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Religion: Understanding a Diverse Society

In human society, religion is one of the most powerful and influential forces. It has been found to have influence on several spheres of society like family, political and economic sphere (Hammon, 2006). Why do sociologists get interested in spending their energy in studying religion? One reason for this is that religion is very essential in every community and its practices actually form part of every individual life’s. It is found that many people’s intents and actions are influenced by religious value (Allan & Allan, 2009). On the same note, it is out of religious meaning people get to interpret much of their experiences. Another reason is that religion forms very important subject due to its effect on society as well as the impact society has on religion (Craib, 1997).

Karl Marx and Max Weber are among the great sociologists who did a lot to provide sociological perspective in religion. Despite each of them having a different view on what religion is and its function in the society, their constructs are important in having a holistic view of religion and its role in the society not only in those early days but in post-modern world. Karl Marx is greatly known because of his writings on social theory that revolved around social class theory and history of materialism concepts. In his writings, we do not find any orderly approach of religion, however, by taking close look at his social theory and theory of alienation a clear understanding of his view on religion can be obtained (Pickering, 2000).

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It is found that when Karl Marx analyzed political economy he did set apart production forces which included machines, tools and the technical organization of work from public relations which were immediate producers. To him, public relations had to do with those in working class and capitalists. He saw change in productive forces which were new mechanization trends that would cause changes in those involved in producing. People who were engaged in production were workers. This was the set up and beginning of capitalist economy (Furseth& Repstad, 2006).

Hence, there was emergence of conflict between bourgeoisie and proletariat due to how benefits of industrial production were shared. This is where the bound of contention existed. He considered workers in capitalist world being treated as objects and therefore because labor and production are integral part of human beings, such relationship was to elicit alienation. Consequently, because a person who is alienated has lost focus on true identity, religion acted as solace in attempt to seek an understanding of struggles experienced and find hope in this life or in world to come. He argues that religion has a false presentation of reality that cause individual get a view that he or she cannot or in collective gain full control of existing conditions (Hamilton, 2001).

Close scrutiny of Karl Marx religion theory displays two aspects. He considers his theory of religion as superstructure and on the other side religion as an ideology. As superstructure, religion seems to adjust to changes in production mode and thus class consciousness is non-achievable from social basis. He states that religion emanated from primitive man who could not help himself from forces of nature. However, he maintains that in capitalist world protestant Christianity and its individualism was the most suitable type of religion (Furseth& Repstad , 2006).

On the other hand, Marx considered religion as kind of ideology. In his works he suggest that in class societies, ideas of ruling class always prevail in any historical period and they are used for oppression and manipulation of inferior class within society. He found that at any given time prevailing ideas even those related to religion are just there to legitimize ruling class’ interests. From this point he concludes that man himself makes religion where religion in turn paints untrue picture concerning the reality. He adds that religion acts as an instrument of injustice imposer and at the same time forms an attitude of protesting against injustice imposed (Pickering, 2000).

Max Weber lived at time when in German positive tradition was non-existent but dominated by historicism which was an ideology that research methods used in natural sciences were inapplicable in studying human phenomena and only intuition could provide solution to that. For this reason, Weber embarked on attempts to get a better understanding of human action in a rational and predictable manner. He considers religious action as a particular kind of social action (Furseth& Repstad, 2006).

Karl Marx and Max Weber are among the great sociologists who did a lot to provide sociological perspective in religion. Despite each of them having a different view on what religion is and its function in the society, their constructs are important in having a holistic view of religion and its role in the society not only in those early days but in post-modern world. Karl Marx is greatly known because of his writings on social theory that revolved around social class theory and history of materialism concepts. In his writings, we do not find any orderly approach of religion, however, by taking close look at his social theory and theory of alienation a clear understanding of his view on religion can be obtained (Pickering, 2000).

