Marx On Religion

Marx On Religion

Edited by John Raines
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Temple University Press
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  • Book Info
    Marx On Religion
    Book Description:

    "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."Few people would ever expect that Karl Marx is the writer of the above statement. He not only wrote it, but he did so in the same breath of his more famous dictum that "religion is the opiate of the masses." How can one reconcile such different perspectives on the power and ubiquity of religion?In this compact reader of Marx's essential thought on religion, John Raines offers the full range of Marx's thoughts on religion and its relationship to the world of social relations. Through a careful selection of essays, articles, pamphlets, and letters, Raines shows that Marx had a far more complex understanding of religious belief. Equally important is how Marx's ideas on religion were intimately tied to his inquiries into political economy, revolution, social change, and the philosophical questions of the self.Raines offers an introduction that shows the continuing importance of the Marxist perspective on religion and its implications for the way religion continues to act in and respond to the momentous changes going on in our social and environmental worlds. Marx on Religion also includes a study guide to help professors and students—as well as the general reader—continue to understand the significance of this often under-examined component of Marx.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-805-0
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Karl Marx wanted to dedicate his masterpiece,Capital, to Charles Darwin. But the Darwin family prevented it because they didn’t want their names associated with the famous social radical. Still, Marx shared with Darwin the same intellectual passion—to understand a world that had suddenly become mysterious.

    At the beginning of the nineteenth century, missionaries and naturalists were sending home to London and to Paris the most extraordinary descriptions of the diversity of life on planet Earth. It was an unintended effect of European colonialism. Their sketches and specimens had to be cataloged for eventual public display. The natural history...

  5. PART I The Young Man Marx
    (pp. 15-70)

    Marx was descended from famous rabbis on both sides of his family going back to at least the fifteenth century. And records show that in Trier, the town where Marx was born in 1818, almost all the rabbis of the past had been his paternal kin. His fatherʹs brother was a rabbi there and Karl became a boyhood friend of the rabbiʹs son. Marxʹs own father, Heschel, a lawyer, had converted to Christianity a few months before Karl was born—but only under extreme pressure. With the French defeat in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Trier was returned to...

  6. PART II Consciousness and the Material World
    (pp. 71-112)

    Like many other living things we humans are conscious beings. But human consciousness is characterized by a high degree of self-reflexivity, an intense self-awareness. Marx put it this way: ʺMan is not only a natural being, he is ahumannatural being. That is, he is a being for himself and hence a species-being; as such he must confirm and express himself as much in history as in his knowing.”ₑ

    This claim that we, as a species, are characterized not simply by thought but by thought-in-action will be crucial. And there is more. Like other living things, in order to...

  7. PART III Bad Work/Good Work
    (pp. 113-166)

    In an anthology dedicated to Marxʹs writings on religion, why include a section on bad and good work? For Marx, work expresses the human spirit: our human creativity, our suffering, our struggle, and our transcendence. The final product of our work is ourselves as an unfinished and still-evolving species. It is in work that we can see the human spirit at work, even when we can glimpse that spirit only through suffering, through the darkened mirror of estrangement.

    The primary documents of Marx on work are his essays on ʺEstranged Laborʺ from theEarly Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)and...

  8. PART IV The Criticism of Religion
    (pp. 167-186)

    Many social scientists see in religion an indispensable instrument by which we humans make our sufferings more sufferable. Religion not only tells us of a different place where things will be better—heaven, paradise, nirvana—it supplies us with a set of ritual practices by which to express, both individually and collectively, our sorrows. And in expressing our sorrow—in saying our prayers, in doing our ritual washing, in imposing our acts of ascetic self-denial—we give order and coherence to chaotic emotions that result from suffering and would otherwise overwhelm us. For many social scientists, religion is what helps...

  9. PART V Occasional Writings
    (pp. 187-240)

    In these occasional essays and outline notes we find Marx and Engels commenting on contemporary religious events and placing them in continuity with Western religious history. The two essays by Engels reflect the same interest. Both were impressed with what religion can do when it becomes the energy and organizing instrument of the poor in their struggle against the powerful. We end with three letters. One by Jenny Marx (1865) takes pride in the debates exploding around Darwin and his hypothesis concerning evolution. Another is from Marx to Engels (1864) complaining about failing health. And the last letter, written late...

  10. Study Guide for Students
    (pp. 241-242)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-243)