product. He considered religion to be "a mode of consciousness both false and perverted; the happiness it offers, bogus and illusory. . . . In order to progress from these irrationalities to rationality . . . religion must be abolished, its disastrous effects transcended." 85 But did Marx really understand religion apart from the fact that it had historically been abused in the social, economic, and political realms? Delos B. McKown has shown that Marx's etiology of religion is "ill-informed and illogical." 86 And Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Kautsky never addressed the issue of death, which is as important as life itself. They focused entirely on life, and ignoring death, they only attempted to understand one part of life, which cannot be understood without understanding the implications of death. 87
Despite serious flaws in the Marxist approach and understanding of religion, it has the merit of approaching religion functionally. This approach makes it possible to study the religious phenomena objectively. 88 The Marxist critique of religion was correct in pointing out that religion must be judged on the basis of what it does to a society.
Religion is a very powerful force. It can work both positively and negatively, depending on the content of a particular religious doctrine, and its interpretation and application. It is a serious matter that requires the full exercise of human intellect. For this reason it needs to be studied and applied carefully and intelligently.
In the course of the development history of the West, religion has played a major role. Philosophers have wrestled with profound issues and have critically examined their relevance in the operations of societies. Religion hindered progress as long as it remained dogmatic, unexamined, and an exclusive domain of some people. In the process of analysis, it provided useful insights that allowed societies to move forward. The tension between religion and society at large is a healthy one and need not be deplored. It may well be that some religious doctrines are antithetical to progress or development. If this is the case, serious questions must be raised as to the validity of those doctrines. Needless to say, this presupposes a critical approach to religious doctrines and the existence of a tolerant intellectual environment in which it is possible to critically evaluate and interpret those ideas, customs, and practices that become established over a period of time.
Beyond doubt, religion becomes an obstacle to progress when it is politicized or becomes an object of politics. The same is true when the religious establishment controls or attempts to control the functioning of a society. The Western experience leaves no doubt on this score. However, secularization, as commonly understood, is not a necessary condition for development; in fact, it