Marxist perspective on Religion

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Marxistperspective on Religion

Marx’stheory of religion appears to be a compound structure of intelligentdevelopments derived from various sources. His view of the religioncan be evaluated in three standpoints, which are a projection andreflection of social alienation, a philosophical idea to disseminateand legitimize the oppressive social order and the opium of themasses. It is crucial to note that Marx sees religion as people’sreflections of the realities and real conditions. He puts it as theresult of the socio-economic order that prompt people developillusions. In accordance to his thoughts, religion’s purpose is tosolve the requirement for ideals that would otherwise sacrilege andshadow the perception and self-alienation made by the incongruitiesin the social order (Korsch, 2014).

Histheory typically expresses the perspective of religion leaching out,and the people were rising against a capitalist who once was involvedin their oppression. This idea was later condemned in the Russiancommunist, where according to Marx, religion was of littleimportance. Conversely, religious groups still existed in undercoverand real religion did not act as a tool of controlling the masses asMarx once thought it. It is also evident that Marxist theory alsofails to put into consideration crucial factors such assecularization (Korsch, 2014). Typically, the power of the ideologyof religion is undermined due to the low attendance in the church.

Comparisonand Contrast

Typically,Marxist says that religion is a conservative force, but they have agreat variation in their individual interpretation. Though Marxobserves religion as if it only serves their function in the interestof the ruling class, other functionalists say religion serves theinterdependent part of the community that is required to keep itrunning smoothly. They only major on the good that religion serves inthe community. For instance, Parson illustrated the part religionplays in giving members of the community a sense of belonging andidentity. The totem that the Australian aborigines used to worshiprepresented a particular group symbolically. It represents the valuesof the society and through worshipping they are efficientlyworshipping their society. This demonstrates the shared consciencethat the functionalists’ theory hypothesizes thus directlydisapproving Marxism (Raines, 2002).

Religionhas been seen to mainly influence people from a social upbringingthat in a way endangers their lives. Thus, those who have had arather safe upbringing tend to be less oriented towards religion. Thechurch and mosque attendance in most of the rich western countrieshave been on the decline over the last fifty years. This has howevernot led to a decline in church and mosque attendance in the entireworld. Matter of fact, the number of religious individuals has beenon the steady rise over the years. The secularization theory that wasset forth by Marxism and other industrialists during the ages ofenlightenment is therefore considered null. This is becausesecularization is more of an inclination rather than a set order ofevents. The Marxism theory that with time the society would evolveand break free from the ‘shackles’ of religion is thereforedisapproved. It is, however, debatable that development is a keyhindrance to fertility rates. Therefore, the more developed or rich acountry is, the less the population growth rate. It can, therefore,explain why the number of religious people is on the decline in thedeveloped western countries. This can be largely due to the lowfertility rates. In the less developed worlds, the fertility is on anall-time high. This results to more people who are influenced to bereligious and thus more and more turn to religion. This results tothe significant growth in church and mosque attendance over theyears.

ClassicalSocial Theory and Secularization

Theclassical social theory on secularization stated that the bottom ofthe population, which consists of the majority, would gradually losetheir dependence on religion and its teachings. This theoryspeculated that as more people get enlightened on matters affectingtheir lives and the world around them, they would slowly begin toerode in their behaviors and fail to obey religious teachings. On theother hand, the religious sector, which mainly consisted on the topfew percent of the population, purported that the demand for religionwill remain unchanged regardless of how much time continues to pass.They firmly believed that as long as there were places of worship,people would continue to come so that they get their spiritualnourishment. The secularization theory was somewhat right on thisaspect. It has been noted that over time, as more people get to knowmore about how their world operates and how it affects their lives,they tend to be less keen on religious matters.

