of the alienation, and Marx said that religion is the ‘opium of the people’, just as opiates mask pain, rather than treat the cause. Religion does the same; the function of religion is to mask the pain of alienation and not treat the cause of their earthly misery, and Lenin agreed with Marx, describing religions role in society working like a ‘spiritual gin’ to keep the working class in their place, and used cynically by the ruling class to create a ‘mystical fog’ to cover the real misery of the exploitation they are responsible for.