127: MARX’S CHRISTIAN ROOTS

“Welcome to Zingcreed, the totally unique Christian/Atheist blog, where nothing is verboten. It is my personal polemic, where I think aloud about  religion and life. I hope you get something out of it!” Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

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1/ Marx was a Hegelian i.e. a follower of his teacher, Hegel,  the great German philosopher, throughout his life. Hegel’s roots lay in Christianity and the enlightenment. The significance of this is that Marx could only have existed  at this time and place in history, in other words in Christendom.

2/ Marx owed a lot to various French utopian socialists (sea of lemonade, anyone?) Their yearning for freedom amounted to a wish to totally reconstruct society, i.e. they wanted a revolution. Although they were anti-Catholic they derived their moral stance from appeals to Christian principles.

3/ Marx’s arguments against capitalism were often moral in tone: the tyrants! the slaves! the injustice!

4/ Alienation is a Jewish/Christian idea . Its marxist usage “smells of the older language of redemption” (i)

5/ The historical inevitability of  Marx’s ‘determinism’ parallels the ‘predestination’ of the calvinists.

6/ Marx’s eschatology is an imprecise vision of a new Jerusalem – it is apocalyptic in its force.

7/ Marx’s followers are sometimes devout in their fervour: are they satisfying some religious instinct?

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Kee (ii) reckons the roots lie in Marx’s schooldays, before he even met Hegel. He traces four core beliefs back to Marx’s early early writings, i.e. his amazingly erudite teenage essays. (I went to a grammar school too, but I never came across anyone who could write like that at that age!)

  • Jesus was an ideal historical being who sacrificed himself for mankind (Marx admittedly never sacrificed his life like Jesus, but he gave up wealth, security, and academic success for his beliefs)
  • If you work only for yourself as an isolated individual, you can never become a perfect truly great man (Marx never made a penny out of his revolutionary writings – most of them weren’t even published in his lifetime – he suffered great hardship and poverty for what he perceived as the good of the human race)
  • Man cannot achieve his historic goal unaided. (The working class is the appointed agent for social and political change)
  • To the believer the setbacks of this life do not have the last word because they are sacrifices for the benefit of all. (Like a Christian looking forward to the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth, Marx looked forward to his utopia, the dictatorship of the proletariat)

In Kee’s words: “In respect of the idea of meaning and purpose in history, Marx did not free himself from the religious premise. Nor could he. His whole life and vocation was based on the assumption that it is possible to achieve at least something like a secular version of the Kingdom of God on earth. If life is to have any meaning at all, such a moral goal must be attainable.” (p. 108)

TO BE ADDED : Miranda “Marx against the marxists”, Sobrino (1974),

Related Zingcreed Posts:
The opium of the people
Marx’s 3 criticisms of religion
Karl Marx’s personality – a balance sheet
Alienation according to Karl Marx
Jesus or Marx? A fun quiz for all the family!
The Christian root of communism
The Christian roots of communism 2
Is communism a religion in its own right?
Similarities between Christianity & socialism
Rosa Luxemburg’s insights into Christianity & socialism
Two red Jewesses
Jesus’s communist brother James (i) his life
Jesus’s real political message
Alphabetical index  for ‘Red Christian’ & ‘Red Christian documents’ Posts
491: Visions of Change #16: Karl Marx

Sources:
(i) Chadwick, Owen “The secularization of the european mind” CUP (1975) p. 67ff
(ii) Kee, Alistair, “Marx and the failure of Liberation Theology” SCM (1990)

 

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