Sociology of Religion: Translating the Purpose of Religion within Society

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In a world where religious plurality dominates there is a fountain of contrasting ideologies available to be considered. Sociologists have tried to interpret and translate the purpose of religion within society since the early 19th century. This Essay aims to critically evaluate the different theories of ideology, science and religion from a sociological viewpoint. It will include the work of Karl Marx (1818-1883) & Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), two contrasting Theories that were influenced by the work of the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798–1857) and his theory of positivism. It will also aim to address the perspectives, of neo Marxists and postmodernists. Marx (1818-1883) held a negative view of religion; he compared it to ideological framework that had become a method of social control used by the ruling class to exert their domination over the lower class. There is much evidence to support the Marxist theory as excerpts from the bible make suggestions of non-resistance, offering eternal bliss in the afterlife. However Max Weber (1864 –1914) proposed that That Calvinism could have actually been the driving force for today’s capitalism in his book ‘Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism’. Marx often suggested that religious dogma helped to subdue the working class and justify the unequal distribution of money and power within a capitalist society. He described religion as, ‘the opiate of the masses’ (Giddens,2009) Marx work was influenced by the work of Auguste Comte (1798–1857) who was a main protagonist in social thinking in the 19th century. According to Giddens (2009) Comte had previously noted the inequalities that would arise during industrialisation and agreed with Marx in that religion would eventually begin to decline with the advancements of science and rational thought. In contrast of Marx’s idea to over throw the system in favour of a non-exploitive communist society, Comte vision was for sociology to become a ‘positive science’. He...
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