Karl Marx on Religion:
Sources & Quotations


1. On Religion by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2008. Contents.
Amazon.com entry. 382 pp. ISBN: 0486454509 (pbk.) 9780486454504 (pbk.)
Notes: Originally published: Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1957. With foreword omitted.

Previous editions:

On Religion by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Introduction by Reinhold Niebuhr. New York: Schocken Books, 1964. 382 pp.

The American publisher Schocken and its successors re-published the original 1957 Soviet anthology with the addition of Reinhold Niebuhr's introduction. Untrustworthy as Niebuhr is, Niebuhr's introduction is not all bad, but it is biased reflecting the anti-communist Cold war atmosphere in which it was published. Don't worry if your edition lacks this introduction.

Marx and Engels on Religion. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1957. [Later Progress Publishers.]

The material available in this anthology is also available online at the Marxists Internet Archive. The table of contents is reproduced on the indicated web page with links to all of the articles, plus additional selections not included in the Soviet edition. Most of Marx's writing is available at this archive, and is searchable by keywords.

2. On Religion by Karl Marx, arranged and edited with introduction and new translations, by Saul K. Padover. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974. Vol. 5 of The Karl Marx Library.


INTRODUCTION: Marx's Religious Views   (ix-xxvii)

Christianity and Religion in General

The Union of the Faithful with Christ
Proof of the Existence of God
Religion and Animals
On the Christian State
In Defense of Bauer's Theology
The Koran and the Bible
Luther as Arbiter Between Strauss and Feuerbach
Democracy and Religion
Criticism of Religion Is the Presupposition of All Criticism
Politics and "Christian Religious Feeling"
From Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
From The Holy Family
Theses on Feuerbach
From The German Ideology
From "Circular Against Kriege"
Two Kinds of Religion
The Social Principles of Christianity
Satire on the Catholic Clergy in Belgium
From Manifesto of the Communist Party
The Prussian Monarchy's Bigotry
Christianity and the Collapse of the Ancient World
Priests as Political Police
Kinkel's Christianity
From New‑York Daily Tribune Articles
Sunday Closing in England
The Anti‑Church Movement
From Grundrisse Der Kritik Der Politischen Ökonomie
From Capital
From The Civil War in France
The Old Christians' Contempt for Politics
Freedom of Conscience
Notes on the Protestant Reformation

Judaism and Jews

On the Jewish Question
Questions of Judaism from The Holy Family
Bourgeois and Jew
Prussian Anti‑Semitism
Rothschild—A "Jewish Usurer"
Removal of Jewish Disabilities—"A Miserable Reform
Jews in Jerusalem
The Jewish Bankers of Europe
The Russian Loan
From Herr Vogt

Personal Letters

From Letter to Arnold Ruge, March 20, 1842
From Letter to Arnold Ruge, July 9, 1842
From Letter to Dagobert Oppenheim, August 25, 1842
Postscript to Letter to Arnold Ruge, March 13, 1843
From Letter to Arnold Ruge, May, 1843
From Letter to Arnold Ruge, September, 1843
Letter to Ludwig Feuerbach, August 11, 1844
From Letter to Frederick Engels, July 31, 1851
From Letter to Frederick Engels, October 13, 1851
From Letter to Frederick Engels, June 2, 1853
From Letter to Frederick Engels, December 2, 1854
From Letter to Frederick Engels, March 5, 1856
From Postscript to Letter to Frederick Engels,
          May 8, 1856
From Letter to Frederick Engels, September 22, 1856
From Letter to Frederick Engels,  February 25, 1859
From Letter to Frederick Engels, February 9, 1860
From Letter to Frederick Engels, April 12, 1860
From Letter to Frederick Engels, May 10, 1861
From Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, July 22, 1861
From Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, June 16, 1862
From Letter to Frederick Engels, July 30, 1862
From Letter to Frederick Engels, January 20, 1864
From Letter to Frederick Engels, June 16, 1864
From Letter to Lion Philips, June 25, 1864
From Letter to Lion Philips, November 29, 1864
Mrs. Karl Marx, From Letter to Johann Philipp Becker,
    Ca. January 29, 1866
From Postscript to Letter to Frederick Engels,
    November 7, 1867
From Letter to Ludwig Kugelmann, April 6, 1868
From Letter to Frederick Engels, September 25, 1869
From Letter to Frederick Engels, September 2, 1870
From Letter to Frederick Engels, July 15, 1874
From Letter to Frederick Engels, August 21, 1875
From Letter to Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis,
    February 22, 1881
From Letter to Laura Lafargue, April 14, 1882

