Karl Marx on Religion:
Sources & Quotations


Bibliography

1. Editions:

On Religion by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Introduction by Reinhold Niebuhr. New York: Schocken Books, 1964. 382 pp.

The American publisher Schocken and its successors re-published the original 1957 Soviet anthology with the addition of Reinhold Niebuhr's introduction. Untrustworthy as Niebuhr is, Niebuhr's introduction is not all bad, but it is biased reflecting the anti-communist Cold war atmosphere in which it was published. Don't worry if your edition lacks this introduction.

Marx and Engels on Religion. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1957. [Later Progress Publishers.]

The material available in this anthology is also available online at the Marxists Internet Archive. The table of contents is reproduced on the indicated web page with links to all of the articles, plus additional selections not included in the Soviet edition. Most of Marx's writing is available at this archive, and is searchable by keywords.

2. On Religion by Karl Marx, arranged and edited with introduction and new translations, by Saul K. Padover. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974. Vol. 5 of The Karl Marx Library.

Contents:

INTRODUCTION: Marx's Religious Views   (ix-xxvii)

Christianity and Religion in General

The Union of the Faithful with Christ
Proof of the Existence of God
Religion and Animals
On the Christian State
In Defense of Bauer's Theology
The Koran and the Bible
Luther as Arbiter Between Strauss and Feuerbach
Democracy and Religion
Criticism of Religion Is the Presupposition of All Criticism
Politics and "Christian Religious Feeling"
From Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
From The Holy Family
Theses on Feuerbach
From The German Ideology
From "Circular Against Kriege"
Two Kinds of Religion
The Social Principles of Christianity
Satire on the Catholic Clergy in Belgium
From Manifesto of the Communist Party
The Prussian Monarchy's Bigotry
Christianity and the Collapse of the Ancient World
Priests as Political Police
Kinkel's Christianity
From New‑York Daily Tribune Articles
Sunday Closing in England
The Anti‑Church Movement
From Grundrisse Der Kritik Der Politischen Ökonomie
From Capital
From The Civil War in France
The Old Christians' Contempt for Politics
Freedom of Conscience
Notes on the Protestant Reformation

Judaism and Jews

On the Jewish Question
Questions of Judaism from The Holy Family
Bourgeois and Jew
Prussian Anti‑Semitism
Rothschild—A "Jewish Usurer"
Removal of Jewish Disabilities—"A Miserable Reform
         Farce"
Jews in Jerusalem
The Jewish Bankers of Europe
The Russian Loan
From Herr Vogt

Personal Letters

From Letter to Arnold Ruge, March 20, 1842
From Letter to Arnold Ruge, July 9, 1842
From Letter to Dagobert Oppenheim, August 25, 1842
Postscript to Letter to Arnold Ruge, March 13, 1843
From Letter to Arnold Ruge, May, 1843
From Letter to Arnold Ruge, September, 1843
Letter to Ludwig Feuerbach, August 11, 1844
From Letter to Frederick Engels, July 31, 1851
From Letter to Frederick Engels, October 13, 1851
From Letter to Frederick Engels, June 2, 1853
From Letter to Frederick Engels, December 2, 1854
From Letter to Frederick Engels, March 5, 1856
From Postscript to Letter to Frederick Engels,
          May 8, 1856
From Letter to Frederick Engels, September 22, 1856
From Letter to Frederick Engels,  February 25, 1859
From Letter to Frederick Engels, February 9, 1860
From Letter to Frederick Engels, April 12, 1860
From Letter to Frederick Engels, May 10, 1861
From Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, July 22, 1861
From Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, June 16, 1862
From Letter to Frederick Engels, July 30, 1862
From Letter to Frederick Engels, January 20, 1864
From Letter to Frederick Engels, June 16, 1864
From Letter to Lion Philips, June 25, 1864
From Letter to Lion Philips, November 29, 1864
Mrs. Karl Marx, From Letter to Johann Philipp Becker,
    Ca. January 29, 1866
From Postscript to Letter to Frederick Engels,
    November 7, 1867
From Letter to Ludwig Kugelmann, April 6, 1868
From Letter to Frederick Engels, September 25, 1869
From Letter to Frederick Engels, September 2, 1870
From Letter to Frederick Engels, July 15, 1874
From Letter to Frederick Engels, August 21, 1875
From Letter to Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis,
    February 22, 1881
From Letter to Laura Lafargue, April 14, 1882

Bibliography
Biographical Index
Subject Index

3. Marx on Religion, edited by John Raines. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. vii, 242 pp.

Contents:

Preface
Introduction 1-14

I. The Young Man Marx
Reflections of a Youth on Choosing an Occupation (1835)
Letter to His Father (1837)
Leading Article of no. 179 of Kölnische Zeitung (1842)
On the Jewish Question (1843)

II. Consciousness & the Material World
Critique of Hegel's Dialectic and General Philosophy (1844)
The German Ideology—Ideology in General (1844-6)
The Holy Family (1844)
Preface: Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)

III. Bad Work/Good Work
Preface: 1844 mss
Estranged Labor (1844)
Private Property and Communism (1844)
Money (1844)
Manifesto—Chapter 1 (1848)
Money & Alienated Man (1844)
Capital, Book I, extract (1867)

IV. The Criticism of Religion
Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1844)
Concerning Feuerbach (1845)
Social Principles of Christianity (1847)

V. Occasional Writings
Marx:
The Decay of Religious Authority (New York Tribune) (1854)
Excerpts from Grundrisse (1858)
Excerpts from Capital (1867)

Engels:
The Peasant War in Germany: chapter 2 (1850)
On the History of Early Germany (1895)

Personal Letters:
Jenny Marx to Johann Philipp Becker (1866)
Marx to Engels (1864)
Marx to Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (1851)

Study Guide for Students

This anthology is different in content and scope from the first. There is not much overlap. This edition could supplement the other(s) but could not replace it (them). Raines references fewer selections on religion proper but includes other writings on the labor process, alienated labor, and capitalism. Raines provides an introduction, brief introductions to the selections, and a study guide. Annotations precede each selection by Marx.

Random notes on Introduction: Marx is likened to Darwin. For Marx, justice is not merely juridical, but tied to species being. Marx vs. Hegel: non-objective being is unreal. . . . Sensuous relation to object. . . . Marx's comments on religion reflect practices of state religion of the UK (Church of England) & Germany (Lutheranism). Wasn't exposed to Negro Spirituals. Didn't forsee liberation theology or civil rights movement. Marx's view of labor and class society. . . Religious scholarship neglects Marx . . . Two previous collections: Niebuhr and Padover biased (utopianism, anti-Semitism). . . But jury out on Marx.


Secondary Sources

Kangal, Kaan. “Marx’s Bonn Notebooks in Context: Reconsidering the Relationship between Bruno Bauer and Karl Marx between 1839 and 1842,” Historical Materialism, vol. 28, no.4, 2020, pp. 102–138.

One-of-a-kind study of Marx’s relationship to Bruno Bauer, their divergence on the approach to atheism, Marx’s study of art and religion (in MEGA but not in English) and aborted plan to publish.


