The Capacity of Present-Day Jews and Christians to Become Free

Bruno Bauer


The question of emancipation is a universal one: Jews like Christians want to be emancipated. History, whose ultimate object is Freedom, must and will at least work towards this: that the two, both Jews and Christians, coincide in the longing and striving for emancipation, since between the two no difference exists, and in light of the true essence of Mankind, before Freedom, the two must confess in the same way as slaves. The Jew is circumcised and the Christian baptized so that the two should not see their essence in Mankind, but rather should renounce Mankind and confess and act throughout life in all their affairs as bondsman of a foreign essence.

If we say that the two must coincide and unite themselves in longing for emancipation, we do not thereby want to express the common saying that the united power is stronger than the splintered. Still much less the saying that the movements and discussions to which the longing of the Jews for emancipation has given occasion would have served the purpose also to awaken in Christians the longing for Freedom, or even that the Christians would have to and would be allowed to count upon the agitation and help of the Jews, if they wanted to liberate themselves from the patronage in which they have lived until now. Rather, we want to say thereby only and alone that the work of emancipation as such, of emancipation above all, is only possible, if it is universally acknowledged that the essence of Mankind is not circumcision, not baptism, but rather Freedom.

We intend rather at this moment to examine in what relation the Jews stand towards the ultimate goal which history begins to settle upon with the determination of “either-or”; that is, therefore, “now or never”; whether they have contributed so that history has seized the courage for this determination; whether they stand nearer to Freedom than the Christians; or whether it must turn out to be harder for them to become free men and capable of life in this world and in the State.

The Jews refer to the excellence of their religious morality (that is, of their revealed law) in order to prove that they are capable of becoming good citizens, and have a right to participation in all public state affairs. But this has no other meaning for the critic of their longing for Freedom than the longing of the Moor to become white, or still less meaning: it is the longing to remain unfree. Whoever wants to know the Jew as emancipated Jew not only takes the same useless trouble as if he wanted to wash the Moor white, but rather, he deludes himself in his useless toil. While he intends to lather the Moor, he washes him with a dry sponge. He does not even get him wet.

Well, one says — and the Jew himself says it — the Jew should also not be emancipated as a Jew, not since he is a Jew, not since he has such a universally human principle of morality, rather the Jew himself will recede behind the state citizen, despite the fact that he is a Jew and wants to remain a Jew. That is, he is and remains a Jew, despite the fact that he is a state citizen and lives within universally human circumstances. His Jewish and restricted essence always and at last carries away the victory over his human and political duties. The prejudice remains despite the fact that it is surpassed by common principles. If it remains, then rather it surpasses all others.

Only sophistically, in appearance, would the Jew be able to remain a Jew in the life of the State. If he wanted to remain a Jew, therefore, the naked appearance would be essential and would carry away the victory. That is, his life in the State would be only appearance or a momentary exception to the essence and the rule.

The Jews have referred for example to the fact that their law has not hindered them in rendering the same service as Christians in the wars of liberation and also in fighting on the Sabbath. It is true that, despite their law, they have rendered military service and have fought. Their Synagogue and Rabbis have even explicitly given them permission to subject themselves to all duties of military service, even if they were to stand in contradiction to the commands of the law; so that it is likewise declared that work or sacrifice for the State on the Sabbath is exceptionally permitted only this once. And the Synagogue and these Rabbis, who have just given permission in this one case exceptionally, stand in principle above the State, which receives only a precarious privilege, which might not be properly granted to it to the uttermost under the divine laws.

A service which is rendered to the State with a conscience which should see in it a sin, and just once sees no sin in it, since the Rabbi has given a dispensation and has said — what at other times he is not used to saying, since he might never really say it — that it is not sin this once to render this service: such a service is immoral, since the conscience repudiates it. It is precarious, since the law forbids it, just as it can really forbid every instance and would have to be forbidden also in every moral community. Only a time that is unclear about itself can pass it off for something else. A time which at last knows and wants to have complete and whole men will reject it as a thousand-fold hypocrisy. And those who by this have made much of glory, if they do not want to satisfy themselves of the hollowness of these matters, can only commisserate as unlucky holdovers and victims of a past internally false through and through.