Biographical Index
Subject Index

3. Marx on Religion, edited by John Raines. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. vii, 242 p. Amazon.com entry.


Introduction 1-14

I. The Young Man Marx
Reflections of a Youth on Choosing an Occupation (1835)
Letter to His Father (1837)
Leading Article of no. 179 of Kölnische Zeitung (1842)
On the Jewish Question (1843)

II. Consciousness & the Material World
Critique of Hegel's Dialectic and General Philosophy (1844)
The German Ideology—Ideology in General (1844-6)
The Holy Family (1844)
Preface: Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)

III. Bad Work/Good Work
Preface: 1844 mss
Estranged Labor (1844)
Private Property and Communism (1844)
Money (1844)
Manifesto—Chapter 1 (1848)
Money & Alienated Man (1844)
Capital, Book I, extract (1867)

IV. The Criticism of Religion
Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1844)
Concerning Feuerbach (1845)
Social Principles of Christianity (1847)

V. Occasional Writings
The Decay of Religious Authority (New York Tribune) (1854)
Excerpts from Grundrisse (1858)
Excerpts from Capital (1867)

The Peasant War in Germany: chapter 2 (1850)
On the History of Early Germany (1895)

Personal Letters:
Jenny Marx to Johann Philipp Becker (1866)
Marx to Engels (1864)
Marx to Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (1851)

Study Guide for Students

This anthology is different in content and scope from the first. There is not much overlap. This edition could supplement the other(s) but could not replace it (them). Raines references fewer selections on religion proper but includes other writings on the labor process, alienated labor, and capitalism. Raines provides an introduction, brief introductions to the selections, and a study guide. Annotations precede each selection by Marx.

Random notes on Introduction: Marx is likened to Darwin. For Marx, justice is not merely juridical, but tied to species being. Marx vs. Hegel: non-objective being is unreal. . . . Sensuous relation to object. . . . Marx's comments on religion reflect practices of state religion of the UK (Church of England) & Germany (Lutheranism). Wasn't exposed to Negro Spirituals. Didn't forsee liberation theology or civil rights movement. Marx's view of labor and class society. . . Religious scholarship neglects Marx . . . Two previous collections: Niebuhr and Padover biased (utopianism, anti-Semitism). . . But jury out on Marx.

Marx on Religion: Ground Zero

A number of famous quotes, including the famous phrase "opium of the people", come from this pivotal text of Marx's development and modern philosophy, written December 1843-January 1844. It should be studied carefully. Below I have extracted the essential passages. The complete article in English translation can be found at the link that follows.

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For Germany, the criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.

The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis [“speech for the altars and hearths”] has been refuted. Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman, will no longer feel disposed to find the mere appearance of himself, the non-man [Unmensch], where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man — state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked. Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.

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German philosophy of right and state is the only German history which is al pari [“on a level”] with the official modern present. The German nation must therefore join this, its dream-history, to its present conditions and subject to criticism not only these existing conditions, but at the same time their abstract continuation. Its future cannot be limited either to the immediate negation of its real conditions of state and right, or to the immediate implementation of its ideal state and right conditions, for it has the immediate negation of its real conditions in its ideal conditions, and it has almost outlived the immediate implementation of its ideal conditions in the contemplation of neighboring nations. Hence, it is with good reason that the practical political part in Germany demands the negation of philosophy.