Marx on Religion: Ground Zero

A number of famous quotes, including the famous phrase "opium of the people", come from this pivotal text of Marx's development and modern philosophy, written December 1843-January 1844. It should be studied carefully. Below I have extracted the essential passages. The complete article in English translation can be found at the link that follows.

*    *    *

For Germany, the criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.

The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis [“speech for the altars and hearths”] has been refuted. Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman, will no longer feel disposed to find the mere appearance of himself, the non-man [Unmensch], where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man — state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is 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.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked. Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.

*    *    *

German philosophy of right and state is the only German history which is al pari [“on a level”] with the official modern present. The German nation must therefore join this, its dream-history, to its present conditions and subject to criticism not only these existing conditions, but at the same time their abstract continuation. Its future cannot be limited either to the immediate negation of its real conditions of state and right, or to the immediate implementation of its ideal state and right conditions, for it has the immediate negation of its real conditions in its ideal conditions, and it has almost outlived the immediate implementation of its ideal conditions in the contemplation of neighboring nations. Hence, it is with good reason that the practical political part in Germany demands the negation of philosophy.

It is wrong, not in its demand but in stopping at the demand, which it neither seriously implements nor can implement. It believes that it implements that negation by turning its back to philosophy and its head away from it and muttering a few trite and angry phrases about it. Owing to the limitation of its outlook, it does not include philosophy in the circle of German reality or it even fancies it is beneath German practice and the theories that serve it. You demand that real life embryos be made the starting-point, but you forget that the real life embryo of the German nation has grown so far only inside its cranium. In a word — You cannot abolish [aufheben] philosophy without making it a reality.

The same mistake, but with the factors reversed, was made by the theoretical party originating from philosophy.

In the present struggle it saw only the critical struggle of philosophy against the German world; it did not give a thought to the fact that philosophy up to the present itself belongs to this world and is its completion, although an ideal one. Critical towards its counterpart, it was uncritical towards itself when, proceeding from the premises of philosophy, it either stopped at the results given by philosophy or passed off demands and results from somewhere else as immediate demands and results of philosophy – although these, provided they are justified, can be obtained only by the negation of philosophy up to the present, of philosophy as such. We reserve ourselves the right to a more detailed description of this section: It thought it could make philosophy a reality without abolishing [aufzuheben] it.

*    *    *

The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But, for man, the root is man himself. The evident proof of the radicalism of German theory, and hence of its practical energy, is that is proceeds from a resolute positive abolition of religion. The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest essence for man – hence, with the categoric imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, abandoned, despicable essence, relations which cannot be better described than by the cry of a Frenchman when it was planned to introduce a tax on dogs: Poor dogs! They want to treat you as human beings!

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, February, 1844.


Promethean Marx

In his doctoral dissertation, an early early work, Marx declares the supremacy of philosophy over religion. Here is a key extract.

*  *  *

Philosophy, as long as a drop of blood shall pulse in its world-subduing and absolutely free heart, will never grow tired of answering its adversaries with the cry of Epicurus:

Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them, is truly impious.

Philosophy makes no secret of it. The confession of Prometheus:

In simple words, I hate the pack of gods
[Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound]

is its own confession, its own aphorism against all heavenly and earthly gods who do not acknowledge human self-consciousness as the highest divinity. It will have none other beside.

But to those poor March hares who rejoice over the apparently worsened civil position of philosophy, it responds again, as Prometheus replied to the servant of the gods, Hermes:

Be sure of this, I would not change my state
Of evil fortune for your servitude.
Better to be the servant of this rock
Than to be faithful boy to Father Zeus.
(Ibid.)

Prometheus is the most eminent saint and martyr in the philosophical calendar.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature (1841), Foreward (Berlin, March 1841); in Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, pp. 29-31.


On the Ontological Proof

We might bring up for this occasion a theme that has well-nigh become notorious, namely, the proofs of the existence of God. Hegel has turned all these theological demonstrations upside-down, that is, he has rejected them in order to justify them. What kind of clients are those whom the defending lawyer can only save from conviction by killing them himself? For instance, Hegel interpreted the conclusion from the world to God as meaning: "Since the accidental does not exist, God or Absolute exists." [34] However, the theological demonstration is the opposite: "Since the accidental has true being, God exists." God is the guarantee for the world of the accidental. It is obvious that with this the opposite also has been stated.

The proofs of the existence of God are either mere hollow tautologies. Take for instance the ontological proof. This only means:

"that which I conceive for myself in a real way (realiter), is a real concept for me",

    something that works on me. In this sense all gods, the pagan as well as the Christian ones, have possessed a real existence. Did not the ancient Moloch reign? Was not the Delphic Apollo a real power in the life of the Greeks? Kant's critique [35] means nothing in this respect. If somebody imagines that he has a hundred talers, if this concept is not for him an arbitrary, subjective one, if he believes in it, then these hundred imagined talers have for him the same value as a hundred real ones. For instance, he will incur debts on the strength of his imagination, his imagination will work, in the same way as all humanity has incurred debts on its gods. The contrary is true. Kant's example might have enforced the ontological proof. Real talers have the same existence that the imagined gods have. Has a real taler any existence except in the imagination, if only in the general or rather common imagination of man? [36] Bring paper money into a country where this use of paper is unknown, and everyone will laugh at your subjective imagination. Come with your gods into a country where other gods are worshipped, and you will be shown to suffer from fantasies and abstractions. And justly so. He who would have brought a Wendic [37] god to the ancient Greeks would have found the proof of this god's non-existence. Indeed, for the Greeks he did not exist. That which a particular country is for particular alien gods, the country of reason is for God in general, a region in which he ceases to exist.

As to the second alternative, that such proofs are proofs of the existence of essential human self-consciousness, logical explanations of it, take for example the ontological proof. Which being is immediate when made the subject of thought? Self-consciousness.

Taken in this sense all proofs of the existence of God are proofs of his non-existence. They are refutations of all concepts of a God. The true proofs should have the opposite character: "Since nature has been badly constructed, God exists", "Because the world is without reason, therefore God exists", "Because there is no thought, there is God". But what does that say, except that, for whom the world appears without reason, hence who is without reason himself, for him God exists? Or lack of reason is the existence of God.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature (1841); Appendix: Critique of Plutarch's Polemic against the Theology of Epicurus (Berlin, March 1841); in Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, pp. 102-105.


On Religious Censorship

In the above-quoted Article II of the censorship decree it is stated:

"Its aim" (that of the censorship) "is to check all that is contrary to the general principles of religion, irrespective of the opinions and doctrines of individual religious parties and sects permitted in the state."

In 1819, rationalism still prevailed, which understood by religion in general the so-called religion of reason. This rationalist point of view is also that of the censorship decree, which at any rate is so inconsistent as to adopt the irreligious point of view while its aim is to protect religion. For it is already contrary to the general principles of religion to separate them from the positive content and particular features of religion, since each religion believes itself distinguished from the various other would-be religions by its special nature, and that precisely its particular features make it the true religion. In quoting Article II, the new censorship instruction omits the restrictive additional clause by which individual religious parties and sects are excluded from inviolability, but it does not stop at this and makes the following comment:

"Anything aimed in a frivolous, hostile way against the Christian religion in general, or against a particular article of faith, must not be tolerated."