What then have the Jews done to raise themselves above a point of view which makes hypocrisy necessary for them, and to fill the gap which cuts them off from access to the height of true and free Mankind? They have done nothing in that regard. So long as they want to remain Jews and live by that opinion, they will never become such free men.

How have they behaved towards the critique which Christians have in general levelled against religion in order to free Mankind from the most dangerous self-deception, from the original error? They have thought that this struggle pertained only to Christianity, and since they only recalled what sufferings and torments the dominion of the Gospel has caused them, they have thus infinitely tickled themselves, if the critique — since the time of Lessing; that is, since they started to hear something of its deeds — proceeded against Christianity. They were so restricted that they did not note in their malicious joy that, if Christianity, which completed Judaism, fell, then their religion must fall. They still do not know now what is happening round about them at this moment. They are so apathetic and indifferent about the general affair of religion and Mankind, that they do nothing about the critique, and are so slavishly prejudiced in the religious deception, that they have still not fought together in the armies which are drawn to the field against hierarchy and religion. No Jew has performed anything decisive for critique, nor anything against it. The Christian zealots who conjure heaven and earth against the critique are more human figures than the Jew, who only tickles himself if he hears from afar that it is once again proceeding against the Christians. And if they are upset, their opposition to the Critique only proves that it threatens the very foundation itself. They believe they must struggle against it, since they feel that the question in this struggle is the cause of Mankind. But the Jew believes safely in his egoism, only thinks of his enemy Christianity, and yet has still never accomplished anything decisive against it.

He can accomplish nothing against Christianity since the creative Power is missing in him which belongs to this struggle. Against the completed religion only that might can struggle which is able to put in its place the acknowledgement of the true, whole man. He himself can only struggle against Christianity, since it contains the general idea of the human essence, thus his own enemy, even if indeed in religious form. Judaism has not made the whole man, the developed self-consciousness, the content of religion; that is, the spirit which sees a narrowing barrier in nothing more than the prejudiced consciousness which still struggles with its limitation, and particularly with a material, natural limitation. Christianity says: Man is everything, is God, is the all-embracing and almighty, and still expresses this truth religiously when it says: only one, Christ, is the Man who is all. Judaism on the other hand only satisfies the man who has to do always with a foreign world, with nature, and just satisfies his need in religious form when it says, the foreign world is subject to consciousness; that is, God has created the world. Christianity satisfies the man who wants to see himself again in everything, in the universal essence of all things — expressed religiously — also in God; Judaism, the man who wants to see only himself, independent of nature.

The struggle against Christianity was therefore only possible from the Christian side, since it itself, and only it alone, had grasped man, the consciousness, as the essence of all things. And it only depended upon this: to dissolve this religious conception of man, a conception which actually annihilated the whole of Mankind, since for it only One is All. The Jew on the other hand was much too busy with the satisfaction of his still natural need, which made his material, religious occupations, his washings, purifications, his religious choice and purification of the daily food into a duty for him, rather than thinking of what man is in general. He could not struggle against Christianity, since he did not even know what was at stake in this struggle.

Every religion is necessarily bound up with hypocrisy and Jesuitism. It orders man to consider that which he really is as object of adoration, as something foreign, thus to act as if he were nothing like it, that is, nothing, nothing at all in himself. But Mankind does not allow itself to suppress completely, and now seeks to make itself worthy at the cost of the adored object, which however should always continue to stand at its value.

But how different still must the Christian and Jewish, especially the Jewish Jesuitism of the present time be, after what is said just now about the content of both religions!

Christian Jesuitism is a generally human kind of action and has to help bring about actual Freedom. Jewish Jesuitism, which is its parallel, is more limited and doesn’t have all the consequences for history and for Mankind generally that Christian Jesuitism has. Moreover, it is only the whim of a living sect.