It is wrong, not in its demand but in stopping at the demand, which it neither seriously implements nor can implement. It believes that it implements that negation by turning its back to philosophy and its head away from it and muttering a few trite and angry phrases about it. Owing to the limitation of its outlook, it does not include philosophy in the circle of German reality or it even fancies it is beneath German practice and the theories that serve it. You demand that real life embryos be made the starting-point, but you forget that the real life embryo of the German nation has grown so far only inside its cranium. In a word — You cannot abolish [aufheben] philosophy without making it a reality.

The same mistake, but with the factors reversed, was made by the theoretical party originating from philosophy.

In the present struggle it saw only the critical struggle of philosophy against the German world; it did not give a thought to the fact that philosophy up to the present itself belongs to this world and is its completion, although an ideal one. Critical towards its counterpart, it was uncritical towards itself when, proceeding from the premises of philosophy, it either stopped at the results given by philosophy or passed off demands and results from somewhere else as immediate demands and results of philosophy – although these, provided they are justified, can be obtained only by the negation of philosophy up to the present, of philosophy as such. We reserve ourselves the right to a more detailed description of this section: It thought it could make philosophy a reality without abolishing [aufzuheben] it.

*    *    *

The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But, for man, the root is man himself. The evident proof of the radicalism of German theory, and hence of its practical energy, is that is proceeds from a resolute positive abolition of religion. The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest essence for man – hence, with the categoric imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, abandoned, despicable essence, relations which cannot be better described than by the cry of a Frenchman when it was planned to introduce a tax on dogs: Poor dogs! They want to treat you as human beings!

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, February, 1844.

Promethean Marx

In his doctoral dissertation, an early early work, Marx declares the supremacy of philosophy over religion. Here is a key extract.

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Philosophy, as long as a drop of blood shall pulse in its world-subduing and absolutely free heart, will never grow tired of answering its adversaries with the cry of Epicurus:

Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them, is truly impious.

Philosophy makes no secret of it. The confession of Prometheus:

In simple words, I hate the pack of gods
[Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound]

is its own confession, its own aphorism against all heavenly and earthly gods who do not acknowledge human self-consciousness as the highest divinity. It will have none other beside.

But to those poor March hares who rejoice over the apparently worsened civil position of philosophy, it responds again, as Prometheus replied to the servant of the gods, Hermes:

Be sure of this, I would not change my state
Of evil fortune for your servitude.
Better to be the servant of this rock
Than to be faithful boy to Father Zeus.

Prometheus is the most eminent saint and martyr in the philosophical calendar.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature (1841), Draft of a New Preface (Berlin, March 1841).

On the Ontological Proof

We might bring up for this occasion a theme that has well-nigh become notorious, namely, the proofs of the existence of God. Hegel has turned all these theological demonstrations upside-down, that is, he has rejected them in order to justify them. What kind of clients are those whom the defending lawyer can only save from conviction by killing them himself? For instance, Hegel interpreted the conclusion from the world to God as meaning: "Since the accidental does not exist, God or Absolute exists." [34] However, the theological demonstration is the opposite: "Since the accidental has true being, God exists." God is the guarantee for the world of the accidental. It is obvious that with this the opposite also has been stated.

The proofs of the existence of God are either mere hollow tautologies. Take for instance the ontological proof. This only means:

"that which I conceive for myself in a real way (realiter), is a real concept for me",

    something that works on me. In this sense all gods, the pagan as well as the Christian ones, have possessed a real existence. Did not the ancient Moloch reign? Was not the Delphic Apollo a real power in the life of the Greeks? Kant's critique [35] means nothing in this respect. If somebody imagines that he has a hundred talers, if this concept is not for him an arbitrary, subjective one, if he believes in it, then these hundred imagined talers have for him the same value as a hundred real ones. For instance, he will incur debts on the strength of his imagination, his imagination will work, in the same way as all humanity has incurred debts on its gods. The contrary is true. Kant's example might have enforced the ontological proof. Real talers have the same existence that the imagined gods have. Has a real taler any existence except in the imagination, if only in the general or rather common imagination of man? [36] Bring paper money into a country where this use of paper is unknown, and everyone will laugh at your subjective imagination. Come with your gods into a country where other gods are worshipped, and you will be shown to suffer from fantasies and abstractions. And justly so. He who would have brought a Wendic [37] god to the ancient Greeks would have found the proof of this god's non-existence. Indeed, for the Greeks he did not exist. That which a particular country is for particular alien gods, the country of reason is for God in general, a region in which he ceases to exist.

