KARL MARX. For Germany the critique of religion has been successful, and the critique of religion is the basis of all other criticism...

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1 KARL MARX Karl Marx, ( ), a German-Jewish political philosopher and father of modern communism. Editor of Rheinische Zeitung, (1842). Expelled from Prussia in 1849, settled in London and devoted himself to the philosophical development of his theory of socialism. Works: Das Kapital (3 volumes, 1867, 1885, 1895; Communist Manifesto, (1847). As a student, Karl Marx was impressed by Feuerbach's criticism of religion but like Feuerbach was puzzled by its apparent failure to convince religious people of the error of their ways. Marx reflected on Feuerbach's failure and as a result, developed his own theory of alienation out of which his later economic and social works developed. Essentially, Marx argued that Feuerbach failed to recognize that projection was a social reality and not simply something which individuals happened to do. Therefore to develop a consistent materialism Marx sought to understand the social roots of religious belief. The following extracts are taken from various early writings produced in the 1840's. From: Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie ( ) 1 For Germany the critique of religion has been successful, and the critique of religion is the basis of all other criticism... The premise of irreligious criticism is: people create religion, religion does not create people. Thus religion is seen as the self-consciousness and feeling of people who have either not found themselves yet or have already lost their sense of worth. But, people are not an abstraction known from beyond our world. Mankind is the human world, the State, and the budgeting of life. This state, the process of social budgeting, create religion, a congested world-consciousness, because the world is congested. Religions is the general theory of this world, it is its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn completion, its solace and excuse. It is the incredible materialization of human nature 1 Karl Marx, "Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie," Karl Marx * Friedrich Engels Werke, Band 1, Institute für Marxismus-Leninism Beim zk der SED, Berlin, Dietz Verlag, The translation I have provided for this passage is fairly literal and follows traditional translation techniques.

2 From: Thesen über Feuerbach (1845) 4 1 because the human nature has no true reality. The war against religion is therefore indirectly a war against a world sweetened spiritually by religion. The wretchedness of religion is an expression of genuine affliction and at the sametime a protest against true misery. Religion is the groan of the oppressed creature, the heart of an heartless world, the spirit of a spiritless condition. It is the sedative 2 of the People. Abolishing the illusory happiness of the People which religion creates is necessary to promote their true happiness. The demand to give up illusionary conditions is the demand to give up conditions which need illusions. The critique of religion is thus in embryo the critique of this vale of woe which is sanctified by religion... Therefore, the problem of history, once faith in the other world has been lost, is to establish the truth of this world. The task of philosophy, which serves history, once the sacred form of human self-alienation has been exposed, is to expose self-alienation in its secular form. The critique of heaven becomes the critique of earth, the critique of religion the critique of law, the critique of theology the critique of politics Marx writes "Sie ist das Opium des Volks," which is often translated "opium" but is better translated "opiate" meaning a sedative or, in modern language, "the aspirin of the People.' 3 Ibid, pp Karl Marx, "Zu r Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie," Karl Marx * Friedrich Engels Werke, Band 3, Institute für Marxismus-Leninism Beim zk der SED, Berlin, Dietz Verlag, Because of the complex and highly compressed philosophical argument which depends on a knowledge of other philosophical ideas this passage has been translated very loosely following the translation theory of dynamic equivalency - the method used by the Bible Society to produce such translations as the Good News for Modern Man version of the New Testament. Thus more words are used to bring out the meaning of the original than are needed for a literal translation which might be almost unintelligible to the average reader. For a discussion of dynamic equivalency see the works of Eugene Nida and Charles Kraft.

3 The main weakness of all earlier from of materialism (including that of Feuerbach) is that the perception of things, reality or lived experience is only understood in the either the from of objects or thoughts, not subjectively as experiential human activity or practice. Thus, abstract idealism arose in reaction to the failure of materialism. But, it too failed to grasp the coherence of human perception within human activity. In reaction Feuerbach wants the objects of our senses to be differentiated from the objects of thought. But fails to see that human activity itself creates objectivity. Therefore, in The Essence of Christianity, he views theoretical thought as the only genuinely human act, while dismissing lived experience as the realm of dirty Jews. So he fails to see the significance of "revolutionary," or "practice through critical experience." 2 Whether humans can attain objectivity or a knowledge of the truth is not a theoretical one, but a practical questions. We discover truth in practice and lived experience. Thus argument about the reality or non-reality of thought are purely scholastic. 3 The doctrine of materialism that men are produced by their circumstances and environment, and that as a result men transformed when the conditions of life are changed overlooks the fact that men change their own conditions. The ability to change conditions can only be rationally concieved in terms of revolutionary practice. 4 Feuerbach moves from the alienation of self caused by religion, seen in the duplication of the world into an illusory religious world and the actual world. Thus his task is to dissolve the illusory religious world into its real material foundations. He ignores the fact that the reason the real world separates itself from its foundation and creates an illusory, independent, realm in the clouds needs to be explained in terms of

4 contradictions found in the real world. Thus the the foundations of the real world itself must be understood theoretically and revolutionized to abolish the contradictions. Therefore, for example, when the earthly family is recognized as the source for beliefs about the Holy Family, then the arguments which legitimate contemporary family life must be analyzed theoretically and family structures must be re-organized to remove existing contradictions which produce the psychological illusions of religion. 5 Unsatisfied with abstract thought, Feuerbach, sought knowledge in material existence. But, he failed to realize that material existence is the practical activity of lived experience. 6 Feuerbach reduces the essence of religion to the essence of humanity. But, the human essence cannot be abstracted from the essence of every individual. In reality it arises from social relations of humans with other humans. As a result, because of Feuerbach's superficiality he is forced to: 1. Abandon historical analysis and see the essence of religion as something which can be abstracted from each and any individual human. 2. See the essence of humanity as a genus which unites humans throughout time and space. 7

5 Consequently, Feuerbach fails to see religious experience as a social product and that each individual can only be understood as part of a particular society at a particular place, in a particular time. 8 Social life is lived in practical experience. All forms of mysticism and religious mysteries which mesmerize theoretical reflection find their rational explanation in human activity and lived experience. 9 The high point of abstract materialism comes in a materialism which fails to understand lived experience because it fails to see individuals as part of human society. 10 Until now philosophers have interpreted the world in numerous different ways. Now we must change it.

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