The old censorship decree does not mention the Christian religion at all; on the contrary, it distinguishes between religion and all individual religious parties and sects. The new censorship instruction does not only convert religion in general into the Christian religion, but adds further a particular article of faith. A delightful product of our Christianised science! Who will still deny that it has forged new fetters for the press? Religion, it is said, must not be attacked, whether in general or in particular. Or do you perhaps believe that the words frivolous and hostile have made the new fetters into chains of roses? How adroitly it is written: frivolous, hostile! The adjective frivolous appeals to the citizen's sense of decorum, it is the exoteric word for the world at large, but the adjective hostile is whispered into the censor's ear, it is the legal interpretation of frivolity. We shall find in this instruction more examples of this subtle tact, which offers the public a subjective word that makes it blush and offers the censor an objective word that makes the author grow pale. In this way even lettres de cachet could be set to music.

And in what a remarkable contradiction the censorship instruction has entangled itself! It is only a half-hearted attack that is frivolous, one which keeps to individual aspects of a phenomenon, without being sufficiently profound and serious to touch the essence of the matter; it is precisely an attack on a merely particular feature as such that is frivolous. If, therefore, an attack on the Christian religion in general is forbidden, it follows that only a frivolous attack on it is permitted. On the other hand, an attack on the general principles of religion, on its essence, on a particular feature insofar as it is a manifestation of the essence, is a hostile attack. Religion can only be attacked in a hostile or a frivolous way, there is no third way. This inconsistency in which the instruction entangles itself is, of course, only a seeming one, for it depends on the semblance that in general some kind of attack on religion is still permitted. But an unbiassed glance suffices to realise that this semblance is only a semblance. Religion must not be attacked, whether in a hostile or a frivolous way, whether in general or in particular, therefore not at all.

But if the instruction, in open contradiction to the 1819 censorship decree, imposes new fetters on the philosophical press, it should at least be sufficiently consistent as to free the religious press from the old fetters imposed on it by the former rationalist decree. For it declares that the aim of the censorship is also

"to oppose fanatical transference of religious articles of faith into politics and the confusion of ideas resulting therefrom".

The new instruction, it is true, is clever enough not to mention this provision in its commentary, nevertheless it accepts it in citing Article II. What does fanatical transference of religious articles of faith into politics mean? It means making religious articles of faith, by their specific nature, a determining factor of the state; it means making the particular nature of a religion the measuring-rod of the state. The old censorship decree could rightly oppose this confusion of ideas, for it left a particular religion, its definite content, open to criticism. The old decree, however, was based on the shallow, superficial rationalism which you yourselves despised. But you, who base the state even in details on faith and Christianity, who want to have a Christian state, how can you still recommend the censorship to prevent this confusion of ideas?

The confusion of the political with the Christian-religious principle has indeed become official doctrine. We want to make this confusion clear in a few words. Speaking only of Christianity as the recognised religion, you have in your state Catholics and Protestants. Both make equal claims on the state, just as they have equal duties to it. They both leave their religious differences out of account and demand equally that the state should be the realisation of political and juridical reason. But you want a Christian state. If your state is only Lutheran-Christian, then for the Catholic it becomes a church to which he does not belong, which he must reject as heretical, and whose innermost essence is contrary to him. It is just the same the other way round. If, however, you make the general spirit of Christianity the particular spirit of your state, you nevertheless decide on the basis of your Protestant views what the general spirit of Christianity is. You define what a Christian state is, although the recent period has taught you that some government officials are unable to draw the line between the religious and the secular, between state and church. In regard to this confusion of ideas, it was not censors but diplomats who had, not to decide, but to negotiate. Finally, you are adopting a heretical point of view when you reject definite dogma as non-essential. If you call your state a general Christian state, you are admitting with a diplomatic turn of phrase that it is un-Christian. Hence either forbid religion to be introduced at all into politics - but you don't want that, for you want to base the state not on free reason, but on faith, religion being for you the general sanction for what exists - or allow also the fanatical introduction of religion into politics. Let religion concern itself with politics in its own way, but you don't want that either. Religion has to support the secular authority, without the latter subordinating itself to religion. Once you introduce religion into politics, it is intolerable, indeed irreligious, arrogance to want to determine secularly how religion has to act in political matters. He who wants to ally himself with religion owing to religious feelings must concede it the decisive voice in all questions, or do you perhaps understand by religion the cult of your own unlimited authority and governmental wisdom?

There is yet another way in which the orthodox spirit of the new censorship instruction comes into conflict with the rationalism of the old censorship decree. The latter includes under the aim of the censorship also suppression of "what offends against morality and good manners". The instruction reproduces this passage as a quotation from Article II. Its commentary, however, while making additions as regards religion, contains omissions as regards morality. Offending against morality and good manners becomes violation of "propriety and manners and external decorum". One sees: morality as such, as the principle of a world that obeys its own laws, disappears, and in place of the essence external manifestations make their appearance, police respectability, conventional decorum. Honour to whom honour is due, we recognise true consistency here. The specifically Christian legislator cannot recognise morality as an independent sphere that is sacrosanct in itself, for he claims that its inner general essence belongs to religion. Independent morality offends against the general principles of religion, but the particular concepts of religion conflict with morality. Morality recognises only its own universal and rational religion, and religion recognises only its particular positive morality. Hence, according to this instruction, the censorship must reject the intellectual heroes of morality, such as Kant, Fichte and Spinoza, as irreligious, as violating propriety, manners, and external decorum. All these moralists start out from a contradiction in principle between morality and religion, for morality is based on the autonomy of the human mind, religion on its heteronomy. Let us turn from these undesirable innovations of the censorship—on the one hand, the weakening of its moral conscience, on the other hand, the rigorous heightening of its religious conscience—to what is more welcome, the concessions.

*   *   *

[. . . .] Thus the instruction wants to protect religion, but it violates the most general principle of all religions, the sanctity and inviolability of the subjective frame of mind. It makes the censor instead of God the judge of the heart. Thus it prohibits offensive utterances and defamatory judgments on individuals, but it exposes you every day to the defamatory and offensive judgment of the censor. [. . . .]

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. "Comments on the Latest Prussian Censorship Instruction" [written between January 15 & February 10, 1842], Anekdota zur neuesten deutschen Philosophie und Publicistik, Bd. I, 1843; translation published in Marx Engels Collected Works, Volume 1 (New York: International Publishers, 1975).


The Leading Article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung [excerpts]

[. . . . Includes reference to and extract from Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods . . . .]

And what need is there of censorship, what need is there of this leading article, if the philosophical press discredits itself in the eyes of the public? Of course, the author does not want to restrict in any way “the freedom of scientific research”.

“In our day, scientific research is rightly allowed the widest, most unrestricted scope. “

But how our author conceives scientific research can he seen from the following utterance:

“In this connection a sharp distinction must he drawn between the requirements of freedom of scientific research, through which Christianity can only gain, and what lies outside the limits of scientific research."

Who is to decide on the limits of scientific research if not scientific research itself? According to the leading article, limits should be prescribed to science. The leading article, therefore, knows of an "official reason” which does not learn from scientific research, but teaches it, which is a learned providence that establishes the length every hair should have to convert a scientist's beard into a beard of world importance. The leading article believes in the scientific inspiration of the censorship.

