Marx was correct to point this out. Nowhere, however does Marx legitimate the destructive doctrines of those Marxist regimes that maintained that the only way to reveal the true injustices of society was to destroy – sometimes with hideous consequences – the religious element of society. Marx himself too a longer-term views claiming that religion would disappear of its own accord given the advent of the class-less society: quite simply, it would no longer be necessary. The inevitable confusions between Marx, Marxism, and Marxist regimes have, however, has a profound effect on the reception of Marx’s ideas in the twentieth century.
The total, dramatic and unforeseen collapse of Marxism as an effective political creed in 1989 is but the last twist in a considerably longer tale (Dillon, 2003). In many ways, Max Weber’s (1864-1920) contribution to the sociology of religion should be seen in this light. His influence spread to every corner of sociology, not least the sociology of religion. His writings on secularization, on religious change, on religious organizations (the difference between church and sect), on vocations, on religious roles, on authority, on leadership, and on theodicy and on soteriology continue to provoke debate.
Only the first two of these issues – secularization and religious change – will be considered here. Central to Weber’s understanding of religion is the conviction that religion is something other than or separate from society or the “world. ” In other works, religion has an existence in its own right – an existence driven by the content of a belief system, or an “ethic,” that does not simply mirror the context in which it exists. Three points follow. First, the relationship between religion and the world is contingent and variable: how a particular religion interacts with the surrounding context varies with time and place.
Second, this relationship must be researched and cannot simply be assumed. Third, the relationship between religion and society is steadily weakening in modern society. This weakening, to the point that religion has ceased to be an effective force in society, lies at the heart of the process known as “secularization,” as a result of which the world has become progressively “disenchanted. ” For Weber, the relationships between ethic and context and between religion and the world must be examined case by case.
There are complex links between a set of religious beliefs and the particular social stratum, which becomes either the source or the carrier of the beliefs in any society (Segal, 2006). Conclusions Since society and religion is complex, many leveled historical phenomena it is unlikely that a one causal theory can render an account of the inter-relationship between the two. After due attention has been paid to the dependence of religion on society, it is important not to forget that religion, at certain moments at least, is also an independent variable. There is creative, innovative religion (Slater, 1977).
In spite of the general idea that religion is not important in industrial societies, we may conclude that – at least during the nineteenth century – there was no linear development towards a decline in religion. In the first half of the nineteenth century Christian churches were regaining ground in several ways. The areas with religious pluralism and the border areas were different from the more homogeneous areas. These differences influenced the outcome of the process of secularization. This process was not clear one, thus one cannot speak of a steady decline of religion in society.
Finally, the role of religious institutions did become weaker, but the process was slow and was certainly not smooth. Even the results of the process of social and economic change, which affected Europe enormously, were partially influenced by this structural division (Kaelble, 2004).
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The European Way: European Societies During the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. New York – Oxford: Berghahn Books. Mensching, G. (1976). Structures and Patterns of Religion. Delhi – Varanasi – Patna: Motilal Banarsidass Publ. Riemer, N. (1996). Let Justice Roll: Prophetic Challenges in Religion, Politics, and Society. London, UK: Rowman ; Littlefield. Segal, R. A. (2006). The Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion. Victoria, Australia: Blackwell Publishing. Slater, P. (1977). Religion and Culture in Canada: Essays by Members of the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion. Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.