Negative Aspects

According to Marx, religion has negative function, especially, in relation to the working class. We can say that Marx was familiar with both political function for social classes and religion, and their usage in politics. In this relation, he determined the relationship between these classes and religion, thus, he named it opiate of masses. In this regard, it is necessary to say that some researchers have argued that Marxism is against the functionalism, because most of the functionalist researchers have much attention to positive functions, and the Marxist researchers have regarded negative functions of religion. Thereby, they have attempted to separate Marxism from functionalism. But, indeed, both of them are functionalists, that one of them considers the negative and another looks at the positive function of religion.

In discussion of the alien being product of labor from men, Marx explains that in the earliest times the principal production was in the service of gods, and the product belonged to the gods (Lemert, Op.cit: 35). On the other hand, in the modern world, ‘bourgeoisie which is veiled by religious and political illusions has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation’ (Ibid: 38). In these, two situational usages of religion were observed: in the first one from some perspectives such as union of religion and politics, and political God; and in the second one, religion as a means in the hands of bourgeoisie and governing class. In Marx’s interpretation, religion can be simultaneously an expression of protest and a means of legitimating which defuses protest, but as an expression of protest it is ineffectual. ‘It does not lead to alteration of the conditions which produce it, but, in fact, serves to perpetuate them’. It has not a threat to the status quo but is, rather, a prop to it (Hamilton, Op.cit: 95). Apart from Marx’s view, most of the time, if it converts to threat, such as a religious revolution, then it will become a factor to legitimate government, and may be create a religious government, which acts as totalitarian, and barrier to any political change. This situation is partially observable in some Islamic countries.

In respect to negative functions of religion, we can also mention to O’Dea’s opinion. He has explained six dysfunctions as following: inhibition of protest against injustice, sacralising and inhibition of progress in knowledge, conservatism and prevention of adaptation to changing circumstances, utopianism and inhibition of practical action, conflict among groups and prevention of adjustment, creation of dependence on religious institutions and preventing maturity (Ibid: 138).

Hence, there are some social and political negative functions of religion such as: it is used as veil for exploitation, it has destructive and disintegrating influence, and it is barrier of social changes, segmentation and so on. Here we cast light on three of them.