Conflict Perspectives on Religion
Although many functionalists view religion. including civil religion. as serving positive functions in society. some conflict theorists view religion negatively. Karl Marx on Religion For Marx, ideologies=svstematic views of the way the world ought to be-are embodied in religious doci!ines and political values (Turner, Beeghley, and Powers. 2002). These ideologies serve to justify the status quo and retard social change. The capitalist class uses religious ideology as a tool of domination to mislead the workers about their true interests. For this reason, Marx wrote his nowfamous statement that religion is the "opiate of the masses." People become complacent because they have been taught to believe in an afterlife in which they will be rewarded for their suffering and misery in this life. Although these religious teachings soothe the masses' distress, any relief is illusory. Religion unites people in a "false consciousness" that they share common interests with members of the dominant class (Roberts. 2004).
From a conflict perspective. religion tends to promote strife between groups and societies. For example. the new religious right in the United States has incorporated both the priestly and prophetic functions into its agenda. While calling for moral reform. it also calls the nation back to a covenant with God (Roberts. 2004).According to McGuire (2002). Weber's distinction between people's "class situation" (stratification based on economic factors) and "status situation" (stratification based on lifestyle, honor. and prestige) is useful in understanding how the new religious right can press for change while at the same time demanding a "return" to traditional family values and prayer in public schools. McGuire (2002: 241) suggests that members of new right religious organizations who may feel that their status (prestige or honor) is "threatened by changing cultural norms assert their values politically in order to re-establish the ideology basis of their status."According to conflict theorists, conflict may be between religious groups (for example. anti-Antisemitism), within a religious group (for example. when a splinter group leaves an existing denomination),) br between a religious group and the larger society (for example. the conflict over religion in the classroom). Conflict theorists assert that in attempting to provide meaning and purpose in life while at the same time promoting. the status qua. region is used by the dominant classes to impose their own control over society and its resources. Many feminist scholars object to the patriarchal nature of most religions. some advocate a break from traditional religions. and others seek to reform religious language, symbols. and rituals in order to eliminate the elements of patriarchy