The Jew sees in religion the satisfaction of his need and his freedom from nature. On the Sabbath, his religious view should become actualized, his freedom and escape from nature should become realized. However, since his needs are still not truly satisfied in religion, thus also the real, prosaic and needful life and the ideal life, in which he was supposed to concern himself no more with the satisfaction of his wants, stand in contradiction to alarm him on the Sabbath so he must meditate on the means and expedients to satisfy his wants, without harming the appearance that he observes the law; that is, stands above his wants. The Jewish Jesuitism is the naked cunning of the material egoism, common artfulness, and for all that, rude, clumsy hypocrisy, since it is concerned with entirely natural material means. It is so clumsy and repulsive, that one can only turn away from it with disgust, but cannot seriously dispute it at all. If, for example, the Jew lets a candle be lit on the Sabbath by a Christian servant or neighbor and is satisfied if he simply has not done it himself, although his appearance is yet for the benefit of him alone; if he lets the room be heated by foreign servants, so as not to freeze to death, although the divine command that he should light no fire on the Sabbath plainly had to hold him to freezing, even freezing to death: if he means not to transgress the Sabbath law, as long as he contents himself with passive business affairs at the Exchange, as if he did not make it too active if, in order to meet them, he goes to the Exchange and generally enters it; if finally he has Christian Companions or associates who carry on the transactions on the Sabbath, as if their work were not for the benefit of his firm and his satchel: thus is it an hypocrisy against which particularly a decent man cannot fight at all.

If however the Christian must take hold of the idea of the spirit and of self-consciousness religiously, thus take hold of it perversely, and the real self-consciousness reacts against the perversity, to be allowed to rise up without it, thus is the Jesuitism which originates from it something wholly other, so is the scientific battle not only possible, but also necessary, and is even the presupposition of the birth and the growth of the highest human Freedom.

The Jewish Jesuitism is the cunning with which the most material need satisfies itself, since it cannot have enough of the deluded and legally Commanded satisfaction. It is only animal cunning. The Christian Jesuitism On the other hand is the theoretical devil’s work of the spirit wrestling for its Freedom, the struggle of the real Freedom with the disfigured, the feigned; that is, with Unfreedom, a struggle in which, it is true, the fighting real

Freedom, so long as it fights and especially so long as it fights religiously and theologically, degrades itself always again to Unfreedom. But this cruel and horrible game still finally awakens Mankind and provokes it to raise its true Freedom earnestly.

The true Jesuitism itself, the Jesuitism of the ecclesiastical order, was a struggle against the religious statutes, the mockery of frivolity, an activity of the Enlightenment, and only therefore repulsive and even filthy, since the Enlightenment and frivolity appeared in purely ecclesiastical, not in free human form.

If the Jewish casuist, the Rabbi, asks whether it is allowed to eat the egg which the hen has laid on the Sabbath, this is simple folly and the disgraceful consequence of religious prejudice.

If the scholastic on the other hand asked whether God could become, for example, also a pumpkin as he became a man in the womb of the Virgin; if the Lutheran and Reformed quarrel over whether the body of the God-man could actually be at the same time in all places: thus is it indeed laughable, but only therefore since it was the dispute over pantheism in religious and ecclesiastical form.

The Christians stand higher therefore, since they have developed the religious Jesuitism, this self-strangling Unfreedom to the point where everything is at stake, where the Unfreedom embraces everything, and Freedom and sincerity must be the necessary consequence of its absolute monarchy. The Jews stand far below this height of the religious hypocrisy, therefore also far below this possibility of Freedom.

Christianity originated when the manly spirit of Greek philosophy and classical culture had mingled itself in a weak moment with the ardent Judaism. The Judaism which remained Judaism has forgotten this mingling and embrace of love, after it had born its fruit. It did not want to acknowledge its fruit. To the contrary, Judaism which retained in memory steadily and lovingly the lordly figure of the godless and worldly philosophy could never forget it, and carried itself about always with the thought of the beautiful human figure of the godless fellow, until it died in the memory and the true Philosophy was again there in its place. This Judaism which had died in its heathen love and mingling is Christianity.