Disenchantment/Loss of Faith

Theoristssuch as Peter Berger, David Martin, and Bryan Wilson fully supportedthe Marxism theory when it stated that rationalism would lead to thedecline of religion. Advances in scientific technology such ascommunication, medicine, and space exploration have led to most ofthe mysteries that were influencing human beings to be solved. Mostof these mysteries such as diseases, drought, and other naturalcatastrophes were usually attributed to acts of supernatural beingsor pure fate. However, scientific knowledge and reasoning have led tomore people understanding that such events can be predicted or evenstopped through mere human skills. Diseases that plagued humans andeven led to their deaths are now being controlled through the use ofmedicine that was developed through science. The advancement offormal education has also led to more and more people to beenlightened and to start thinking rationally whenever anythinghappens. Celestial events such as the passing of comets across thenight sky are no longer attributed to mystical signs from thesupernatural beings. This has resulted to a rapid rise in ageneration of people who no longer carry their daily lives on blindfaith set on religion. Once the state was separated from religion,more people lost their faith in it. Religious leaders such as Imams,Priests and Rabbis are no longer viewed as the overall authority whenit comes to all matters affecting people’s lives. More people haveturned to science to explain almost every event that happens in theirlives. They have thus declined from fully devoting themselves fromreligious ceremonies and rituals as they used to in the past(Aldridge, 2007). This led to further growth in secularization.


Sometheorists propose that the break of some religions such asChristianity into different denominations could have adverselyaffected the belief in religion. Others, however, claim that the moredifferent denominations there are in a given locality, the more thepeople will be influenced to be religious. This is supported by thefact that once the different denominations have competition for themasses, they would work harder to maintain the number of peopleattending their places of worship. Competition ensures that slacknessand laziness are done away with. This is in comparison with an areathat is only guided by one denomination. Overtime, the operations ofthe said place of worship would continue to be of lower quality dueto lack of competition. This theory goes against the secularizationtheory by trying to explain that religious beliefs have beenmaintained at an almost constant over the years due to this factor.

SocialStructure and Revolutions

Inthe past, religion was utilized as a form of means to rule over akingdom or monarchy. The religious beliefs of these places wereclosely in relation with the laws that governed any specific countryor kingdom. The religious officials were regarded as part of thehighest setting in the social structure of any community. The masseswho were poor and of low social status were forced to obey thereligious laws and beliefs. This was done to maintain peace and totalsubmission to the ruling class. With the revolution taking place, themasses had had enough of this structure. They wanted the power to betaken back to the people, and they are given a chance to have theirsay on matters pertaining their lives. This resulted in democraticsocieties whereby leaders were elected and not ordained by thechurch. The ruling government was also separated from the church.This resulted to more secularization as more people realized thatthey too could have their say without blindly adhering to religiousteachings (Haralambos &amp Holborn, 2000).


Fromthe above discussion, it is not that Marxism played a vital role intrying to define the rise of secularization. It is evident that asmore people get enlightened on how their world around operates andhow it influences their lives, they tend to believe less in religion.Economic development in a country also plays an important role inmaking people less religious. Peace and prosperity promotesecularization as well as people usually turn to religion when theirlives are in jeopardy, and they have no control over it. Overall,once people get to have their say and power to influence their dailylives, they usually tend to be less religious (Toscano, 2009).


Aldridge,A., 2007. Religion in the Contemporary World. Cambridge:Polity, pp 64, 67

DuBois,T. and Zhen, C., 2014. Introduction: Opiate of the Masses withChinese Characteristics: Recent Chinese Scholarship on the Meaningand Future of Religion. Marxismand Religion.

Haralambos&amp Holborn, 2000). Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. London:Harper Collins, pp 436-438

Korsch,K., 2014. Marxismand philosophy.VersoBooks.

Raines,J., 2002). Marx on Religion. TempleUniversity Press,pp1 -13

Surin,K., 2013. Marxism and religion. CriticalResearch on Religion,1(1),pp.9-14.

Toscano,A., 2009. Rethinking Marxism and Religion.” Marxau XXI siècle: l’esprit &amp la letter.

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