"The main function of religion in society is the control of weaker social groups by the more powerful."

Essay by dawn_19College, Undergraduate March 2004

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Religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal god or gods. There are many sociological arguments and evidence both for and against the statement that "The main function of religion in society is the control of weaker social groups by the more powerful." These sociological arguments come from many of the main sociological perspectives and include evidence from the likes of Marx, Durkheim, Weber, De Beauvoir, Engels and Turner.

One of the main sociological arguments that would agree with the above statement if from the Marxist perspective as they tend to see society as a structure divided into two major parts. The first and most important part is the economic base or infrastructure. The second major part known as the superstructure consists of the rest of society, in the form of the political, legal and educational systems, beliefs and ideas. Marx claimed that the infrastructure largely shapes the superstructure in other words the economic system largely shapes the rest of society.

Marx also sees society as being dominated by the capitalists who are seen to exploit the working class in order to make a profit for themselves. As it is the capitalists who have control of the economy (infrastructure) they are seen as having dominance and influence over the other key institutions (superstructure), which includes the institution of religion. Marx argues that the capitalist's use their influence over religion in order to maintain the existing system of exploitation and reinforce class relationships, and in doing this keeps the working class in their place. Religion also offers an illusion of hope in a hopeless situation which, prevents thoughts of overthrowing the system as people believe that they will be compensated for their suffering in this life by gaining a higher status or being...