Karl Marx on 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.

– A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right


Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand.


Marx’s view of religion was complex. On the one pole, Marx recognised that man uses religion as a tool to deal with real suffering. On the other pole, Marx saw religion as a weapon of the bourgeoisie – a kind of “chain with illusory flowers”.

While he may have acknowledged what he viewed as the analgesia of religion, ultimately Marx contended that religion had no place in the new communist society. According to Marx, religion is made by man as a type of unreality. While labour in the material world has the power to transform and humanise the labourer, religion offers no such benefit. Marx argued to the contrary that religion causes man to turn away from his labours and embrace phantoms.

Marx encourages his followers to disillusion themselves of religious unreality and take hold of their own existence through the work of their hands and the use of their senses. Marx’s attitude towards religion is typical of the Enlightenment thinkers that preceded him (such as Voltaire, Comte and Rousseau) and would be continued through the philosophy of the likes of Nietzsche and Freud.


One response to this post.

  1. […] culture as embracing the false Christian morality in order to avoid the use of their own will. As Marx held that religion holds man back from the sanctity of his labour, so Nietzsche criticises the herd for holding back the rise of the ubermensch, culminating in their […]


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