That in Christianity inhumanity is driven higher than in every other religion, indeed is driven to its highest summit, only comes about therefore, and was only therefore possible since it had taken hold of the most boundless idea of Mankind and converted it into the religious composition only, disfigured it, and had to make the human essence inhuman. In Judaism the inhumanity is not yet so highly driven. The Jew as Jew has, for example, the religious duty to belong to the family, the race, the nation; that is, to live for definite, human interests. This preference is however only apparent, and only founded on the deficiency that man in his common essence, namely, the man who is more than only a member of the family, of the race or of the nation, was not yet known to Judaism.

The Enlightenment has therefore its true place in Christianity. Here it can strike the deepest root, here it is decisive and indeed (after the Greeks and Romans had had their enlightenment, but had to give the occasion through the dissolution of their religion only for the birth of a new religion) decisive for all times, for all of Mankind. The enlightenment of the Greeks and the Romans could only precipitate a definite, a still unperfected religion; that is, a religion which was not yet through and through religion, and which was still much more mingled with political, patriotic, artistic and, so to speak, humane interests. Christianity is completed, pure religion, nothing other than religion. The Enlightenment which it produces and by which it will fall, decides therefore the cause of religion and of Mankind in general. It had to, however, produce this Enlightenment out of both foundations which are, properly speaking, only a single foundation, since it is the summit of the inhumanity and the religious conception of the pure, unrestricted, all-embracing Mankind. It declares itself out of the same foundation, that such a long series of centuries was necessary before the Enlightenment and the critique could attain the perfection and purity in which they were capable of really making a new epoch in the history of Mankind. Exactly therefore since Christianity contains such an embracing conception of Mankind, it could resist for so long the attacks on its inhumanity. The attacks were so difficult, so timid, so half-way — they are still now the case in many areas of the Enlightenment, where one still makes much of the glory of the Christian command of universal love of man, of the Christian law of freedom and equality — since one lets oneself be impressed by the religious command of brotherly love and could only with difficulty find out that, since it is religious, exactly the same command therefore restricts the love and raises up hate through faith, begets the rage of persecution, has set the sword in motion and has kindled the funeral pyre. Subordinate religions could fall sooner, since the obstacles which they Opposed to the development of Mankind made themselves sensible sooner; that is, since they rest from the first on a restricted conception of the human essence and provoked the Enlightenment to become irreligious much earlier. But this Enlightenment was still not decisive for religion in general, since it overthrew one fixed, only one barrier, not the barrier, not restrictiveness and unfreedom in general. This Enlightenment was also therefore not decisive since it could not dissolve at all the definite, still unperfected religion in the way that it correctly explained the illusion, the origin and the human origin of the same. Only the Enlightenment, which explains and dissolves the illusion in general and religion plainly, will also correctly explain the illusion and the origin of the subordinate forms of religion.

Christianity itself has supplied a proof for this proposition. It was easier for the Catholics than for the Protestants to free themselves from the religious patronage, but harder and nearly impossible to dissolve religion in general and to explain its origin correctly. The religious patronage was cruder, more external, thus also offered in the end more convenient, exterior handles for the attack and could be more easily thrown off or rejected, since it was not penetrated to the innermost, and did not yet embrace the whole man. But at the same time it was declared false, charged as a crude, sensible fraud. Yet the true source of religion continued to be the illusion, the self-deception of the patronized. It could at least continue and could again submit to the Enlightenment which had only freed itself from one defined illusion, and not even from this correctly, and could lead itself astray in its Enlightenment. In Protestantism on the other hand, the illusion has become complete and almighty, since it occupied the whole man and rules him not from without through a priestly, hierarchical or ecclesiastical power in general, but rather from his own interior out. In Protestantism the feeling of dependence as such and in its purity and widest universality; that is, in its total and absolute restrictiveness, is raised to a principle. Here, where it shapes the essence of man, and the man, except that he is religious, is still not anything else, for example politician, artist, philosopher, at least he may not be; here it takes the longest for the man to venture to attack his particular essence, until then acknowledged as his only true essence, and to repel and to negate it as his non-essence. But if it happens at all, it happens thus fundamentally, for all times, for the whole of humanity. In this way the cause is forever settled, and the struggle need never again be taken up. But above all it must happen correctly, while the religious illusion no longer refers to the naked fraud of a priestly class, but rather is comprehended as the common illusion of Mankind generally.