Before going further into these “silly” explanations of the leading article on the subject of “scientific research”, let us sample for a moment the "philosophy of religion” of Herr H., [Hermes] his “own science"!

“Religion is the basis of the state and the most necessary condition for every social association which does not aim merely at achieving some external aim."

The proof. "In its crudest form as childish fetishism it nevertheless to some extent raises man above his sensuous desires which, if he allowed himself to he ruled exclusively by them, could degrade him to the level of an animal and make him incapable of fulfilling any higher aim."

The author of the leading article calls fetishism the "crudest form” of religion. He concedes, therefore, what all “men of science” regard as established even without his agreement, that “animal worship” is a higher form of religion than fetishism. But does not animal worship degrade man below the animal, does it not make the animal man's god?

And now, indeed, “fetishism"! Truly, the erudition of a penny magazine! Fetishism is so far from raising man above his sensuous desires that, on the contrary, it is “the religion of sensuous desire”. Fantasy arising from desire deceives the fetish-worshipper into believing that an “inanimate object” will give up its natural character in order to comply with his desires. Hence the crude desire of the fetish-worshipper smashes the fetish when it ceases to be its most obedient servant.

“In those nations which attained higher historical significance, the flowering of their national life coincides with the highest development of their religious consciousness, and the decline of their greatness and their power coincides with the decline of their religious culture."

To arrive at the truth, the author's assertion must be directly reversed; he has stood history on its head. Among the peoples of the ancient world, Greece and Rome are certainly countries of the highest “historical culture”. Greece flourished at its best internally in the time of Pericles, externally in the time of Alexander. In the age of Pericles the Sophists, and Socrates, who could be called the embodiment of philosophy, art and rhetoric supplanted religion. The age of Alexander was the age of Aristotle, who rejected the eternity of the “individual” spirit and the God of positive religions. And as for Rome! Read Cicero! The Epicurean, Stoic or Sceptic philosophies were the religions of cultured Romans when Rome had reached the zenith of its development. That with the downfall of the ancient states their religions also disappeared requires no further explanation, for the “true religion” of the ancients was the cult of “their nationality”, of their “state”. It was not the downfall of the old religions that caused the downfall of the ancient states, but the downfall of the ancient states that caused the downfall of the old religions. And such ignorance as is found in this leading article proclaims itself the “legislator of scientific research” and writes “decrees” for philosophy.

“The entire ancient world had to collapse because the progress achieved by the peoples in their scientific development was necessarily bound up with a revelation of the errors on which their religious views were based."

According to the leading article, therefore, the entire ancient world collapsed because scientific research revealed the errors of the old religions. Would the ancient world not have perished if scientific research had kept silent about the errors of religion, if the Roman authorities had been recommended by the author of the leading article to excise the writings of Lucretius and Lucian?

For the rest, we shall permit ourselves to enlarge Herr H.'s erudition in another communication.

Rheinische Zeitung No. 193, July 12, 1842, Supplement

At the very time when the downfall of the ancient world was approaching, there arose the Alexandrine school, which strove to prove by force the “eternal truth” of Greek mythology and its complete agreement “with the results of scientific research”. The Emperor Julian, too, belonged to this trend, which believed that it could make the newly developing spirit of the times disappear by keeping its eyes closed so as not to see it. However, let us continue with the conclusion arrived at by H.! In the old religions, “the feeble notion of the divine was shrouded in the blackest night of error”, and therefore could not stand up to scientific research. Under Christianity, the opposite is the case, as any thinking machine will conclude. At all events, H. says:

"The greatest results of scientific research have so far only served to confirm the truths of the Christian religion."

We leave aside the fact that all the philosophies of the past without exception have been accused by the theologians of abandoning the Christian religion, even those of the pious Malebranche and the divinely inspired Jakob Böhme, and that Leibniz was accused of being a “Löwenix” (a believer in nothing) by the Brunswick peasants, and of being an atheist by the Englishman Clarke and other supporters of Newton. We leave aside, too, the fact that, as the most capable and consistent section of Protestant theologians has maintained, Christianity cannot he reconciled with reason because “secular” and “spiritual” reason contradict each other, which Tertullian classically expressed by saying: “verum est, quia absurdum est”. [It is true because it is absurd] Leaving aside all this, we ask: how is the agreement of scientific research with religion to be proved, except by allowing it to take its own course and so compelling it to resolve itself into religion? Any other compulsion is at least no proof.

Of course, if from the outset you recognise as the result of scientific research only that which agrees with your own view, it is easy to pose as a prophet. But in that case how are your assertions superior to those of the Indian Brahmin who proves the holiness of the Vedas” by reserving to himself alone the right to read them?

Yes, says H., it is a question of “scientific research”. But every research that contradicts Christianity “stops halfway” or “takes a wrong road”. Could there be a more convenient way of arguing?

Scientific research, once it has “made clear' to itself the content of its results, will never conflict with the truths of Christianity”. At the same time, however, the state must ensure that this “clarification” is impossible, for research must never adapt itself to the level of understanding of the broad mass, i. e., it must never become popular and clear to itself. Even when it is attacked by unscientific investigators in all newspapers of the monarchy, it must be modest and remain silent.

Christianity precludes the possibility of “any new decline”, but the police must be on their guard to see that philosophising newspaper writers do not bring about such a decline; they must guard against this with the utmost strictness. In the struggle with truth, error will of itself be recognised as such, without the need of any suppression by external force; but the state must facilitate this struggle of the truth, not, indeed, by depriving the champions of “error” of inner freedom, which it cannot take away from them, but by depriving them of the possibility of this freedom, the possibility of existence.

Christianity is sure of its victory, but according to H. it is not so sure of it as to spurn the aid of the police.

If from the outset everything that contradicts your faith is error, and has to be treated as error, what distinguishes your claims from those of the Mohammedan or of any other religion? Should philosophy, in order not to contradict the basic tenets of dogma, adopt different principles in each country, in accordance with the saying “every country has its own customs"? Should it believe in one country that 3 x 1 = 1, in another that women have no souls, and in a third that beer is drunk in heaven? Is there no universal human nature, as there is a universal nature of plants and stars? Philosophy asks what is true, not what is held to be true. It asks what is true for all mankind, not what is true for some people. Its metaphysical truths do not recognise the boundaries of political geography; its political truths know too well where the “bounds” begin for it to confuse the illusory horizon of a particular world or national outlook with the true horizon of the human mind. Of all the defenders of Christianity, H. is the weakest.

The long existence of Christianity is his sole proof in its favour. But has not philosophy also existed from Thales down to the present day, and indeed does not H. himself assert that it now puts forward greater claims and has a higher opinion of its importance than ever before?

Finally, how does H. prove that the state is a “Christian” state, that its aim is not a free association of moral human beings, but an association of believers, not the realisation of freedom, but the realisation of dogma?

“All our European states have Christianity as their basis."

The French state too? The Charter, Article 3, does not say: “every Chfistian” or “only a Christian”, but:

"tous la Français sont également admissibles aux emplois civiles et militaires”. [All Frenchmen are equally eligible for civil and military posts.]