As to the second alternative, that such proofs are proofs of the existence of essential human self-consciousness, logical explanations of it, take for example the ontological proof. Which being is immediate when made the subject of thought? Self-consciousness.

Taken in this sense all proofs of the existence of God are proofs of his non-existence. They are refutations of all concepts of a God. The true proofs should have the opposite character: "Since nature has been badly constructed, God exists", "Because the world is without reason, therefore God exists", "Because there is no thought, there is God". But what does that say, except that, for whom the world appears without reason, hence who is without reason himself, for him God exists? Or lack of reason is the existence of God.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature (1841); Appendix: Critique of Plutarch's Polemic against the Theology of Epicurus (Berlin, March 1841).

On Religious Censorship

In the above-quoted Article II of the censorship decree it is stated:

"Its aim" (that of the censorship) "is to check all that is contrary to the general principles of religion, irrespective of the opinions and doctrines of individual religious parties and sects permitted in the state."

In 1819, rationalism still prevailed, which understood by religion in general the so-called religion of reason. This rationalist point of view is also that of the censorship decree, which at any rate is so inconsistent as to adopt the irreligious point of view while its aim is to protect religion. For it is already contrary to the general principles of religion to separate them from the positive content and particular features of religion, since each religion believes itself distinguished from the various other would-be religions by its special nature, and that precisely its particular features make it the true religion. In quoting Article II, the new censorship instruction omits the restrictive additional clause by which individual religious parties and sects are excluded from inviolability, but it does not stop at this and makes the following comment:

"Anything aimed in a frivolous, hostile way against the Christian religion in general, or against a particular article of faith, must not be tolerated."

The old censorship decree does not mention the Christian religion at all; on the contrary, it distinguishes between religion and all individual religious parties and sects. The new censorship instruction does not only convert religion in general into the Christian religion, but adds further a particular article of faith. A delightful product of our Christianised science! Who will still deny that it has forged new fetters for the press? Religion, it is said, must not be attacked, whether in general or in particular. Or do you perhaps believe that the words frivolous and hostile have made the new fetters into chains of roses? How adroitly it is written: frivolous, hostile! The adjective frivolous appeals to the citizen's sense of decorum, it is the exoteric word for the world at large, but the adjective hostile is whispered into the censor's ear, it is the legal interpretation of frivolity. We shall find in this instruction more examples of this subtle tact, which offers the public a subjective word that makes it blush and offers the censor an objective word that makes the author grow pale. In this way even lettres de cachet could be set to music.

And in what a remarkable contradiction the censorship instruction has entangled itself! It is only a half-hearted attack that is frivolous, one which keeps to individual aspects of a phenomenon, without being sufficiently profound and serious to touch the essence of the matter; it is precisely an attack on a merely particular feature as such that is frivolous. If, therefore, an attack on the Christian religion in general is forbidden, it follows that only a frivolous attack on it is permitted. On the other hand, an attack on the general principles of religion, on its essence, on a particular feature insofar as it is a manifestation of the essence, is a hostile attack. Religion can only be attacked in a hostile or a frivolous way, there is no third way. This inconsistency in which the instruction entangles itself is, of course, only a seeming one, for it depends on the semblance that in general some kind of attack on religion is still permitted. But an unbiassed glance suffices to realise that this semblance is only a semblance. Religion must not be attacked, whether in a hostile or a frivolous way, whether in general or in particular, therefore not at all.

