The Correlation Between Wealth and Religion

While reading The Communist Manifesto I was intrigued by Marx’s theory on the purpose and general function of religion in society.  Marx’s claim that religion exists as a means of the ruling class to exploit the working class through false illusions of hope stored in the concept of a blissful afterlife for those who lead virtuous earthly lives at first puzzled me greatly.  Then I remembered this same theme was found in Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo, which was exemplified through a group of devout peasants attending mass while their fellow laborers toiled in the fields of the Campagna for little pay.  Brecht appeared to play off of Marx’s religious ideals in the sense that he portrayed the peasants as disillusioned fools who work the fields with hope for a better heavenly existence, which hinders their ability to rise up in insurrection to their feudal lords, or in Marx’s case the bourgeoisie.  This theme is further examined in Brecht’s play through his use of Andrea revealing to the poor village boys that Marina is in fact not a witch but rather an ordinary elderly woman.  Faith was so heavily ingrained in this group of young boys that even seeing poor Marina could not change their opinion of the woman and witchery.  I think that this is what Marx meant through his description of the poor using religion to get by in life with their grueling existence as an exploited class throughout history.  Even if the poor really do understand that they are being unjustifiably treated, they would rather turn to religion to be told that their lives have a distinct purpose and that their creator promises a reward in heaven.  Interestingly, a recent Gallup poll concludes that Mississippi, the state that is most religious in terms of how much of its population deems religion an important part of their daily life and how often its population attends religious services, is also the state with the lowest median income in America.  Southern states tend to be both the most religious and the most impoverished, as Alabama and Louisiana have some of the highest religious attendance rates in the nation and also some of the highest poverty rates.  Another example is the worldly correlation between how much the people of a nation stress the importance of religion in their daily life with that nation’s GDP per capita.  For example, one of the least religious countries, Norway, in which only twenty percent of the country believes religion to be an important part of their daily life, has one of the highest GDPs per capita.  Conversely, Nigeria is one of the most religious countries on the scale, and has one of the lowest GDPs per capita.  After analyzing this information, I could not help but wonder whether or not Marx’s theories on religion were valid.  The statistics tend to agree that as a population becomes wealthier, it also becomes less religious and vice versa.  Do you believe that Marx’s thoughts on religion are correct, or do you think there is something greater about religion that Marx was missing?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_and_religion

http://www.gallup.com/poll/153479/mississippi-religious-state.aspx

 

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