Prussian Law, too, Part II, Section XIII, says:

“The primary duty of the head of state is to maintain tranquillity and security, both internally and externally, and to protect everyone from violence and interference in regard to what belongs to him."

According to § 1, the head of state combines in his person all the “duties and rights of the state”. It does not say that the primary duty of the state is to suppress heretical errors and to ensure citizens the bliss of the other world.

But if some European states are in fact based on Christianity, do these states correspond to their concept and is the “pure existence” of a condition the right of that condition to exist?

According to the view of our H., of course, this is the case, for he reminds adherents of Young Hegelianism

“that, according to the laws which are in force in the greater part of the state, a marriage without consecration by the church is regarded as concubinage and as such is punishable under police regulations”.

Therefore, if “marriage without consecration by the church” is regarded on the Rhine as “marriage” according to the Napoleonic Code, but on the Spree as “concubinage” according to Prussian Law, then punishment “under police regulations” ought to be an argument for philosophers that what is right in one place is wrong in another, that it is not the Napoleonic Code, but Prussian law which has the scientific, moral and rational conception of marriage. This “philosophy of punishment under police regulations” may be convincing in some places, but it is not convincing in Prussia. Furthermore, how little the standpoint of “holy” marriage coincides with that of Prussian Law can be seen from § 12, Part II, Section I, which states:

“Nevertheless, a marriage which is permitted by the laws of the land loses none of its civil validity because the dispensation of the spiritual authorities has not been sought or has been refused."

Hence in Prussia, too, marriage is partially emancipated from the “spiritual authorities” and its “civil” validity is distinguished from its “ecclesiastical” validity.

That our great Christian philosopher of the state has no “high” opinion of the state goes without saying.

“Since our states are not merely legal associations, but at the same time true educational institutions, with the only difference that they extend their care to a wider circle than the institutions devoted to the education of youth”, etc., “the whole of public education” rests “on the basis of Christianity”.

The education of our school youth is based just as much on the ancient classics and the sciences in general as on the catechism.

[. . . .]

In the same way that the leading article gives documentary evidence of its “inferior” opinion of the state, so it does now of its low opinion of “Christianity."

“All the newspaper articles in the world will never be able to convince a people which on the whole feels well and happy that it is in an unfortunate condition."

We should think so! The Material feeling of well-being and happiness is a more reliable bulwark against newspaper articles then the blissful and all-conquering trust in faith! H. does not sing: “A reliable fortress is our God.” [Martin Luther's choral, Ein Feste Burg] According to him, the truly believing disposition of the “broad masses” is more exposed to the rust of doubt than the refined worldly culture of the “few"!

“Even incitements to revolt” are less feared by H. “in a well-ordered state” than in a “well-ordered church”, which, moreover, is guided in all truth by the “spirit of God”. A fine believer he is! And now for the reason for it! Namely, the masses can understand political articles but they find philosophical articles incomprehensible!

Finally, if the hint in the leading article that “the half measures adopted recently against Young Hegelianism have had the usual consequences of half measures” is put alongside the ingenuous wish that the latest efforts of the Hegelings may pass “without altogether harmful consequences”, one can understand the words of Cornwall in King Lear.

[. . . .]

Rheinische Zeitung No. 195, July 14, 1842, Supplement

First of all, the question is raised: “Ought philosophy to discuss religious matters also in newspaper articles?"

This question can be answered only by criticising it.

Philosophy, especially German philosophy, has an urge for isolation, for systematic seclusion, for dispassionate self-examination which from the start places it in estranged contrast to the quick-witted and alive-to-events newspapers, whose only delight is in information. Philosophy, taken in its systematic development, is unpopular; its secret life within itself seems to the layman a pursuit as extravagant as it is unpractical, it is regarded as a professor of magic arts, whose incantations sound awe-inspiring because no one understands them.

True to its nature, philosophy has never taken the first step towards exchanging the ascetic frock of the priest for the light, conventional garb of the newspapers. However, philosophers do not spring up like mushrooms out of the ground; they are products of their time, of their nation, whose most subtle, valuable and invisible juices flow in the ideas of philosophy. The same spirit that constructs railways with the hands of workers, constructs philosophical systems in the brains of philosophers. Philosophy does not exist outside the world, any more than the brain exists outside man because it is not situated in the stomach. But philosophy, of course, exists in the world through the brain before it stands with its feet on the ground, whereas many other spheres of human activity have long had their feet rooted in the ground and pluck with their hands the fruits of the world before they have any inkling that the “head” also belongs to this world, or that this world is the world of the head.

Since every true philosophy is the intellectual quintessence of its time, the time must come when philosophy not only internally by its content, but also externally through its form, comes into contact and interaction with the real world of its day. Philosophy then ceases to be a particular system in relation to other particular systems, it becomes philosophy in general in relation to the world, it becomes the philosophy of the contemporary world. The external forms which confirm that philosophy has attained this significance, that it is the living soul of culture, that philosophy has become worldly and the world has become philosophical, have been the same in all ages. One can consult any history book and find repeated with stereotyped fidelity the simplest rituals which unmistakably mark the penetration of philosophy into salons, priests' studies, editorial offices of newspapers and court antechambers, into the love and the hate of contemporaries. Philosophy comes into the world amid the loud cries of its enemies, who betray their inner infection by wild shouts for help against the fiery ardour of ideas. This cry of its enemies has the same significance for philosophy as the first cry of the new-born babe has for the anxiously listening ear of the mother: it is the cry testifying to the life of its ideas, which have burst the orderly hieroglyphic husk of the system and become citizens of the world. The Corybantes and Cabiri, whose loud fanfares announce to the world the birth of the infant Zeus, attack first of all the religious section of the philosophers, partly because the inquisitorial instinct is more certain to have an appeal for the sentimental side of the public, partly because the public, which includes also the opponents of philosophy, can feel the sphere of philosophical ideas only by means of its ideal antennae, and the only circle of ideas in the value of which the public believes almost as much as in the system of material needs is the circle of religious ideas; and finally because religion polemises not against a particular system of philosophy, but against the philosophy of all particular systems.

The true philosophy of the present day does not differ from the true philosophies of the past by this destiny. On the contrary, this destiny is a proof which history owed to its truth.

For six years German newspapers have been drumming against, calumniating, distorting and bowdlerising the religious trend in philosophy. The Augsburg Allgemeine sang bravura arias, almost every overture played the leitmotif, to the effect that philosophy did not deserve to be discussed by this wise lady, that it was a rodomontade of youth, a fashion of blase coteries. But, in spite of all this, it was impossible to get away from philosophy, and the drumming was continually renewed, for the Augsburg paper plays only one instrument in its anti-philosophical cat's concert, the monotonous kettle-drum. All German newspapers, from the Berliner politisches Wochenblatt and the Hamburger Correspondent down to the obscure local newspapers, down to the Kölnische Zeitung, reverberated with the names of Hegel and Schelling, Feuerbach and Bauer, the Deutsche fahrbücher, etc. Finally, the public became eager to see the Leviathan itself, the more so because semi-official articles threatened to have a legal syllabus officially prescribed for philosophy, and it was precisely then that philosophy made its appearance in the newspapers. For a long time philosophy had remained silent in the face of the self-satisfied superficiality which boasted that by means of a few hackneyed newspaper phrases it would blow away like soap-bubbles the long years of study by genius, the hard-won fruits of self-sacrificing solitude, the results of the unseen but slowly exhausting struggles of contemplative thought. Philosophy had even protested against the newspapers as an unsuitable arena, but finally it had to break its silence; it became a newspaper correspondent, and then-unheard-of diversion! — it suddenly occurred to the loquacious purveyors of newspapers that philosophy was not a fitting pabulum for their readers. They could not fail to bring to the notice of the governments that it was dishonest to introduce philosophical and, religious questions into the sphere of the newspapers not for the enlightenment of the public but to achieve external aims.

