Marxism and Religion

To compare religion as an institution like that of an economic system seemed odd to me at first, but in reading chapter 7 of McGuire, especially in regards to Marxist theories, I came to understand it from a new perspective I had not thought about. In explaining aspects of social change, or lack thereof in religious settings, McGuire expands on the idea of Marxist interpretations of religion and how it naturally halts change by “support[ing] the status quo”(pg. 237). McGuire writes, “Another concept explaining the change-inhibiting aspects of religion is the idea of alienation, which is central to the Marxian definition of religion.”(pg. 239). Thinking in Marxist terms, the idea–or if one is to truly believe–the illusion of religion is merely a tool to keep society functioning smoothly. Marxist theory follows that like the way capitalism profits off of the products of labor while alienating a laborer from their finished work, religion takes the most sacred of beliefs and ideals and separates them from an individual while placing them on an unknowable deity. Thinking in these terms really does make religion appear as an institution, which in itself seems to contradict itself. Although I have not thought of myself as being particularly religious, this class has made me rethink what I previously thought of myself. If individuals are supposed to surrender themselves to a belief system and devote and sacrifice their divine beliefs–whatever they may be–for the sake of following what Marx has presented as an illusion and just another social system, how has it persisted throughout history while undergoing relatively few drastic changes in beliefs despite the evolution and creation of new religions.