Marx and Engels' View and Purpose of Religion Essay

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Throughout history, religion has played a significant function in society as a medium through which people connect, via various rituals and symbols (Marsh et al. 2009). When the subject of Marx, Engels and religion is discussed, the famous quote ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses’ (Marx as cited in Raines 2002, p.5) is one that is for the most part, at the forefront of people’s minds. It is often a misconception that Marx and Engels viewed religion in a predominantly negative light and saw it as something that human beings had no use for. On the contrary, as this essay will endeavour to show, Marx and Engels not only saw religion as a force used by the elite to control the repressed and justify their actions, but it is also an…show more content…
However, whilst Hegel believed that ‘God’ was the driving force of humanity, Marx maintained that it was humanity itself which was the force behind change. In addition, Marx contradicted Hegel’s view of the state being in place to create a safe environment; rather, the state is in place to validate the laws and belief systems that restrain the majority of human beings, the proletariat, for the benefit of the bourgeoisie (Calhoun et al. 2007). Ideology was a concept developed in 1796 by Destutt de Tracy but was a concept introduced into the public arena in 1845 by Marx and Engels in their writings, The German Ideology (Law 2011). Marx and Engels used the term ‘ideology’ to convey how the winners of the capitalist society used certain ideas and beliefs in order to mould society for their benefit. These ideas and beliefs are in place so as to hide the truth from the majority of society, the oppressed. Marx sees religion as a form of ideology created by human beings and also sees religion as falling under one of his key concepts; alienation. ‘Religion is the self-consciousness and self-feeling of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again’ (Marx and Engels as cited in Marsh et al. 2009, p.652). Marx suggests that human beings rely on religion when they are feeling alienated from their life or when they come against difficulties in their life. Additionally, he suggests that
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