Protestantism has now achieved the highest that it can achieve, and that is its highest determination. It has dissolved itself and with itself religion in general at the same time. It has sacrificed itself for the best of the Freedom of Mankind. What then has Judaism achieved? Or rather: what has it mattered if the Jew does not dissolve his law at all, but rather transgresses it? What does it matter? Nothing at all for Mankind, but rather it is only the unhindered satisfaction of a restricted, material need. If Protestantism, and in it Christianity, dissolves itself, there stands in its place the complete, free man, the creative Mankind hindered no longer from its highest creations. If the Jew transgresses his law, then an individual or a certain group of men can yield unhindered to the affairs of trade, eat and drink what nature gives, light a candle if it becomes dark, kindle a fire, even if it is the Sabbath.

There have been enlightened Jews sooner than there were enlightened Protestants or Christians. It was easier to annul a law which lay in battle only with heavenly needs, than to dissolve the feeling of dependence whose dominance is grounded on the development of the human nature, and could only be overthrown when man had raised himself to the acknowledgement of his true essence. It is easier to satisfy the material need despite a law which is valued as divine, than to ground and carry through a new, indeed the true, conception of the essence of man. This conception stands in opposition to the aggregate, hitherto existing view of Mankind towards itself. This conception must settle into a struggle of life and death.

The Jew gives nothing to Mankind if he disregards his restricted law for himself. The Christian gives Mankind everything there is to take if he dissolves his Christian essence. He gives it to itself; he restores it to itself, when it had lost itself until now and had never in fact possessed itself. The Jew cannot be at all tranquil or in good conscience when he avoids his divine law in this way; that is, only for the sake of material need. Mankind which has regained itself in its religious loss has a tranquil conscience, and has only won its true purity and sincerity. Whoever lifts a restricted law for his own best interests gains through the struggle no increase of powers, since the struggle is easily concluded. On the other hand, a struggle which is carried through against unfreedom in general and against original error, gives back to Mankind all its powers, and even with an elasticity which is irresistable. It throws all barriers which until then limited it over the heap.

“Will you then refuse to acknowledge how much the Christian culture, the Christian Enlightenment itself, owes to the Jews? And would you not also acknowledge that your striving after political freedom is powerfully stimulated by the longing of the Jews for emancipation? Is it not supported by it?

Can the ax say therefore, that it swings him who swings it?

It is not true that the Jews had an influence on the Enlightenment of the last century or even intervened creatively in it. Whatever they have done in this sphere stands far below the achievement of the Christian critics. It has not been of significance for the development of history. It was only a product of a stimulus which has transmitted the emerged anti-Christian Enlightenment to them by or out of the Christian world.

One may charge us not to make this reproach, that we have let ourselves be defined and guided by partiality for Christianity. We are to be thwarted by this reproach, hopefully without much trouble, if we deny that Judaism has stimulated or supported the striving of the newer time for Freedom. But one would then be guilty of a vehement mistake, on both the Jewish and the Christian side, if one separated the Jewish question from the universal question of the time, and did not remember that not only the Jews, but also we want to be emancipated.

The Jews can only long for emancipation because the whole time longs for it. They are carried along by the universal inclination and striving of the time. It would be the most laughable exaggeration if one wanted to maintain in earnest that the Jews had stimulated and supported, with their longing for emancipation, a question which the whole Eighteenth Century had set in motion. The issue was tried and decided rather seriously in the French Revolution.

