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SOC 250 Lecture 4

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University of Toronto St. George
Joseph Bryant

SOC 250 Lecture 4  Religion as Alienation o Empowering the divine entails the diminution of Man  In seeking supernatural deliverance humanity avoids full responsibility for its own affairs  Injustices, oppressions, cruelties, etc.  Vesting our hopes in imaginary beings of our own projection  Human beings shirk responsibility for rectifying the ills of the world o By promising man eternal life, it deprived him of temporal life, by teaching him to trust in God‟s help it took away his trust in his own powers; by giving him faith in a better life in heaven, it destroyed his faith in a better life on earth and his striving to attain such a life o Feuerbach calls for a new faith in HUMANISM  Religion and irreligion would both disappear with the self-creation of a new humanity  Karl Marx o On Religion  Mark takes Feuerbach as a point of departure  Religion as projective ALIENATION Feuerbach succeeds in identifying the psychological basis and earthly origins of faith  But Feuerbach errs in seeing religion as “the imaginary realisation of the human essence”  This is too abstract o Marx: “the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of social relations”  What are the social-historical conditions that prompt human beings to externalize their own powers and values and attributes them to hypothetical, imaginary beings (deities)?  Marx will focus on SOCIAL ALIENATION  Feuerbach attends to EXISTENTIAL alienation o He believes that dispelling myths, illusions, is prior to revolutionary action  Feuerbach sees religions superstition/phantasy as the cause of this-worldly misery etc.  Marx argues that religion is a result or a by-product of worldly oppression, despair, etc.  Enlightenment criticisms of religion as organized “superstition” to be supplanted by Reason, Science  For Marx this critique is too one-sided, too idealist  “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions”  Religion is thus a spiritual quest for human dignity religion is a product of social alienation-humanity living in exploitation, oppression, conflict o Societies divided into rulers and ruled, privileged and disprivileged classes, owners and producers o But ultimately, religion remains a narcotic, a sedative  Producing illusory rather than real happiness  “It is the opium of people”  “The transcending of religion as the illusory happiness of people is the demand for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions of their condition is a demand to give up a condition that requires illusion. The criticism of religion is therefore the germ of the criticism of the valley of tears whose halo is religion…The criticism of religion disillusions man o that man can think, act, and fashion his own reality as a disillusioned man come to his sense; so that he may revolve around himself as his real sun. Religion is only the illusory sun which revolves around man as long as he does nto revolve around himself  “The criticism of religion turns into the criticism of the earth”  “The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being”  Religion occludes reality, drapes it in myth and phantasy  It offers an imaginary “solution” (afterlife rewards) to real sufferings and oppressions  Recognizes that in reality justice doesn‟t prevail  Religion is thus false objectively  But it is true in that it accurately reflects a broken and false world, a world of alienation, injustice, riches and squalor, etc. o Marx‟s Promethean Ideal  Humanity must make tis own paradise, find its own salvation  Communism as a Radical Humanism  A Secular Eschatology o Humanity can truly begin once alienation is overcome o History to date is largely the record of humanity‟s failure to achieved a fully humane existence o Religion as ideology  The Marxist perspective sees religion providing both  Legitimizing functions o Defending the status quo, the hierarchies of power and privilege, dominance and subordination  As social critiques o Religion is often the idiom by which oppressed peoples protest against their conditions  Ex: “heretical” movements commonly register some form of social discontent  Religions may contain utopian elements (even communistic ones), against property, against war, against the state, etc.  Magic, Religion, Science o Two contending perspectives  Evolutionary models  Progressive development, in stages from savagery to barbarism to civilization  “Primitives”  “moderns”  Progress in rationality/reason  “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” o The life-cours
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