Comparing and contrasting Marx" belief on religion as a social opium, along with Emile Durkheim and Max Weber's understanding and account of religion within society.
How do we account for religion - its origin, its development, and even its persistence in modern society? This is a question, which has occupied many people in a variety of fields for quite a long time. At one point, the answers were framed in purely theological and religious terms, assuming the truth of Christian revelations and proceeding from there. .
But through the 18th and 19th centuries, a more "naturalistic" approach developed. One person who attempted to examine religion from an objective, scientific perspective was Karl Marx. Marx's analysis and critique of religion is perhaps one of the most famous and most quoted by theist and atheist alike. .
The most famous quote from the work of Karl Marx (and one of the most controversial statements in all of philosophy) is his frank assertion that religion "is the opium of the people" (141)*. This pithy comment is indeed a good summation up Marx's straightforward appraisal of religion, which he said "eased pain even as it created fantasies" for those masses of oppressed workers suffering at the hands of a powerful few (141)*.
As a functionalist, Marx insisted that religion does not exist independently, but only operates "to satisfy other needs or conditions" (158)*. He was convinced that "religion is so fully determined by economics that it is pointless to consider any of its doctrines or beliefs on their own merits" (138)*. For Marx, religion serves only to comfort and placate the poor and wretched, while simultaneously justifying and .
protecting the privilege of those in control, and therefore it "should not only be dismissed, but dismissed with scorn" (139)*.
Marx imagined primeval communist societies in which all resources were owned jointly by the members of the community, a social organisation to which he longed for a putative return.