But if the instruction, in open contradiction to the 1819 censorship decree, imposes new fetters on the philosophical press, it should at least be sufficiently consistent as to free the religious press from the old fetters imposed on it by the former rationalist decree. For it declares that the aim of the censorship is also

"to oppose fanatical transference of religious articles of faith into politics and the confusion of ideas resulting therefrom".

The new instruction, it is true, is clever enough not to mention this provision in its commentary, nevertheless it accepts it in citing Article II. What does fanatical transference of religious articles of faith into politics mean? It means making religious articles of faith, by their specific nature, a determining factor of the state; it means making the particular nature of a religion the measuring-rod of the state. The old censorship decree could rightly oppose this confusion of ideas, for it left a particular religion, its definite content, open to criticism. The old decree, however, was based on the shallow, superficial rationalism which you yourselves despised. But you, who base the state even in details on faith and Christianity, who want to have a Christian state, how can you still recommend the censorship to prevent this confusion of ideas?

The confusion of the political with the Christian-religious principle has indeed become official doctrine. We want to make this confusion clear in a few words. Speaking only of Christianity as the recognised religion, you have in your state Catholics and Protestants. Both make equal claims on the state, just as they have equal duties to it. They both leave their religious differences out of account and demand equally that the state should be the realisation of political and juridical reason. But you want a Christian state. If your state is only Lutheran-Christian, then for the Catholic it becomes a church to which he does not belong, which he must reject as heretical, and whose innermost essence is contrary to him. It is just the same the other way round. If, however, you make the general spirit of Christianity the particular spirit of your state, you nevertheless decide on the basis of your Protestant views what the general spirit of Christianity is. You define what a Christian state is, although the recent period has taught you that some government officials are unable to draw the line between the religious and the secular, between state and church. In regard to this confusion of ideas, it was not censors but diplomats who had, not to decide, but to negotiate. Finally, you are adopting a heretical point of view when you reject definite dogma as non-essential. If you call your state a general Christian state, you are admitting with a diplomatic turn of phrase that it is un-Christian. Hence either forbid religion to be introduced at all into politics - but you don't want that, for you want to base the state not on free reason, but on faith, religion being for you the general sanction for what exists - or allow also the fanatical introduction of religion into politics. Let religion concern itself with politics in its own way, but you don't want that either. Religion has to support the secular authority, without the latter subordinating itself to religion. Once you introduce religion into politics, it is intolerable, indeed irreligious, arrogance to want to determine secularly how religion has to act in political matters. He who wants to ally himself with religion owing to religious feelings must concede it the decisive voice in all questions, or do you perhaps understand by religion the cult of your own unlimited authority and governmental wisdom?

There is yet another way in which the orthodox spirit of the new censorship instruction comes into conflict with the rationalism of the old censorship decree. The latter includes under the aim of the censorship also suppression of "what offends against morality and good manners". The instruction reproduces this passage as a quotation from Article II. Its commentary, however, while making additions as regards religion, contains omissions as regards morality. Offending against morality and good manners becomes violation of "propriety and manners and external decorum". One sees: morality as such, as the principle of a world that obeys its own laws, disappears, and in place of the essence external manifestations make their appearance, police respectability, conventional decorum. Honour to whom honour is due, we recognise true consistency here. The specifically Christian legislator cannot recognise morality as an independent sphere that is sacrosanct in itself, for he claims that its inner general essence belongs to religion. Independent morality offends against the general principles of religion, but the particular concepts of religion conflict with morality. Morality recognises only its own universal and rational religion, and religion recognises only its particular positive morality. Hence, according to this instruction, the censorship must reject the intellectual heroes of morality, such as Kant, Fichte and Spinoza, as irreligious, as violating propriety, manners, and external decorum. All these moralists start out from a contradiction in principle between morality and religion, for morality is based on the autonomy of the human mind, religion on its heteronomy. Let us turn from these undesirable innovations of the censorship—on the one hand, the weakening of its moral conscience, on the other hand, the rigorous heightening of its religious conscience—to what is more welcome, the concessions.

