A2 Sociology: Marxist Theories of ReligionPresentation Transcript
Marxist Theories of Religion A2 Sociology Revision
Sees all society as divided into two classes– one exploits the labour of the other.
Contrary to functionalists who see society as based on harmony and consensus.
In modern capitalist society, capitalist class own the means of production and exploit the working class.
He argues because of the above points, there is always potential for class conflict .
He predicts that working class would ultimately become aware of their exploitation and unit to overthrow capitalism.
The Marxist theory of religion needs to be seen in the context of this general view of society.
Marxists criticise the functionalist view as they argue religion is a unifying force that strengthens the value consensus and is a feature of all society.
Marxists see religion as a feature only of class-divided society.
Considering the previous arguments Marxists believe there will be no need for religion in classless society and it will eventually disappear entirely.
Religion as Ideology
Ideology is a belief system that distorts people’s perception of reality in ways that serve the interests of the ruling class.
Whichever class controls the economic production also controls the production and distribution of ideas in society via institutions such as church, education system and the media.
Marx: Ideological Weapon
Religion is an ideological weapon according to Marx.
Used by ruling class to legitimate (justify) the suffering of the poor as something inevitable and god-given.
Religion misleads poor into believing that suffering is virtuous and that they will be favoured in the afterlife.
Example: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven.
Feminist Theory of Religion
They see society as patriarchal.
Many also see religion as a patriarchal institution that reflects and perpetuates this inequality.
Religious beliefs function as a patriarchal tool that legitimates female subordination.
Evidence of Patriarchy
There are 4 examples we will review.
Places of worship
Religious laws and customs
Mainly male dominated despite the fact that women tend to participate more in these organisations than men.
Orthodox Jews and Catholics forbid women becoming priests.
K. Armstrong (1993) see this as proof of women’s marginalisation in religion.
Places of Worship
Often segregates the sexes and marginalises women.
Example: seating women behind men, often behind a screen, leaving the men to occupy the central sacred space.
Women’s participation may be restricted.
Example: not allowed to preach or read sacred text directly.
In Islam, women who are menstruating are not allowed to touch the Qur’an.
Jean Holmes (1994) sees this as a devaluing of women in contemporary religion.
Tends to focus on the actions of male gods, prophets etc…
Typically written and interpreted by men.
Stories are often stereotypes and anti-women in nature.
Example: in Christianity, the story of Genesis and the fall of man is attributed to a woman, Eve.
Very few women feature in the bible, so when they do, they tend to stand out. Mary Magdalene was featured as a repentant prostitute.
Religious Laws & Customs
May give women fewer rights…
Access to divorce limited or non existent
Dress code dictated to them
Unequal treatment such as F.G.M or punishments for displays of sexuality.
Many religions promote women’s traditional domestic and reproductive roles.
Example: Catholic church bans contraception and abortion.
Woodhead (2002) argues excluding women from the priesthood indicates a deeper seeded unease in the church about the emancipation of women.
Feminists’ take on the matter?
Karen Armstrong (1993) says women have not always been subordinate to men in religion.
Examples: Earth mother Goddess, fertility cults and female priesthoods (Think of ancient Greek mythology and the cults worshipping Hera, Artemis, Athena, Hestia, Aphrodite etc…) were throughout the Middle East until about 6,000 years ago.
4,000 years ago, there was a shift toward monotheistic religions which focused on a single all powerful male God, such as Hebrew’s Jehovah, male prophets such as Abraham/Ibrahim, the first prophet of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Nawal El Saadawi (1980) says that it is not so much the fault of religion itself but more the result of patriarchal forms of society coming into existence in the last few thousand years.
Once in place, it began to re-shape and influence religion that favoured male dominance.
End result was a religion contributing to women’s oppression.
Armstrong and El Saadawi agree that the advent of monotheism became a legitimating power of men over women.
Feminists: Woodhead (2002)
Criticises the oversimplification that equates religion with patriarchy and the oppression of women.
She emphasises that this is not true of all religion.
Argues for ‘religious forms of feminism’ which is the ways in which women use religion to gain greater freedom and respect.
Woodhead: Hiijab & Veil
Looks at the use of the hiijab & veil worn by many Muslim women.
Western feminists tend to see it as a form of oppression, but she argues that to the wearer, it may represent a resistance to oppression.
Woodhead argues some Muslim women choose to wear a hiijab to escape the confines of home so that they can enter the world of work or education.
They may thus see a veil or hiijab as a symbol of liberation that allows them to enter the public sphere without losing their culture or history.
Criticisms of this analysis????
Women, Religion and Change
The role of women in some religions is changing. C of E for example, has allowed women to become ordained since 1992.
About 1/5 of all priests are now female in C of E Churches.