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Critically Examine Marxist Contributions to the Sociology of Religion

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Critically examine Marxist contributions to the sociology of religion.

Marxism is a conflict view, so it goes without saying their view on religion within society is a conflicting one. This essay looks to examine and criticise the reasons behind some of the Marxists contributions to the sociology of religion. I will discuss and criticize the views of the following theorists; Karl Marx, Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci. Karl Marx likens religion to a drug; “Religion is the opium of the people.” This analogy is a reference to how people lose individuality and become infatuated by religion, believing it solves all difficulties they may be facing. For example in Hinduism the extent of pain and suffering in an individual’s lifespan, depicts the level of happiness in their next life. Marxists would say that with this ideology people live ‘modest’ lives. People are brainwashed into accepting their ‘fate’ rather than attempting to rise above it, in hopes of a lavish afterlife. However Marx’s work is very outdated as he wrote most of it in the 1800s and although the basis of what he said may still be the case, a lot of it no longer applies to current society as people have begun questioning rather than accepting their circumstances.

Louis Althusser developed on Marxists theories; he believed that the underclasses are controlled by the ruling class. Althusser deduces that as a result of ruling class ideas being inflicted on the underclass, they are brainwashed into believing their ideologies of life. For example: predetermined ideas about gender, class, ethnicity and sexuality.
Louis Althusser discusses ideology suggesting that people lose their individuality and become subjects based on ideological views. He goes on to say ideology interpellates these individuals, as subjects (the subject is given meaning through ideology). They are no longer individuals but…...

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