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Essay on the Role of Religion in Society

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The role of religion USIG conflict perspective

Religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. The role of religion in society is definitely a dynamic one. The relationship between both religion and society is always changing. Religion affects different societies in different ways and in different forms, causing the forms of society to change according to a change in religion. Religion can be a driving force in society but as a reactionary rather than in a radical way. This writing explores the role of religion in society from a conflicting perspective view. It is a theoretical presentation of religious experience from a conflict perspective. It focuses on highlighting the important roles played by religion with reference to the conflict perspective.

Karl Marx`s theory of religion is a complex network of intellectual developments drawn from a variety of sources: philosophical, moral, social, historical, economic, political, and anthropological. The role of religion in a society is quite powerful in driving society. Religion affects different societies in different forms, leading to in change society.

3. 1. The role of religion in maintaining social inequality

Conflict theorists view religion as an institution that helps maintain patterns of social inequality(Welton,2015). According to this perspective, religion has been used to support the divine right of oppressive monarchs and to justify unequal social structures. Conflict theorists are critical of the way many religions promote the idea that believers should be satisfied with existing circumstances because they are divinely ordained(Jost,2014). This power dynamic has been used by Christian institutions for centuries to keep poor people poor and to teach them that they shouldn`t be concerned with what they lack because their true reward (from a religious perspective) will come after death. The conflict theory focuses on the competition between groups within society over limited resources. As Karl Marx argued that religion works to calm uncertainty over our role in the universe and in society.

3.1.1. Religion in maintaining gender inequality.

Looking on gender inequality, religion has had a crucial impact on gender inequality, serving as a catalyst for the development of rules that oppress women and give men supremacy. Men are given control over women in most, if not all, religions, and so a woman’s role becomes submissive. Religion has defined how a woman should behave and has hindered women from having equal possibilities as men. Women are taught that a man is the leader of the household and that they must always submit to him(McKinnon,2013). The function of a woman in religion has been defined as a helper to her husband and a follower of a man’s (husband’s) leadership. Giving an example, in the Nazareth Baptist church, popularly known as the Shembe church, women are hindered by a set of norms from living the life they desire, they are forced to comply with the rules. One of the well-known rules is that women are not allowed to stand before men, it is regarded as a disgrace and a lack of submission.

In addition, Women are not allowed to wear pants or plait their hair in certain ways. Deciding for a woman how she should look is oppression. Women are not allowed to use any form of artificial hair because it is regarded as a worldly trait that will make them fall into sin. Women are not allowed to lead any church services, preference is given to their sons because they will grow to be men. Men also do the leading of songs and prayer, women only get to shine in their religious dance. Oppression in the church dates to arranged marriages. Kelvingrove and Havlicek (2005:2-11) mentioned that women did not have a say about who they married but were forced to take whatever men their fathers think is right for them. In those churches, a woman who has had children out of wedlock is given to older men in marriage. Young maidens are encouraged to stay virgins until they marry, they wear veils in church as a sign of purity, and if you are no longer a virgin you are not allowed in the cycle. Women who have had children out of wedlock are not allowed to enter the holy temple while men who have committed the same sin have access to the holy place.

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3.2. The Role of religion in reinforcing and promoting social inequality.

Religion reinforces and promotes social inequality and social conflict. It helps convince the poor to accept their lot in life, and it leads to hostility and violence motivated by religious differences. This perspective focuses on the ways in which individuals interpret their religious experiences(Jost,2014). Marx argued that the bourgeoise used religion as a tool to keep the less powerful proletariat pacified. Thus, the social conflict approach to religion highlights a phenomenon of human behavior functions to maintain social inequality by providing a worldview that justifies oppression. Religion acts as an opiate to dull the pain of exploitation and gives the working-class hope through the promise of the afterlife. Karl Marx viewed religion as a social control used to maintain the status quo in each society. The current state of things; is the way things are, as opposed to the way they could be in the existing situation. A strong correlation exists between inequality and religion, such that societies marked by high inequality are more religious than those with more egalitarian income distributions. What explains this correlation? Insecurity theory argues that high inequality generates intense insecurities, leading the poor to seek shelter in religion for both psychological and material comfort(McKinnon,2013).

3.3 Religion Maintains status quo

Karl Marx`s perspective on religion it is that it maintains the unequal status quo of a particular society (Boundless, 2015). By status quo, he is referring to the current state of the way things are now, as being in the opposite way of how they must be in a capitalist society. In this kind of society, groups of people who have more resources and power than other groups of people use religion as a tool to calm down the less powerful society members that work for wages.

Furthermore, Marx argued that religion calms people down by promising them that they will get a reward in the afterlife rather than in their current life (Boundless, 2015). People who have more resources and power are living their life happily, while the ones without resources are suffering from bad living conditions. The ones without resources are aware that the ones with resources take advantage of them, but due to their religious beliefs, they are accepting this fact (Coleman, 2011). When inequality is recognized and challenged, as is the case within liberation theologies, religion and religious ideas can provide powerful tools for those opposing the status quo.

3.4 Religion is the opium of the people

From Marx`s famous adage that religion is people`s opium to Weber`s recognition of the dignity brought about by religious music, and disagreements about prosocial and harmful, and even violent ( Welton,2015). The influence of religious belief and practice has been a long-term discussion in social theory. The social science literature shows that religion is shaped by social structures (including economic and political structures) and is an integral part of many cultures (Hout,2014).

People can be addicted to religion and the word addiction is mostly assumed to a bad like drug addiction or substance abuse, etc. most people devote themselves to religion and cant literally spend a day without spiritual worshiping or without worshiping god(Welton,2015). Religion is sometimes treated with a dedication to quality therapy.

To see that one is addicted to religion, he or she will avoid responsibilities or personal matters, one would be obsessed with religious rules, one would always have financial problems but always give big tithes at church, etc


  1. Boundless. M. 2015. `Religion and social control` Boundless Sociology. Boundless, 27 Jun. 2015. Retrieved 07 Sept. 2021.
  2. Coleman, P. G. Belief and Aging: spiritual Pathways in Later Life. Bristol Policy Press; Bristol, UK: 2011. [Google Scholar].
  3. Stark, Rodney (2007). Sociology (10th ed.). Thomson Higher Education Thio, Alex (2008). Sociology: A Brief Introduction (7th ed)
  4. Caprioli, M., 2005. Primed for violence: The role of gender inequality in predicting internal conflict. International studies quarterly, 49(2), pp.161-178.
  5. Klingorova, K. and Havl`ek, T., 2015. Religion and gender inequality: The status of women in the societies of world religions. Moravian Geographical Reports, 23(2), pp.2-11
  6. Lewis, John. (1975, June). `Marx and Religion` New humanist.91 (2): 34-37
  7. Marx, K and Engels, F. (1975). On Religion Moscow: Progress Publishers.

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