*   *   *

[. . . .] Thus the instruction wants to protect religion, but it violates the most general principle of all religions, the sanctity and inviolability of the subjective frame of mind. It makes the censor instead of God the judge of the heart. Thus it prohibits offensive utterances and defamatory judgments on individuals, but it exposes you every day to the defamatory and offensive judgment of the censor. [. . . .]

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. "Comments on the Latest Prussian Censorship Instruction" [written between January 15 & February 10, 1842], Anekdota zur neuesten deutschen Philosophie und Publicistik, Bd. I, 1843; translation published in Marx Engels Collected Works, Volume 1 (New York: International Publishers, 1975).

Atheism vs. Skepticism in Antiquity

The Sceptics reduced the theoretical relation of people to things to appearance, and in practice they left everything as of old, being guided by this appearance just as much as others are guided by actuality; they merely gave it another name. Epicurus, on the other hand, was the true radical Enlightener of antiquity; he openly attacked the ancient religion, and it was from him, too, that the atheism of the Romans, insofar as it existed, was derived. For this reason, too, Lucretius praised Epicurus as the hero who was the first to overthrow the gods and trample religion underfoot; for this reason among all church fathers, from Plutarch to Luther, Epicurus has always had the reputation of being the atheist philosopher par excellence, and was called a swine; for which reason, too, Clement of Alexandria says that when Paul takes up arms against philosophy he has in mind Epicurean philosophy alone. (Stromatum, Book I [chap. XI], p. 295, Cologne edition, 1688.) Hence we see how “cunning, perfidious” and “clever” was the attitude of this open atheist to the world in directly attacking its religion, while the Stoics adapted the ancient religion in their own speculative fashion, and the Sceptics used their concept of “appearance” as the excuse for being able to accompany all their judgments with a reservatio mentalis.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich. The German Ideology (1845-6), Vol. I, Chapter III: Saint Max, section 1.3: The Ancients. See also my compilation, Marx & Engels on Skepticism & Praxis.

The Social Principles of Christianity

The social principles of Christianity have now had eighteen hundred years to be developed, and need no further development by Prussian Consistorial Counsellors.

The social principles of Christianity justified the slavery of antiquity, glorifies the serfdom of the Middle Ages and are capable, in case of need, of defending the oppression of the proletariat, with somewhat doleful grimaces.

The social principles of Christianity preach the necessity of a ruling and an oppressed class, and for the latter all they have to offer is the pious wish that the former may be charitable.

The social principles of Christianity place the Consistorial Counsellor’s compensation for all infamies in heaven, and thereby justify the continuation of these infamies on earth.

The social principles of Christianity declare all the vile acts of the oppressors against the oppressed to be either a just punishment for original sin and other sins, or trials which the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, ordains for the redeemed.

The social principles of Christianity preach cowardice, self-contempt, abasement, submissiveness and humbleness, in short, all the qualities of the rabble, and the proletariat, which will not permit itself to be treated as rabble, needs its courage, its self-confidence, its pride and its sense of independence even more than its bread.

The social principles of Christianity are sneaking and hypocritical, and the proletariat is revolutionary.

So much for the social principles of Christianity.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. "The Communism of the Rheinischer Beobachter" [written 5 September 1847], Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, 12 September 1847.

Review of Religion of the New Age

[ . . . . ] It [part 2 of the book] voices all the annoyance of the German philosopher over the oblivion into which his struggles against Christianity have fallen, over the people's indifference towards religion, the only object worthy to be considered by the philosopher. To restore credit to his trade, which has been ousted by competition, all our world-wise man can do is to invent a new religion, after long barking against the old. But this new religion is confined, in accordance with the first part, to a continuation of the anthology of maxims, album verses and versus memoriales [memorial verses] of German philistine culture. The suras of the new Koran are nothing but a series of phrases morally palliating and poetically embellishing the existing German conditions—phrases which, though divested of the immediately religious form, are none the less interwoven with the old religion.