It is found that when Karl Marx analyzed political economy he did set apart production forces which included machines, tools and the technical organization of work from public relations which were immediate producers. To him, public relations had to do with those in working class and capitalists. He saw change in productive forces which were new mechanization trends that would cause changes in those involved in producing. People who were engaged in production were workers. This was the set up and beginning of capitalist economy (Furseth& Repstad, 2006).

Hence, there was emergence of conflict between bourgeoisie and proletariat due to how benefits of industrial production were shared. This is where the bound of contention existed. He considered workers in capitalist world being treated as objects and therefore because labor and production are integral part of human beings, such relationship was to elicit alienation. Consequently, because a person who is alienated has lost focus on true identity, religion acted as solace in attempt to seek an understanding of struggles experienced and find hope in this life or in world to come. He argues that religion has a false presentation of reality that cause individual get a view that he or she cannot or in collective gain full control of existing conditions (Hamilton, 2001).

Close scrutiny of Karl Marx religion theory displays two aspects. He considers his theory of religion as superstructure and on the other side religion as an ideology. As superstructure, religion seems to adjust to changes in production mode and thus class consciousness is non-achievable from social basis. He states that religion emanated from primitive man who could not help himself from forces of nature. However, he maintains that in capitalist world protestant Christianity and its individualism was the most suitable type of religion (Furseth& Repstad , 2006).

On the other hand, Marx considered religion as kind of ideology. In his works he suggest that in class societies, ideas of ruling class always prevail in any historical period and they are used for oppression and manipulation of inferior class within society. He found that at any given time prevailing ideas even those related to religion are just there to legitimize ruling class’ interests. From this point he concludes that man himself makes religion where religion in turn paints untrue picture concerning the reality. He adds that religion acts as an instrument of injustice imposer and at the same time forms an attitude of protesting against injustice imposed (Pickering, 2000).

Max Weber lived at time when in German positive tradition was non-existent but dominated by historicism which was an ideology that research methods used in natural sciences were inapplicable in studying human phenomena and only intuition could provide solution to that. For this reason, Weber embarked on attempts to get a better understanding of human action in a rational and predictable manner. He considers religious action as a particular kind of social action (Furseth& Repstad, 2006).

Max Weber theory of religion is interesting because he was determined to develop a method that would help understands cultural-political aspects as they related to human social action and structural constraints while consciously attempting to find a way to settle challenge between idealist and materialist social theories. While Karl Marx considered class structure as key determinant of modern capitalism, Max Weber did focus attention on how rationality was core to an understanding of capitalism. His rationalization concept is of great help in addressing how religion as non-rational aspect in human society has been influenced by economic system spread on the basis of rational calculation (Andersen & Taylor, 2005).

References

Allan,K.,& Allan,K. D.(2009).Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World. New Delhi: Pine Forge Press

Andersen, M. L., & Taylor, H. F. (2005). Sociology: understanding a diverse society. London: Cengage Learning.

Clarke, P. (2009).The Oxford handbook of the sociology of religion. Oxford: Oxford Press

Cladis, M. (2001). Introduction to Durkheim, E.,The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Oxford: Oxford university press

Craib, (1997). Classical Social Theory. Oxford: Oxford University press.

Ender, S., & Williams, R. (2006). Sociology of religion. Retrieved on 15th January, 2012 from: http:endersusa.net/PDF/EndersReligion.pdf

Furseth,I.& Repstad, P.(2006).An introduction to the sociology of religion: classical and contemporary perspectives. London: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Hamilton, M. B.(2001).The sociology of religion: theoretical and comparative perspectives.New York:Routledge

Hammon, P. (2006). Sociological perspective on religion. Retrieved on 15th January, 2012 from: fasnafan.tripod.com/religion.pdf

Pickering, W. (2000). Durkheim on Religion. Oxford: Oxford university press

Stanford, C. M. & State University of New York at Albany. (2008).Religion and politics in Nicaragua: A historical ethnography set in the city of Masaya.Washington: ProQuest,

Weber, Max (1997).The theory of social and economic organization.New York: Simon and Schuster