If we find the Christian world at the summit everywhere that progress is concerned, then Christianity proves itself as the inclination towards progress. That is not to say that Christianity as such, Christianity for itself, has wanted and has effected progress. On the contrary, it is in its own interests that progress be impossible. It is therefore only rather provoked towards progress so strongly simply because it wants to make it impossible.

It is the inclination towards the development of the true Mankind, since it is the pure, the highest, the most complete inhumanity. Christianity as such has not freed the spirits of the Eighteenth Century, nor has it burst the chains of privilege and monopoly. Rather, Mankind has done it, that Mankind which stood within Christianity at the point of civilization where it had replaced itself within this contracted sphere, in the deepest opposition against itself and its determination. Mankind, which had surpassed everything, has done it, when it broke through the barriers which it had itself placed in Christianity in its religious prejudice. The Jews were only dragged along by this scrambling movement. They are only the stragglers, not the men of the front ranks and the leaders of progress. They would not even stand where they now stand if events were to await the displacement and dissolution of their statutes. In order to be in this, they had to let themselves first pin themselves by all the decomposing venom of the Christian (or, if one prefers) of the anti-Christian culture and Enlightenment as it were.

Judaism and Christianity are already, in themselves, as religion, a form of Enlightenment and critique. If it was their determination to rule Mankind, then it was also their lot to perish for themselves, for the Enlightenment which they held. It was their lot to release in their ruin the Enlightenment which was religiously paralyzed in them. Or in other words, the Enlightenment which they were in religious form thereby broke the religious form to pieces in order to become the real, rational Enlightenment.

Naturally from this point of view also Christianity will again stand at the summit since it is itself nothing other than Judaism perished in its own Enlightenment; that is, the religious completion of Enlightenment which Judaism contained.

Man is born as a member of a people, and is determined thereby to become a citizen of the state to which he belongs by birth. His determination as man is still wider than the borders of the state in which he is born. The Enlightenment raises men above the enclosure of the life of the state, and separates the individual and all individual states. Judaism expresses this Enlightenment in the religious form that it hates. All states and people are unauthorized before the One, before Jehovah, and have no right to continue. Only against itself, against one People, Judaism did not want to take this Enlightenment seriously. It let one people continue as the only authorized one and it just established thereby the most restricted and most hazardous life of the People and the state.

Christianity brought to a conclusion the religious Enlightenment which Judaism had begun. It also struck from the list of peoples the one people still to remain standing. It declared outright for the deprived people; abolished all circumstances of people and state and proclaimed the freedom and equality of all men.

The proclamation with which it appeared is also the same one with which the work of the newer Enlightenment announces itself to the world. At the same time the work of the creators themselves, the free and infinite self-conscious announces itself. They declare war on all barriers and privileges. The self-consciousness is neither the peasant, nor citizen, nor nobleman. Before it Jews and heathens are equal. It is neither German, nor only French. It cannot admit that these could be something which is separated from it or stands above it. It is the declaration of war and the. war itself. Indeed, it has completed itself; it is real self-consciousness, the victory over all which wants to pass itself off as monopoly, as privilege and exclusively so. It thus does not lament over its destroyed authority. It wants and effects what Christianity, for which it struggles, also wanted and only falsely carried out, since it wanted to carry it out in religious form.

The religious break-up is always superficial, since the circumstances which it dissolves, it dissolves not from within through its own dialectic and through scientific, theoretical proof. It dissolves rather only through the fact that it simply raises itself above these circumstances. It crudely and curtly denies them, and thus lets them still continue fundamentally, and continue wretchedly enough. Indeed, it can break away from them so little that it restores them yet again, but freely in a venturesome form. It is a break-up in the clouds, in the realm of fantasy. It is therefore the fantastic reflection still further above which it seems to elevate itself further. Thus is the conjugal relation again restored which Christianity dissolves, as the marriage of the congregation with its lord, either in the relation of the bride of heaven to the heavens, or in the enthusiasm of the monk for the heavenly Virgin, or the nun for the bridegroom to whom she has dedicated herself. The class distinctions live on again in the classes of the vocations only, of the chosen and those who are damned to the unfathomed and arbitrary judgment of the on high. The religious classes rest as much upon nature as the political classes, but only upon a chimerical nature. The State, and even the despotic state, appears again in the flock which, lacking a will of its own, is subjected to a lord. Even the opposition of state and empire is awakened again in the opposition in which the heavenly empire stands to the empire of this world. The princes still supply themselves with battles when the prince of heaven and the prince of this world oppose each other always and everywhere. The hate and the enmity of the peoples are again tempted, when the flock of sheep and the band of goats, the left and right, stand opposed to each other and must consider each other as simply foreign, as pure opposition.

Religion is the contradiction which must deny everything towards which it strives. It must chimerically fortify what it wants to deny and refuse what it promises to give. It denies the natural distinctions of classes and peoples and makes them only fantastical. It denies privilege and restores it in the exclusive dominion of the One, and in the privilege of the arbitrarily chosen. It denies sin and closes everything under sin. It redeems all men from sin, and makes them sinners. It wants to give Freedom and equality, and denies them. Indeed, it establishes an economy of inequality and unfreedom.

It cannot really abolish what it wants to deny, since on the other hand it sides not with the real self-consciousness, but rather with a rash, exalted, thus weak will and with fantasy. It cannot really give what it promises to give, Since it just wants only to give it, but not to have it earned, to have it conquered. Equality and Freedom which are only given, not earned, are inequality and unfreedom themselves, since they do not let privilege and servitude be abolished through work, through real struggle, thus rather, they let them continue.

The completed religion perishes in this contradiction. It raises the longing for equality, which wants to take to the field against privilege, but it does not appease this longing. It does not admit the campaign and even makes the enemy of equality immortal and divine. It wants to give Freedom, but it not only does not give it, but instead imposes the chains of slavery.

What it wants and that to which it rises is but the will of Mankind and the object of its longing. Religion must therefore perish to its own will if it is finally carried out. The carrying out of its will is but the Enlightenment, the critique, the freed self-consciousness which, unlike it, does not flee, does not raise itself into the fantastic reflection of this world. Rather it fights its way through the world and carries through the struggle against the barriers and privileges.

Christianity is the religion which has promised to Mankind the most, namely everything, but it has also denied the most, namely again everything. It is accordingly the birthplace of the highest Freedom, as it was the authority of the greatest servitude. Its dissolution through the critique, that is, the dissolution of its contradictions, is the birth of Freedom and itself the first act of this highest Freedom which Mankind itself conquers, must conquer and can only conquer in the struggle against the completion of religion.

Accordingly Christianity stands far above Judaism, the Christian far above the Jew. His capacity to become free is by far greater than that of the Jew, since, from the standpoint where the Christian stands, Mankind is directed at the point where a sweeping revolution will heal all ills which religion has generally established. The elasticity of the power which leads it to this revolution is infinite.

The Jew stands far below this standpoint, thus also far below the possibility of Freedom and a revolution which decides the fate of the whole of Mankind. His religion is not significant through itself for history. It can intervene in world history and could only become practical and world-historical through its dissolution and completion in Christianity.

The Jew wants to become free. But it does not follow from that that he must become a Christian in order to approach the possibility of Freedom. They are both servants and bondsmen, the Jew like the Christian. If Enlightenment has discovered that Judaism like Christianity is the bondage of the spirit, then it is too late. The fantasy and the self-deception, that the Jew could become through baptism a free man and a state citizen, is then no longer possible, at the very least it can no longer be sincere. It only exchanges the one privileged class for the other, the one which is allied with more drudgery for the other which appears more profitable. lt cannot share with him Freedom and public law, since the Christian State does not know them itself. The greater advantage which is allied with the privileged class of the Christian can for that purpose move many Jews to make use of baptism. But baptism does not make him free. If all Jews wanted to bear witness to the Christian creed, the powers of Christianity would thereby receive no increment thereof.

It is too late. Christianity will no longer make conquests which can also be called in the remotest sense important and significant. The time of the world-historical conquests which won for it whole peoples is forever past. It has lost the faith in itself and has fulfilled its historical task completely.

