Home > Sample essays > Religion: Durkheim Vs. Marx – Understanding How Religion Influences Society

Essay: Religion: Durkheim Vs. Marx – Understanding How Religion Influences Society

Essay details and download:

  • Subject area(s): Sample essays
  • Reading time: 6 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published: 1 April 2019*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 1,748 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 7 (approx)
  • Tags: Marxism essays

Text preview of this essay:

This page of the essay has 1,748 words. Download the full version above.

Paste your essay in here…Religious institutions and religions play an integral role in influencing the society and the lives of individuals. The sociological traditions of Durkheim and Karl Marx consider religion entirely different, but they are in agreement that it plays an influential role in the society. Marx often considered religion as the opium of the masses. It is often used to influence a large number of people. However, Marx spoke very little of religion in comparison to Durkheim who offered an in-depth analysis of religion. Durkheim describes religion as a unified system comprising of practices and beliefs that are based on sacred things (Durkheim, 2012). This means that things that are forbidden to set apart and are united by a single moral authority, in this case, the church. Furthermore, every individual who considers themselves as religious will adhere to the church. Based on these decisions, both Durkheim and Marx have varying definitions of religion. However, they both see the vital role it plays in the society and how society shapes and creates religions.

Marx is often considered as a very influential political atheist. This arises from the fact that Marx promoted atheism as a means to end capitalism. This has led to the world that has been committed to the political philosophy of atheism. Moreover, Marxists believe that religion is used to preserve and justify the class system. It is used to maintain the status quo of the main ideology in the society (Morris, 2015). Religion plays an integral role in in the values and beliefs that characterize the society, and it acts as a means to maintain the current social order. The rich have the potential to make huge contributions to the church, while the poor lack that opportunity. With time, the values and beliefs in the church will mirror those of the rich since they provide financial support (Craib, 1997). It would mean that the poor have no place in the church even though a large number of them often go to church. In this regard, the desires of the wealthy will be maintained, and their class in the society will be preserved. Religion is vital in ensuring that the existing social order is preserved making life more manageable.  Furthermore, it is used in justification of the class system and exploitation which arise from capitalism.

If everyone in the society has a belief that God is the source of everything, then it would be accurate to assume that God created both rich and poor. Essentially, it is God’s plan that some people are powerful and rich while others languish in poverty with no power. Furthermore, religion is used as a means to justify the exploitation that exists in the society. Essentially, it means that the poor should accept their condition as they are destined to suffer since its God’s wish.  Furthermore, God only allows an individual to go through difficult times since they can handle it (Royce, 2015). As a result, Marx believes that individuals should look forward to salvation and happiness that they will attain once they pass on. Religion defers rewards and happiness to the afterlife. The religious doctrines show the importance of accepting the current conditions on the earth while waiting for more appealing opportunities once an individual pass away.

Marx abandoned his beliefs in religion when he was admitted to the University of Berlin. Moreover, he also encountered the Epicurus philosophy and materialism that was established by Ludwig Feuerbach. The materialism theory supports the notion that through begins from human beings. However, the being does not emerge from the thought. In this regard, the theory supports the idea that religion is a project of human experience (Morris, 2015).  Essentially, religion relies on the existence of humans to emerge and evolve. This is guided under the overall term of Materialism.  Marx also suggested that individuals who are living in desperate social circumstances are forced to find solace in religious entities which they create by themselves (Durkheim, 2012). Essentially, this means that religion arose from humanity as a means to find hope and strength. It is a creation of humans as a way to withstand the difficulties that they face in life (Royce, 2015). This would mean that religion is merely an illusion. This would mean that God is not responsible for creating humans. Instead, humans are responsible for their existence, and they also formed God. Religion is a means that cuts individuals from the reality. It is a means to mask and distort reality as a strategy to make life easier for the individual. Many aspects of life such as depression, grief, inequality, and hunger are made tolerable due to religion. This has meant that more people are reliant in religion as a coping mechanism (Morris, 2015). The different situations occurring in the world develop and maintain their religious preferences that are contained in particular faiths. Mostly, the individual develops the religion.