"Completely new world conditions and world relations can arise only through new religions. Examples and proofs of what religions are capable of are Christianity and Islam; most clear acid palpable evidence of the powerlessness and futility of abstract, exclusive politics are the movements started in the year 1848." (Vol. I, p.313.)

This weighty proposition immediately brings out the shallowness and ignorance of the German "thinker" who takes the small German and specifically Bavarian "March achievements" for the European movement of 1848 and 1849 and who demands that the first, in themselves very superficial, eruptions of a gradually developing and concentrating major revolution should bring forth "completely new world conditions and world relations". The "world-wise" Daumer reduces the whole complicated social struggle, the first skirmishes of which were fought between Paris and Debrecen, Berlin and Palermo in the last two years, to the fact that "in January 1849 the hopes of the constitutional societies of Erlangen were postponed indefinitely" (Vol. I, p. 312) and to fear of a new struggle that could once more be unpleasantly shocking for Herr Daumer in his occupations with Hafiz, Mohammed and Berthold Auerbach.

The same shameless superficiality allows Herr Daumer to ignore completely that Christianity was preceded by the total collapse of the ancient "world conditions" of which Christianity was the mere expression; that "completely new world conditions" arose not internally through Christianity but only when the Huns and the Germans fell "externally" on the corpse of the Roman Empire; that after the Germanic invasion the "new world conditions" did not adapt themselves to Christianity but that Christianity itself changed with every new phase of these world conditions. We should like Herr Daumer to give us an example of the old world conditions changing with a new religion without the mightiest "external" and abstract political convulsions setting in at the same time.

It is clear that with every great historical upheaval of social conditions the outlooks and ideas of men, and consequently their religious ideas, are revolutionised. The difference between the present upheaval and all earlier ones lies in the very fact that man has at last found out the secret of this process of historical upheaval and hence, instead of once again exalting this practical, "external", process in the rapturous form of a new religion, divests himself of all religion.

After the gentle moral doctrines of the new world wisdom, which are even superior to Knigge inasmuch as they contain all that is necessary not only on intercourse with men, but also on intercourse with animals—after the Proverbs of Solomon comes the Song of the new Solomon.

"Nature and woman are the really divine, as distinct from the human and man. . . . The sacrifice of the human to the natural, of the male to the female, is the genuine, the only true meekness and self-externalisation, the highest, nay, the only virtue and piety." (Vol. II, p. 257.)

We see here that the superficiality and ignorance of the speculating founder of a religion is transformed into a very pronounced cowardice. Herr Daumer flees before the historical tragedy that is threatening him too closely to alleged nature, i.e. to a stupid rustic idyll, and preaches the cult of the female to cloak his own womanish resignation.

Herr Daumer's cult of nature, by the way, is a peculiar one. He manages to be reactionary even in comparison with Christianity. He tries to restore the old pre-Christian natural religion in a modernised form. Thus he of course achieves nothing but Christian-Germanic: patriarchal drivel on nature expressed, for example, as follows:

"Nature holy, Mother sweet,
In Thy footsteps place my feet.
My baby hand to Thy hand clings,
Hold me as in leading strings!"

"Such things have gone out of fashion, but not to the benefit of culture, progress or human felicity." (Vol. II, p. 157.)

We see that this cult of nature is limited to the Sunday walks of an inhabitant of a small provincial town who childishly wonders at the cuckoo laying its eggs in another bird's nest (Vol. II, p. 40), at tears being designed to keep the surface of the eyes moist (Vol. II, p. 73), and so on, and finally trembles with reverence as he recites Klopstock's Ode to Spring to his children. (Vol. II, p. 23 et seqq.) There is no mention, of course, of modern natural science, which, with modern industry, has revolutionised the whole of nature and put an end to man's childish attitude towards nature as well as to other forms of childishness. But instead we get mysterious hints and astonished philistine notions about Nostradamus' prophecies, second sight in Scotsmen and animal magnetism. For the rest, it would be desirable that Bavaria's sluggish peasant economy, the ground on which grow priests and Daumers alike, should at last be ploughed up by modern cultivation and modern machines.