What could philosophy say about religion or about itself that would be worse than your newspaper hullabaloo had already long ago attributed to it in a worse and more frivolous form? It only has to repeat what you unphilosophical Capuchins preach about it in thousands and thousands of controversial speeches — and the worst will have been said.

But philosophy speaks about religious and philosophical matters in a different way than you have spoken about them. You speak without having studied them, philosophy speaks after studying them; you appeal to the emotions, it appeals to reason; you anathematise, it teaches; you promise heaven and earth, it promises nothing but the truth; you demand belief in your beliefs, it .demands not belief in its results but the testing of doubts; you frighten, it calms. And, in truth, philosophy has enough knowledge of the world to realise that its results do not flatter the pleasure-seeking and egoism of either the heavenly or the earthly world. But the public, which loves truth and knowledge for their own sakes, will be well able to measure its judgment and morality against the judgment and morality of ignorant, servile, inconsistent and venal scribblers.

Of course, there may be some persons who misinterpret philosophy owing to the wretchedness of their understanding and attitude. But do not you Protestants believe that Catholics misinterpret Christianity, do you not reproach the Christian religion on account of the shameful times of the eighth and ninth centuries, or St. Bartholomew's night, or the Inquisition? There is clear proof that Protestant theology's hatred of philosophers arises largely from the tolerance shown by philosophy towards each particular creed as such. Feuerbach and Strauss have been more reproached for regarding Catholic dogmas as Christian than for declaring that the dogmas of Christianity are not dogmas o reason.

But if some individuals cannot digest modern philosophy and die of philosophical indigestion, that is no more evidence against philosophy than the occasional bursting of an engine boiler, with consequent injury to passengers, is evidence against the science of mechanics.

The question whether philosophical and religious matters ought to be discussed in the newspapers dissolves in its own lack of ideas.

When such questions begin to interest the public as questions for newspapers, they have become questions of the time. Then the problem is not whether they should be discussed, but where and how they should be discussed, whether in inner circles of the families and the salons, in schools and churches, but not by the press; by opponents of philosophy, but not by philosophers; in the obscure language of private opinion, but not in the clarifying language of public reason. Then the question is whether the sphere of the press should include what exists as a reality; it is no longer a matter of a particular content of the press, but of the general question whether the press ought to be a genuine press, i.e., a free press.

The second question we separate entirely from the first: “Should the newspapers treat politics philosophically in a so-called Christian state?"

When religion becomes a political factor, a subject-matter of politics, it hardly needs to be said that the newspapers not only may, but must discuss political questions. It seems obvious that philosophy, the wisdom of the world, has a greater right to concern itself with the realm of this world, with the state, than has the wisdom of the other world, religion. The question here is not whether there should be any philosophising about the state, but whether this should be done well or badly, philosophically or unphilosophically, with or without prejudice, with or without consciousness, consistently or inconsistency, quite rationally or semi-rationally. If you make religion into a theory of constitutional law, then you are making religion itself into a kind of philosophy.

Was it not Christianity above all that separated church and state?

Read St. Augustine's De civitate Dei, study the Fathers of the Church and the spirit of Christianity, and then come back and tell us whether the state or the church is the “Christian state"! Or does not every moment of your practical life brand your theory as a lie? Do you consider it wrong to appeal to the courts if you have been cheated? But the apostle writes that it is wrong. If you have been struck on one cheek, do you turn the other also, or do you not rather start an action for assault? But the gospel forbids it. Do you not demand rational right in this world, do you not grumble at the slightest raising of taxes, are you not beside yourself at the least infringement of your personal liberty? But you have been told that suffering in this life is not to be compared with the bliss of the future, that passive sufferance and blissful hope are the cardinal virtues.

Are not most of your court cases and most of your civil laws concerned with property? But you have been told that your treasure is not of this world. Or if you plead that you render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's, then you should regard not only golden Mammon, but at least as much free reason, as the ruler of this world, and the “action of free reason” is what we call philosophising.

When it was proposed to form a quasi-religious union of states in the shape of the Holy Alliance and to make religion the state emblem of Europe, the Pope, with profound intelligence and perfect consistency, refused to join it, on the grounds that the universal Christian link between peoples is the church and not diplomacy, not a secular union of states.

The truly religious state is the theocratic state; the head of such states must he either the God of religion, Jehovah himself, as in the Jewish state, or God's representative, the Dalai Lama, as in Tibet, or finally, as Görres rightly demands in his recent book, all the Christian states must subordinate themselves to a church which is an “infallible church”. For where, as under Protestantism, there is no supreme head of the church, the rule of religion is nothing but the religion of rule, the cult of the government's will.

Once a state includes several creeds having equal rights, it can no longer be a religious state without being a violation of the rights of the particular creeds, a church which condemns all adherents of a different creed as heretics, which makes every morsel of bread depend on one's faith, and which makes dogma the link between individuals and their existence as citizens of the state. Ask the Catholic inhabitants of “poor green Erin”,' ask the Huguenots before the French revolution; they did not appeal to religion, for their religion was not the state religion; they appealed to the “Rights of Humanity”, and philosophy interprets the rights of humanity and demands that the state should he a state of human nature.

But, according to the assertions of half-hearted, narrow-minded rationalism, which is in equal measure unbelieving and theological, the general spirit of Christianity, irrespective of differences of creed, should be the spirit of the state! It is the greatest irreligion, it is the arrogance of secular reason, to divorce the general spirit of religion from actually existing religion. This separation of religion from its dogmas and institutions is tantamount to asserting that the general spirit of the law ought to prevail in the state irrespective of particular laws and positive legal institutions.

If you presume yourself raised so high above religion that you are entitled to separate its general spirit from its positive provisions, how can you reproach the philosophers if they carry out this separation completely and not halfway, if they call the general spirit of religion the human spirit, and not the Christian spirit?

Christians live in states with different political constitutions, some in a republic, others in an absolute monarchy, and others again in a constitutional monarchy. Christianity does not decide whether the constitutions are good, for it knows no distinction between them. It teaches, as religion is bound to teach: submit to authority, for all authority is from God. Therefore, you must judge the rightfulness of state constitutions not on the basis of Christianity, but on the basis of the state's own nature and essence, not on the basis of the nature of Christian society, but on the basis of the nature of human society.

The Byzantine state was the real religious state, for in it dogmas were questions of state, but the Byzantine state was the worst of states. The states of the ancien régime were the most Christian states of all; nevertheless, they were states dependent on the “will of the court”.

There exists a dilemma in the face of which “common” sense is powerless.

Either the Christian state corresponds to the concept of the state as the realisation of rational freedom, and then the state only needs to be a rational state in order to he a Christian state and it suffices to derive the state from the rational character of human relations, a task which philosophy accomplishes; or the state of rational freedom cannot be derived from Christianity, and then you yourself will admit that this derivation is not intended by Christianity, since it does not want a bad state, and a state that is not the realisation of rational freedom is a bad state.

You may solve this dilemma in whatever way you like, you will have to admit that the state must be built on the basis of free reason, and not of religion. Only the crassest ignorance could assert that this theory, the. conversion of the concept of the state into an independent concept, is a passing whim of recent philosophers.

In the political sphere, philosophy has done nothing that physics, mathematics, medicine, and every science, have not done in their respective spheres. Bacon of Verulam said that theological physics was a virgin dedicated to God and barren, he emancipated physics from theology and it became fertile. just as you do not ask the physician whether he is a believer, you have no reason to ask the politician either. Immediately before and after the time of Copernicus' great discovery of the true solar system, the law of gravitation of the state was discovered, its own gravity was found in the state itself. The various European governments tried, in the superficial way of first practical attempts, to apply this result in order to establish a system of equilibrium of states. Earlier, however, Machiavelli and Campanella, and later Hobbes, Spinoza, Hugo Grotius, right down to Rousseau, Fichte and Hegel, began to regard the state through human eyes and to deduce its natural laws from reason and experience, and not from theology. In so doing, they were as little deterred as Copernicus was by the fact that Joshua bade the sun stand still over Gideon and the moon in the valley of Ajalon. Recent philosophy has only continued the work begun by Heraclitus and Aristotle. You wage a polemic, therefore, not against the rational'character of recent philosophy, but against the ever new philosophy of reason. Of course, the ignorance. which perhaps only yesterday or the day before yesterday discovered for the first time age-old ideas about the state in the Rheinische or the Königsberger Zeitung, regards these ideas of history as having suddenly occurred to certain individuals overnight, because they are new to it and reached it only overnight; it forgets that it itself is assuming the old role of the doctor of the Sorbonne who considered it his duty to accuse Montesquieu publicly of being so frivolous as to declare that the supreme merit of the state was political, not ecclesiastical, virtue. It forgets that it is assuming the role of Joachim Lange, who denounced Wolff on the ground that his doctrine of predestination would lead to desertion by the soldiers and thus the weakening of military discipline, and in the long run the collapse of the state. Finally, it forgets that Prussian Law was derived from the philosophical school of precisely “this Wolff”, and that the French Napoleonic Code was derived not from the Old Testament, but from the school of ideas of Voltaire, Rousseau, Condorcet, Mirabeau, and Montesquieu, and from the French revolution. Ignorance is a demon, we fear that it will yet be the cause of many a tragedy; the greatest Greek poets rightly depicted it as tragic fate in the soul-shattering dramas of the royal houses of Mycenae and Thebes.

Whereas the earlier philosophers of constitutional law proceeded in their account of the formation of the state from the instincts, either of ambition or gregariousness, or even from reason, though not social reason, but the reason of the individual, the more ideal and profound view of recent philosophy proceeds from the idea of the whole. It looks on the state as the great organism, in which legal, moral, and political freedom must be realised, and in which the individual citizen in obeying the laws of the state only obeys the natural laws of his own reason, of human reason. Sapienti sat.

In conclusion, we turn once more to the Kölnische Zeitung with a few philosophical words of farewell. It was very sensible of it to take a liberal “of a former day” into its service. One can very conveniently be both liberal and reactionary if only one is always adroit enough to address oneself to the liberals of the recent past who know no other dilemma than that of Vidocq: either “prisoner or gaoler”. It was still more sensible for the liberals of the recent past to join issue with the liberals of the present time. Without parties there is no development, without demarcation there is no progress. We hope that the leading article in No. 179 has opened a new era for the Kölnische Zeitung, the era of character.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. “The Leading Article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung” [written June 29 -July 4, 1842], Supplement to Rheinische Zeitung Nos. 191, 193 + 195, July 10, 12 + 14, 1842; translation published in Marx Engels Collected Works, Volume 1 (New York: International Publishers, 1975), p. 184.


Yet Another Word on Bruno Bauer und die Aakadmische Lehrfreiheit by Dr. O. F. Gruppe, Berlin, 1842

[. . . .]

It would be contrary to our view of comic characters to waste an extensive critical apparatus on Herr Gruppe. Who wants a critical account of Eulenspiegel? Anecdotes are wanted, and we give an anecdote about Herr Gruppe which is the anecdote of his pamphlet. It concerns Bauer's exposition of St. Matthew 12: 38-42. The kind reader will have to put up with theological matters for an instant, but he will not forget that it is our purpose to deal with Herr Gruppe and not with theology. He will find it only fair that the characteristic features of Bauer's opponents should he brought to the notice of the newspaper public, since Bauer's character and teaching has been made a newspaper myth.

We shall quote the passage in question from St. Matthew in its entirety.

“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

“But he answered and said unto them. An evil and adulterous. generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here."

The Protestant theologians were struck by the contradiction that Jesus here rejects miracles, whereas otherwise he performs miracles. They were struck by the even greater contradiction that at the very time when the Lord refuses the demand for a miracle, he promises a miracle, and indeed a great miracle, his three days' stay in the underworld.

Since the Protestant theologians are too ungodly to admit a contradiction of the scripture with their understanding, since they are too sanctimonious to admit a contradiction of their understanding with the scripture, they falsify, distort and twist the clear words and the simple meaning of the scripture. They maintain that Jesus here does not counterpose his teaching and his spiritual personality to the demand for a sign; they maintain that

“he is speaking of the whole of his manifestation, which is more than the manifestation of Solomon and of Jonas, and of which 'in particular' his miracle also were a part”.

By the most thoroughgoing exegesis, Bauer proves to them the absurdity of this explanation. He quotes for them St. Luke [11: 29-30], in which the troublesome passage about the whale and the three days' stay under the earth is missing. It says:

“This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation”;

upon which St. Luke makes the Lord relate how the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonas and the queen of the south came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Bauer shows that the crux is given still more simply in St. Mark [8: 12-13].

“Why,” says Jesus, “cloth this generation seek after a sign? verify I say unto you, There shall no sign he given unto this generation. And he left them."

Bauer comes out against the theologians' false interpretation and arbitrary distortion of the texts, and he refers them to what is actually written by once more summing up the meaning of Jesus' speech in the following words:

Keep away from me, theologian! For, it is written: a greater than Jonas is here, a greater than Solomon that is to say, the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonas, the queen of the south came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. But you have given no credence to my words, to my speech, yet these words are the expression of a personality, whose spiritual compass is infinite, whereas the personalities of Jonas and Solomon were still limited. But so it shall be, only the sign of Jonas shall he given to you, you shall not see any other sign than this my person and its expression, even if infinite, in the word."

After presenting Jesus' speech in this way, Bauer adds:

“Where then in particular are the miracles?"

And Herr Gruppe? Herr Gruppe says:

“'The most unusual thing in this connection is that Bauer in his own baroque manner presents himself as a prophet. On p. 296 we read the emphatic passage: keep away from me, theologian!” etc. (p. 20).