Marx also came up with the idea of alienation. This is a situation where individuals are guided by forces that they have created.  Primarily, due to this development, individuals consider these forces as alien powers. This can also apply to a class-based society. In this context, the workers who feel that they are alienated entail those who lack aces to outcomes of their labor. Instead, their work is intended for a different person, and their production is taken from them. According to Marx, every social institution that exists in a capitalistic society are characterized by alienation (Craib, 1997). This also includes religion. Essentially, the presence of religion is proof that man has isolated from himself. In this regard, religion acts as a means where people are oppressed and rule by a creation that is formed unconsciously. Humanity is considered as alien individuals are not aware that they have power over their creation, and they choose to attribute a different entity. This means that many humans will not lie to the full potential of their lives as they attribute their lives to a different entity. In this regard, humans can prevent the feeling of alienation by cutting themselves from God, which ensures they have a better understanding of the reality.


Emile Durkheim, just like Karl Marx, considers religion as something that is not supernaturally or divinely inspired.  Essentially, religion is an illusion. Durkheim often focuses on the communication attributes of religion instead of the individual nature. Essentially, he was not keen on the experiences that individuals underwent in religion, but he instead looked at the communal bonds and activities where people participate in religious activities. Mostly, Durkheim determined that the outcomes of religion are meant for various purposes. They play a role in the social relationships and society as well as for the individuals (Durkheim, 2012). The main functions of religion are euphoric, vitalizing, cohesive and disciplinary. Religion is used as a source of identification and solidarity for individuals who exist within a society. It acts as a means to get a meaning about life, their roles and how they should act. It reinforces the social and moral norms that are present in the society (Morris, 2015). It provides individuals with reconciliation, consolation, and support. These attributes have been a primary reason that many people follow religions and their doctrines. It encourages people to come together through services and assemblies and also links individuals emotionally. While the society and the world are changing, religion acts as a mean to provide stability (Craib, 1997). Furthermore, it provides purpose, social control, and cohesion.  It is also a means of gathering and communicating for people to reiterate social norms and interact. Without this aspect, the convictions and beliefs of individuals would be weaker. Moreover, not only does it provide social control for the different values and norms, but it also encourages social change where the current norms are examined.

Durkheim has also determined the importance of rites and rituals in religion. These rituals act as a means to prepare individual for social life by imposing a specific measure of asceticism and self-discipline. It acts as a means to define the passage of an individual through life (Royce, 2015).  For instance, religious rituals such as marriage, baptism, and confirmation function as rites of religion. According to Durkheim, these event function to rejuvenate the aspects of collective consciousness (Durkheim, 2012). Religion acts as a means to strengthen social bonds. Moreover, Durkheim considers initiation rites that include pain as an effective way of strengthening bonds. Suffering leads to the development of unique strength. The individual will more confident due to the feeling that they are stronger for having undergone a painful event.

Durkheim does not believe that religion is false (Craib, 1997). However, he considers them true based on their different ways, fashion, and experiences. This would mean that ever religion has different attributes, and it influences the individual in a specific manner. However, all religions respond to similar needs, and they have the same role in an individual’s life. Furthermore, an individual who is subscribing to different religions tend to undergoes the same conditions. These conditions can then be labeled as evidence of reality. Religion is often used as a means to attain inner peace, joy, and enthusiasm. Essentially, the believer relies on religion as an experimental validation of their beliefs.

Durkheim determined several attributes that are common in world religions. Essentially, the main component is that religion interprets the world as sacred. Furthermore, it rentals aspects in the world that are extraordinary which lead to a sense of reverence and awe among people. Religion emerges when a separation is made between the sphere of the sacred and the sphere of the profane. An object cannot be considered as intrinsically profane or sacred (Durkheim, 2012). It is considered as one or the other based on whether the individual who choose to recognize the inherent attributes or the practical value which are not linked to the instrumental value of the object.

In conclusion, Marx and Durkheim offer various descriptions of religion. Marx considers religion as a false belief that is in place to control the masses. It is used to control the social class, and the individual who is in a lower class will continue to suffer as they wait for their rewards in the afterlife. Religion also alienates people. On the other hand, Durkheim considers religion as an integral aspect of society. It is used to support social norms and is also used as means of individuals to be happy and enthusiastic about their lives. It is backed by the collective consciousness, and maintains inner peace and joy.

...(download the rest of the essay above)

Discover more:

About this essay:

If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

Essay Sauce, Religion: Durkheim Vs. Marx – Understanding How Religion Influences Society. Available from:<https://www.essaysauce.com/sample-essays/2016-11-20-1479616049/> [Accessed 21-09-23].

These Sample essays have been submitted to us by students in order to help you with your studies.

* This essay may have been previously published on Essay.uk.com at an earlier date.