Religion as Culture Left Behind

  • A central criticism of Marx is that wages went up, not down, and there was less conflict.
  • Another criticism is that Marx was producer orientated.
Today we have consumer capitalism. Religion is even more marginal in any cultural impact at all towards social conservatism or progress.
Later Marxists are aware of the penetrating nature of capitalist ideology to smother resistance, even to this day:

  • Mass production and mass unions are in severe decline
  • We have the ideology of individualism and consumerism
  • We have a variety of beliefs and philosophies to live by
  • Surface pleasure of consumerism prevents radical activity
  • The working class is fragmented - effectively destroyed
Jurgen Habermas is someone contemporary who is anti-religion (he calls it irrational) but still sees capitalist economic interests generate consumerist and competition ideology to preserve their vital interests (in the manner of Marx and later thinkers), but Habermas hopes culture is a prime mover (like Weber) in that academics not tied to economic interests can produce a true disinterested rationality. Truly open and free argument leads to truth. The working class is replaced by communicative action. Thus many Marxists think he has betrayed the primary economic and social dynamic that produces ideology.
Weberians in the present tend just to be complex sociologists who look from below and from above at forms of social action.
Sociology of Religion today has lost this grand impact. It tends to be studied from interests in secularisation (marginalised religion with little impact on the socio-economy), cults and sects (intense religion cutting at a distance from general society) and New Age phenomena (alternative cultures and the peristence of superstition). There is a growing interest in Islam, however, and its characteristics and impact in conserving and challenging state structures in the Middle East.
Note: Religious Sociology is a Church or religious organisation using sociological methods to assist its missionary activity. It exploits sociology for its own ends whereas Sociology should be an academic study. Thus always refer to Sociology of Religion.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful