A Different Kind of Criticism

by Max Horkheimer

The criticism of religion as mere ideology is justified if it reveals that what were previously impulses in religious disguise, such as dissatisfaction with the order on earth, may become effective today in a different form. The life of the revolutionary is such a revelation. But criticism of religion by a bourgeois usually contains none. Instead, it is disquietingly and intimately connected with the blindness to any value except his profit. Bourgeois materialism and positivism were no less the servants of profit interests than conservative idealism which followed in their wake. To the extent that the materialist bourgeois endeavored to talk the masses out of their belief in a Beyond, his age unleashed the economic motive in its place. It could find gratification in this world and he, and sometimes even the masses, benefited from this. That kind of atheism was the world view of a relative prosperity. Now, conservative idealism is inculcating the masses with a belief in the Beyond once again because the economic drive can no longer be satisfied in this world. This is no simple regression to pre-bourgeois religiosity, however, for the Beyond is only one among many, frequently contradictory ideologies within conservative idealism. These days, Christianity is not primarily used as a religion but as a crude transfiguration of existing conditions. The genius of political, military and industry leaders, and especially the nation, compete with God for first place.

SOURCE: Horkheimer, Max. Dawn & Decline: Notes 1926-1931 and 1950-1969, translated by Michael Shaw, with an afterword by Eike Gebhardt (New York: Seabury Press, 1978), pp. 58-59.

Atheism / Freethought / Humanism / Rationalism / Skepticism / Unbelief / Secularism / Church-State Separation Web Links

Theodor W. Adorno Study Guide

The Frankfurt School: Philosophy in Relation to Social Theory, Cultural Theory, Science, and Interdisciplinary Research.
Phase 1: Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse in the 1930s.
Study Group Syllabus

Ideology Study Guide

Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Coming Attractions | Book News
Bibliography | Mini-Bibliographies | Study Guides | Special Sections
My Writings | Other Authors' Texts | Philosophical Quotations
Blogs | Images & Sounds | External Links

CONTACT Ralph Dumain

Uploaded 5 February 2008

©2008 Ralph Dumain