If they want to become free, then the Jews should not profess to Christianity. Rather, they should profess to the dissolved Christianity, to dissolved religion in general; that is, to the Enlightenment, critique, and its result, the free Mankind.

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The historical movement which the dissolution of Christianity and of religion generally will acknowledge as a completed fact, and will secure for Mankind the victory over religion, can no longer be postponed. The self-consciousness of Freedom withdraws itself from all existing circumstances. It stands in total opposition to them. The unhistorical and weak reprimands which the existing situation delivers against the self-consciousness only ever win for it new victories and conquests.

The people who will place themselves at the summit of the movement will no longer bring the Gospel of the One who has closed all men under sin, but rather the message of humanity and liberated Mankind, to other people still imprisoned and to other parts of the world. The areas and people who do not join the movement and who do not want to accept the faith in Mankind will punish themselves. They will soon see themselves outflanked, placed outside of history, and displaced to the level of the barbarians and pariahs.

If that happens to the green wood, what will happen to the dry? If the future of the Christians who want to remain in Christianity, who are thus infinitely outstripped by the development of Mankind, is by that condition so dim, what can be the future of the Jews? They stand in a more subordinate standpoint, and want to remain in it.

They may see to it for themselves. They will determine their fate for themselves, but history does not allow itself to be mocked. It is the duty of the Christian to acknowledge sincerely the result of the development of Christianity, the dissolution of itself and the elevation of the Man over the Christian. That is to say, he must cease being a Christian in order to become man and free. The Jew on the other hand must sacrifice the chimerical privilege of his nationality, his fantastical bottomless law. Thus the sacrifice may fall hard on him, since he must abandon himself thoroughly and deny the Jew. He must sacrifice his chimerical privilege to Mankind, the result of the development and dissolution of Christianity. He need no longer deny to himself the sacrifice of his own religion for another. What he has to do is much more and harder than only to exchange one religion for the other.

The Christian and the Jew must break with their whole essence. But this break lies nearer to the Christian, since it is evident as the task from the development of his hitherto existing essence. The Jew on the other hand has to break not only with his Jewish essence, but also with development of the completion of his religion, with a development which has remained for him foreign and towards which he has not acceded. He has neither brought about nor acknowledged the completion of his religion as Jew. The Christian has only one stage; namely, to surmount his religion in order to abandon religion in general. The Jew has it harder if he wants to raise himself to Freedom.

But with man nothing is impossible.

Translated by Michael P. Malloy
Georgetown University


SOURCE: Bauer, Bruno. “The Capacity of Present Day Jews and Christians to Become Free” (1843), translated by Michael P. Malloy, The Philosophical Forum, Vol. VIII, nos. 2-4, 1978, pp. 135-149. “Feuerbach, Marx and the Left Hegelians,” special issue, edited by Marx W. Wartofsky & Hans-Martin Sass.

The German original: ‘Die Fähigkeit der heutigen Juden und Christen frei zu werden’, in Einundzwanzig Bogen aus der Schweiz, ed. Georg Herwegh (Zürich und Winterthur, 1843), pp. 56–71.

See also:

Bruno Bauer on Christianity, Alienation, and the Dialectics of Religious Consciousness (David McLellan)

Bauer, Marx and religion (extracts)

The other key, related document of this period is:

Bauer, Bruno. The Jewish Problem (1843), translated by Helen Lederer. Cincinnati, OH: Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, 1958. (Readings in Modern Jewish History)

And see Marx’s rebuttals to Bauer’s arguments:

Marx, Karl; Engels, Frederick. The Holy Family (written 1844, published 1845), translated by Richard Dixon and Clement Dutts. See sections: The Jewish Question No. 1; The Jewish Question No. 2; The Jewish Question No. 3.

Marx, Karl. “On The Jewish Question” (1843), Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, February 1844.

But also:

Engels, Frederick. “Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity” (Sozialdemokrat, May 4-11, 1882), in Marx and Engels, On Religion (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1966).


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