178: MARX’S 3 CRITICISMS OF RELIGION

“Welcome to Zingcreed, the totally unique Christian/Atheist blog where everything is open to question. In this personal polemic I think aloud about religion and the world. I hope you get something from it!” Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

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Present day Christians need to undertake a thorough and critical examination of the anti-Christian materialist system of Karl Marx.
Why should Christians let an atheist understand their faith better than they do themselves!? Is there any truth in his extremely serious charges? No intellectually honest believer can bury his/her head in the sand over this! Here, rewritten in somewhat simpler language, are Marx’s three main criticisms of Christianity as he observed it in the mid-nineteenth century. Do you think things  have changed much? (Bear in mind he’s taking the broad view of the phenomenon. Of course there are many honorable exceptions among the clergy and laity to his generalizations.)

 

1)      Religion reconciles man to an evil world

While denouncing the rich and their exploitation of the poor, religion fails to offer a practical way forward. Instead of encouraging revolution, or at the very least, a search for better alternatives, it induces a stupor in the mind; like opium it is a narcotic that makes the present state of affairs bearable. It is a pain killer that makes the intolerable seem tolerable. It fosters a spirit of acquiescence and cowardice; an unwillingness to look for and fight for new goals.

Marx points out that this is not at all what the Judaeo-Christian tradition is about. Christianity for example recognizes evil and condemns it. When the church throughout its history tried to reconcile man to an evil world it was not only abusing biblical teachings – it was being blasphemous! God can never be reconciled to an evil and oppressive order, and religion should never have legitimised oppression and injustice in the way it did. To this day, the church authorities have continually aligned themselves with the values and interests of the oppressors.

In other words what we are seeing here is that world famous communist and atheist, Karl Marx, challenging Christians to be more truly Christian!!

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2)      Religion reverses reality

This one’s a bit deep and philosophical. I’m not sure it’s strictly provable, but it’s a hypothesis worth bearing in mind. I think one might find it a useful theoretical tool in trying to understand peoples’ religious beliefs. It’s based on the ‘projection’ theory of the German philosopher Feuerbach.

Basically what is being said here is that man ‘projects aspects of his being’ e.g. his/her ideals and desires away from himself. These become objectified as the attributes of God. As the whole process occurs without man being aware of it (!) he doesn’t realise that these attributes are human all along. In fact it reaches the point where these attributes act back on man and start to control his life! Man the creator has become the subject of God, his creation.

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3) False consciousness

Religion gives us a false picture of reality e.g. those evangelicals today who believe disease is caused by demons that need to be exorcised, even though Hippocrates demonstrated that disease has natural causes 300 years before Christ.  Religion is an ideology that believers adhere to: it just happens to further the interests of those who produce and promote it. It is indeed morally evil because it disguises and legitimizes exploitation. It distracts from the inherent political, economic and social injustices around them. It may say something like “Make sacrifices for the national interest” when in fact the sacrifices called for work out to be in favour of the controlling elite.

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Related Zingcreed Posts:
Marx’s Christian roots
Alienation according to Karl Marx
Karl Marx’s personality
Jesus or Marx? A fun quiz for all the family!
Opium of the people
The Christian roots of communism
Similarities between Christianity & socialism
Jesus’s real political message
Red Christian documents #1: Socialism is practical Christianity
Rosa Luxemburg’s insights into Christianity & socialism
Two red Jewesses
Is communism a religion in its own right?
Jesus’s communist brother James (i) his life
Alphabetical index for ‘Red Christian’ & ‘Red Christian documents’ Posts
491: Visions of change #16: Karl Marx
127: Marx’s Christian roots

Source:

Kee, Alistair “Marx and the failure of liberation theology” SCM Press (1990)

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