Marx Weber and Durkheim on Religion

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A religion can be seen as a unified system of beliefs and practices which are relative to sacred things and beliefs (Giddens 1972, p.224). It can shape ones thoughts and feelings and gives people a sense of hope and something to believe in. All three main sociologist writers Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim offer different perspectives on religion and how important it is to society. Some of the theorists chose to have a positive view whilst others argue the unimportance of religion. This essay attempts to discover which theorist has the most accurate perspective of religion in modern times. This is done by firstly explaining the basic ideas regarding to religion put forward by Marx, Weber and Durkheim. Then both Marx's and Durkheim's thought will be compared and contrasted in order to determine the differences and similarities between their ideas. Finally, it will be explained which one of the theorists views and ideas are the most relevant to contemporary times and why.

Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber all offer a wide array of thoughts and ideas regarding to religion. Firstly, Emile Durkheim's views of religion will be explained. Durkheim chose to adopt the idea that if religion gave birth to everything essential in society it is because society is the soul of religion (Cosman, 1973, p. 191). Thus, Durkheim chose to view religion as a function which can strengthen social bonds whilst also integrating individuals into society. Durkheim also believed that religion is divided up into two separate sections – the sacred and the profane. The sacred consisted of rites, behavior or objects of reverence that religious belief deemed special, whilst the profane was deemed as everything and anything else in the world which did not have any religious meaning or function (Giddens 1972, p.243). Both of these categories depend on each other for survival; the sacred cannot survive without the profane to support it and vice versa. Karl Marx chose to adopt a...
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