It is the same with the cult of the female as with the cult of nature. Herr Daumer naturally does not say a word about the present social position of women; on the contrary it is a question only of the female as such. He tries to console women for their civic destitution by making them the object of a rhetorical cult which is as empty as it would fain be mysterious. Thus he seeks to comfort them by telling them that marriage puts an end to their talents through their having to take care of the children (Vol. II, p. 237), that they retain the ability to suckle babes even until the age of sixty (Vol. II, p, 251), and so on. Herr Daumer calls this the "devotion of the male to the female". In order to find the necessary ideal women characters for his male devotion in his native country, he is forced to resort to various aristocratic ladies of the last century. [ . . . . ]

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. Review of I. G. Fr Daumer, Die Religion des neuen Weltalters. Versuch einer combinatorisch-aphoristischen Grundlegung [Religion of the New Age], [written January & February 1850,] Neue Rheinische Zeitung Politisch-ökonomische Revue No. 2, 1850.

Religion as Reflex vs. a Future Rational & Transparent Society

This is a continuing thread through the history of Marxism. I haven't traced it continuously, but I come across key statements of the central notion. For example, two outstanding statements by Trotsky—see my blog: Trotsky on religion (1).

The religious world is but the reflex of the real world. And for a society based upon the production of commodities, in which the producers in general enter into social relations with one another by treating their products as commodities and values, whereby they reduce their individual private labour to the standard of homogeneous human labour—for such a society, Christianity with its cultus of abstract man, more especially in its bourgeois developments, Protestantism, Deism, &c., is the most fitting form of religion. In the ancient Asiatic and other ancient modes of production, we find that the conversion of products into commodities, and therefore the conversion of men into producers of commodities, holds a subordinate place, which, however, increases in importance as the primitive communities approach nearer and nearer to their dissolution. Trading nations, properly so called, exist in the ancient world only in its interstices, like the gods of Epicurus in the Intermundia, or like Jews in the pores of Polish society. Those ancient social organisms of production are, as compared with bourgeois society, extremely simple and transparent. But they are founded either on the immature development of man individually, who has not yet severed the umbilical cord that unites him with his fellowmen in a primitive tribal community, or upon direct relations of subjection. They can arise and exist only when the development of the productive power of labour has not risen beyond a low stage, and when, therefore, the social relations within the sphere of material life, between man and man, and between man and Nature, are correspondingly narrow. This narrowness is reflected in the ancient worship of Nature, and in the other elements of the popular religions. The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then finally vanish, when the practical relations of every-day life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellowmen and to Nature.

The life-process of society, which is based on the process of material production, does not strip off its mystical veil until it is treated as production by freely associated men, and is consciously regulated by them in accordance with a settled plan. This, however, demands for society a certain material ground-work or set of conditions of existence which in their turn are the spontaneous product of a long and painful process of development.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. Capital. Volume I. Moscow: Progress Publishers, Originally published in 1867; First English edition, 1887; translated by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, edited by Frederick Engels. Chapter 1.

Freedom of Conscience

"Freedom of conscience"! If one desired, at this time of the Kulturkampf to remind liberalism of its old catchwords, it surely could have been done only in the following form: Everyone should be able to attend his religious as well as his bodily needs without the police sticking their noses in. But the Workers' party ought, at any rate in this connection, to have expressed its awareness of the fact that bourgeois "freedom of conscience" is nothing but the toleration of all possible kinds of religious freedom of conscience, and that for its part it endeavours rather to liberate the conscience from the witchery of religion. But one chooses not to transgress the "bourgeois" level.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. "Critique of the Gotha Programme" (1875), Part IV. Published abridged in Die Neue Zeit, Bd. 1, No. 18, 1890-91.

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