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The prompt that you will be reading is the comparison and contrasting of how the philosophers; Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and Dubois conceptualize the role of religion in society. The definition of religion used today is; a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance or a particular system of faith and worship. Each philosopher agrees that Religion has an important impact on society and each philosopher has a different aspect of religion but they have a very similar way of using religion as a function.
Marx is a materialist and did not believe religion to be useful because it stopped the forces of production to keep Capitalism functioning. Marx did not believe religion to be useful because he thought of it as a tool for suppression and oppression. Religion was used as a tool by the bourgeoisie, also known as the ruling class, to help them keep their status up and keep the, exploited class, proletariat down. Marx says “Religion is the opium of the people” because it helps the proletarian relax and forget about the oppression of the bourgeoisie. Although Marx also believed that religion was conceived by the Proletariat by accepting their faith and hoping to have a better lifestyle in the afterlife. Marx also believed that religion would slowly disappear in the perfect society where everyone would be equal.
Durkheim believes that god is society and by attending the church it brings community together. “Durkheim saw religious ceremonies not merely as a celebration of supernatural deities, but as a worshiping of social life itself, such that as long as there are societies, there will be religion.”(pg.145). Religion was important, not because of the actual religion itself but the function it created by having a religious belief. Durkheim believed that without religion there is no society because religion brought people together as a community. Durkheim splits religion but instead of splitting it into two different groups of people he breaks it into “two categories: ‘beliefs’ and ‘rites.’”(pg.145) The way he
Weber’s view point of religion was, “Religions address the psychological need of the fortunate to legitimate their good fortune, and, at the same time, offer the less fortunate the promise of future salvation.”(pg.193). Weber believed in there were two conceptions of religion; exemplary prophecy and emissary prophecy. “Exemplary prophecy is rooted in the conception of supreme, impersonal being accessible only through contemplation and mystical experiences. Thus, adherents achieve salvation by removing themselves from the workday through practices such as meditation in order to achieve extraordinary psychic states.” (pg.193). An example given in class was how people would go to a person with mystical experiences and they would tell the seeker what the seeker had to go and get specific objects to be saved from going to hell. ”Emissary prophecy is rooted in a conception of a personal God who is vengeful and loving. Salvation comes not in a contemplative ‘flight from the world,’ but rather, in actively fashioning the world according to God’s commands/will.”(pg.194). These two forms of religion are how Weber saw that the people were either going to be saved to go to the afterlife or not. He encouraged people to consent into engage in religious duties to be saved and go to the afterlife.
DuBois interprets religion to be the Religion of the Slave. There are; “Three things characterized this religion of the slave, –the Preacher, the Music, and the Fenzy.”(pg.379). The preacher is as a leader, politician, and an idealist. An example of a preacher may be Martin Luther King Jr. who was a pastor of the church, an ideologist, and would make political attributes. The music is plain rhythmic melody as DuBois mentions it in the textbook to be the way Blacks would act in the church and that action would help them feel hope and make them forget their troubles from the cruelty of the outside world. The act of singing along with everyone and making chants together to have a feeling of belonging.
The similarities these four philosophers have are not necessarily their view of religion but the way they acknowledge the use of religion. Marx and Weber actually use religion similar by splitting it into two different aspects. Weber believed that people with a higher class were being saved and people with lower class status were not saved to go to the afterlife. “The distrust of wealth and power, which as a rule exists in genuine religions of salvation, has had its natural basis primarily in the experience of redeemers, prophets, and priests.”(pg.197). The wealthy and powerful can be also seen as the bourgeoisie in Marx perspective. It is as if Marx were to believe that the Bourgeoisie are saved because they are wealthy and the proletariat need to work to get saved. “The sense of dignity of socially repressed strata or of strata whose status is negatively (or at least not positively) valued is nourished most easily on the belief that a special ‘mission’ is entrusted to them; their worth is guaranteed or constituted by an ethical imperative, or by their own functional achievement.” (pg.197) The difference is that the proletariat for Marx accept their faith and believe of having a better life at the afterlife while for Weber the people who have their status is negatively valued is not promised to go the afterlife so they have to work for it.
The four theorist use religion as a function which brings people together. They may all have different aspects of religion but they all accomplish one goal and that goal consist of bringing people together to serve a purpose. These theorist all have an important aspect of sociology because they all have included and pointed out very important structures of society in which makes the reader see that there is much more to this world we live in than meets the eye.
- “Chapter 4/ Introduction to ‘The Social Psychology of the World Religions.’” Sociological Theory in the Classical Era: Text and Readings, by Laura Desfor Edles and Scott Appelrouth, SAGE, 2015, pg.193
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