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Religion As A Tool Of Oppression And Liberation In Society

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Oppression used as a tool of religion, society uses religion as a form of social control, people behave well not only out of fear of their friends and families disapproving but also out of the desire to remain in their god’s good graces. Durkheim explains that sacred does not mean good and profane does not mean bad. Christianity and Judaism, for example, have ten commandments as a set of rules for behavior that they believe we’re sent directly from God, these commandments are not just rules of how to worship but protocols to live an eternal life.

In terms of liberation, Durkheim’s demonstrates although religion may promote force of division it can also promote social unity and solidarity. When religious people do bad they feel guilty and remorse such feelings motivate them to make amends. Religion help people to think less about themselves and think more about common goals, and those goals are to work for peace and put other people needs before theirs. Religion gives people a reason to see why their lives are meaningful and why should they do better. This assignment will be comparing the perspective of structural functionalists and conflict theorists.


Religion can also be seen as a form of inequality between man and woman, maintaining the power of man and lowering woman. In Christianity, the first man, Adam was created in God’s image while the first woman Eve was created from Adam’s rib to serve and obey his husband. Most of the religion portrays the woman as immoral being dependent on the male. In the Bible, Eve committed a sin by eating the forbidden apple and tempting Adam to eat it. Many religions do not allow a woman to be leaders in churches like Islam, Judaism, Catholicism. Religion is also seen as a way to control woman behavior on how to dress, they must not look a man in the eye, or not allowing them to speak in church. Society becomes divided, promote a theology of discrimination.

Societies match with social norms like honoring your parents, do not commit adultery. Religion has also been used as a tool to uphold social inequality, racial inequality portraying Jesus as being white, also slavery was a form of justification based on many texts from the Bible. The scripture of Genesis, for instance, the story of Cain and Abel in which God marked Cain for murdering his brother which was interpreted meaning it marked him as a sinner with darker skin. During apartheid Afrikaners were convinced that they should be the separation of races, each race should have their own land, white people minority having a big land, the black majority having less land, and they insisted that their policies were approved by God because they were grounded in the Bible scriptures.


Religion is a source of false consciousness that encourages the oppressed to accept that they are being poor for now and then in another world, they will have money, so some become lazy to look for work because they think that they are spiritually rich. The political, economic, and social arrangement that force their chances in this physical world because they are promised repayments for their suffering in the next world. Religion not only oppresses woman but it oppresses all believers. Research shows that some particular churches lead people to rejects their medicine’s and live the spiritual life. Church leaders preach people astray and persuade them to live a spiritually free life, in other words, prayer and fasting will heal them and they will live eternally. People use religion for the wrong reasons, for example, a deadly disease such as HIV/AIDS, they use religion as a tool to fight AIDS and people die after they stop taking their medicine hoping spiritual methods will make them feel better.

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Conflict perspective portrays ways in which religion suppress, constrain and exploit others. In a capitalist society, religion plays a significant role whereby some of the people have more resources and power than others. Marx argues that there are two types of social class, the bourgeoisie used religion as a tool to pacify the proletariat. He also saw religion as a sign of the oppressed creature. People are afraid of facing reality, therefore, they use religion to comfort themselves, make the world bearable and emphasize on their existence, it was able to do this by promising people rewards in the afterlife instead of the current life. According to Christiano, Marx was not in favor of science, he believed that his theory was also advancing in being a useful tool in a violent revolution (2008:124).


Sometimes religion is used as a to work for social change and economic inequalities. Liberation theology states that Christians have a responsibility to demand social change which is the disempowerment of people globally especially poor smallholders, agricultural labor of low social status, to take action at the grass-root level and bring political and economic change. This means that the Christian faith is inspired by the thought of Marx. It advocates them to work together to obtain employment and land, it also helps them to raise the consciousness of the poor and to protect their cultural identity.


Liberation was denied to black people, in the era of apartheid black people were not free, jails and prisons were filled with them and to be set free was a victory for them. When South Africa was colonized the with invaders introduced Christianity. In the play ‘ Woza Albert!’ the characters portray how South Africa will turn out if ‘Morena’ came to South Africa, they refer to him as their god and they hoped he would save them from black oppression.


Black theology is a form of liberation theology created by black people globally especially from South Africa and North America. In South Africa, black liberation theology developed because people were oppressed during apartheid. Majority of churches during apartheid promoted a theology of discrimination. Black theologists orchestrated towards their freeing from religious injustice, economic and social committed by white people. Cone and Wilmore (1979:101), wrote: Black theology makes black people value themselves and it seeks to bless them in the light of God, it emphasizes that black community can achieve black humanity, therefore black theology is the theology of blackness. The assurance of the black humanity that release black people from white racism. According to Moore, Black theology gave black people a way for them to speak to the oppressors to hear the good news and be saved. Black theology is an inspired movement that appeared during the late 1960s and early 1970s towards the economic, religious, social and political discharge of the people of South Africa (1973:5).


Religion is difficult to define, sometimes it drug the pain of suppression it teaches the oppressed to accept their political, economic and social struggle to constrain their chances of life because their promised repayment for their suffering in the next world, it mostly occurs in very poor community, that is a tool of oppression which is oppressors oppressing our way of thinking that is reason why there are those who are exploited. Religion defines the sacred and profane Durkheim also looked at religion through structural-functionalism that religion helps establish social cohesion, by uniting people around shared symbols, norms and values in the society. That define that religion is not always a tool of oppression but it brings hope to the hopeless as liberation.


  1. Ferrante, J., Seedat-Khan, M., Jansen, L.Z., & Smith, R., eds. 2016. Sociology: A South African Perspective. 1st ed. Hampshire, UK: Marinda Louw.
  2. Lumen Boundless Sociology. (n.d.). Karl Marx on Religion: How Religion Affects Social Inequality. Retrieved from htttps:// 2/lesson 5 Date of access: 08 August 2019.
  3. James, H. Cone. & Gayraud, S. Wilmore. 1979. Black Theology: A Documentary History. New York: Orbis.
  4. Maclonis, J. (2018, January 08). Pew Research Center: Religious landscape survey [Video file]. Retrieved from
  5. Moore, B. 1973. Essay in Black Theology: South African voice. London: C. Hurst and Co.
  6. Mwanbazambi, K. 2009 . A missiological Glance at South African Black Theology. Journal of Verdun et Ecclesta, 31(1):1-10.
  7. Phiri, I. & Gathogo, J. (2012, March 02). South African Black Theology in the 21st Century. Retrieved from Pdf

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