Herr Gruppe is so shameless as to want to make the reader believe that Bauer is speaking about himself, that he is making himself out to he the infinite personality, whereas Bauer is explaining Jesus' speech. Much as we might like to, we cannot excuse this qui pro quo, this Eulenspiegel trick, as due to Herr Gruppe's notorious weakness of intellect and dilettantist ignorance. Ale deception is obvious. It is not merely that Herr Gruppe does not tell the reader what it is all about. We might still think that the dilettante had accidentally opened Bauer's work at p. 296 and in the happy-go-lucky haste of compiling his book did not have time to read the preceding and following statements. But Herr Gruppe suppresses the conclusion of the “emphatic passage”; the conclusion, which is beyond all possible misunderstanding: “But so it shall be, only the sign of Jonas shall be given to you, you shall not see any other sign than this my person and its expression, even if infinite, in the word. Where then 'in particular' are the miracles?"

Herr Gruppe was aware that even the biassed reader, the reader who was so foolish as to look for Bauer not in Bauer's writings, but in the writings of Herr Gruppe, could not fail to he convinced that Bauer was not speaking on his own account, but that he was saying what is written. Disregarding all other absurdities, what else could have been implied by the words “Where then in particular are the miracles?"

We doubt whether German literature has a similar specimen of shamelessness to offer.

Herr Gruppe says in his foreword:

“During my work it has become increasingly evident to me that we are living in an age of rhetoricians and sophists” (p. iv).

If this is meant to he a confession, we must seriously protest against it. Herr Gruppe is neither a rhetorician nor a sophist. Until the period of his pamphlet on Bauer, he was a comical character, he was a rogue in the naive sense; since then he has lost nothing but his naivety, and hence he is now — but let his conscience tell him that. For the rest, Bauer can regard it an acknowledgment of his intellectual superiority that he could be opposed only by men so low in intelligence and so remote from any superiority that he could hit them only by allowing himself to fall to their level.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl [signed: K. M.]. “Yet Another Word on Bruno Bauer und die Aakadmische Lehrfreiheit by Dr. O. F. Gruppe, Berlin, 1842” [written September 1842]  Deutsche fahrbücher für Wissenschaft und Kunst, 5. jg., No.- 273, November 16, 1842; translation published in Marx Engels Collected Works, Volume 1 (New York: International Publishers, 1975), p. 211.


Renard’s Letter to Oberpräsident Von Schaper

[. . . .]

As to the alleged irreligious tendency of the :Rh. Ztg., it cannot be unknown to the supreme authorities that in regard to the content of a certain positive creed-and it is a question only of this and not of religion, which we have never attacked and never will attack-the whole of Germany, and especially Prussia, is divided into two camps, both of which include among their champions men occupying high positions in science and the state. In an unresolved controversy, should a newspaper take neither side or only one that has been officially prescribed to it? Moreover, we have never gone outside the terrain proper to a newspaper, but have touched on dogmas such as church doctrines and conditions in general only insofar as other newspapers make religion into constitutional law and transfer it from its own sphere into that of politics. It will even be easy to cover each of our utterances with the similar and stronger utterances of a Prussian king, Frederick the Great, and we consider this authority to be one which Prussian publicists may very well invoke.

[. . . .]

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. “Renard’s Letter to Oberpräsident Von Schaper” [written November 17, 1842], in Rheinische Briefe und Akten zur Geschichte der politischen Bewegung 1830-1850, 1. Bd., Herausgegehen von Hansen, Essen, 1919; translation published in Marx Engels Collected Works, Volume 1 (New York: International Publishers, 1975), p. 282.


Atheism vs. Skepticism in Antiquity

The Sceptics reduced the theoretical relation of people to things to appearance, and in practice they left everything as of old, being guided by this appearance just as much as others are guided by actuality; they merely gave it another name. Epicurus, on the other hand, was the true radical Enlightener of antiquity; he openly attacked the ancient religion, and it was from him, too, that the atheism of the Romans, insofar as it existed, was derived. For this reason, too, Lucretius praised Epicurus as the hero who was the first to overthrow the gods and trample religion underfoot; for this reason among all church fathers, from Plutarch to Luther, Epicurus has always had the reputation of being the atheist philosopher par excellence, and was called a swine; for which reason, too, Clement of Alexandria says that when Paul takes up arms against philosophy he has in mind Epicurean philosophy alone. (Stromatum, Book I [chap. XI], p. 295, Cologne edition, 1688.) Hence we see how “cunning, perfidious” and “clever” was the attitude of this open atheist to the world in directly attacking its religion, while the Stoics adapted the ancient religion in their own speculative fashion, and the Sceptics used their concept of “appearance” as the excuse for being able to accompany all their judgments with a reservatio mentalis.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich. The German Ideology (1845-6), Vol. I, Chapter III: Saint Max, section 1.3: The Ancients. See also my compilation, Marx & Engels on Skepticism & Praxis.


The Social Principles of Christianity

The social principles of Christianity have now had eighteen hundred years to be developed, and need no further development by Prussian Consistorial Counsellors.

The social principles of Christianity justified the slavery of antiquity, glorifies the serfdom of the Middle Ages and are capable, in case of need, of defending the oppression of the proletariat, with somewhat doleful grimaces.

The social principles of Christianity preach the necessity of a ruling and an oppressed class, and for the latter all they have to offer is the pious wish that the former may be charitable.

The social principles of Christianity place the Consistorial Counsellor’s compensation for all infamies in heaven, and thereby justify the continuation of these infamies on earth.

The social principles of Christianity declare all the vile acts of the oppressors against the oppressed to be either a just punishment for original sin and other sins, or trials which the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, ordains for the redeemed.

The social principles of Christianity preach cowardice, self-contempt, abasement, submissiveness and humbleness, in short, all the qualities of the rabble, and the proletariat, which will not permit itself to be treated as rabble, needs its courage, its self-confidence, its pride and its sense of independence even more than its bread.

The social principles of Christianity are sneaking and hypocritical, and the proletariat is revolutionary.

So much for the social principles of Christianity.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. "The Communism of the Rheinischer Beobachter" [written 5 September 1847], Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, 12 September 1847, in Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 6, pp. 220-234.


Review of Religion of the New Age

[ . . . . ] It [part 2 of the book] voices all the annoyance of the German philosopher over the oblivion into which his struggles against Christianity have fallen, over the people's indifference towards religion, the only object worthy to be considered by the philosopher. To restore credit to his trade, which has been ousted by competition, all our world-wise man can do is to invent a new religion, after long barking against the old. But this new religion is confined, in accordance with the first part, to a continuation of the anthology of maxims, album verses and versus memoriales [memorial verses] of German philistine culture. The suras of the new Koran are nothing but a series of phrases morally palliating and poetically embellishing the existing German conditions—phrases which, though divested of the immediately religious form, are none the less interwoven with the old religion.

"Completely new world conditions and world relations can arise only through new religions. Examples and proofs of what religions are capable of are Christianity and Islam; most clear acid palpable evidence of the powerlessness and futility of abstract, exclusive politics are the movements started in the year 1848." (Vol. I, p.313.)

This weighty proposition immediately brings out the shallowness and ignorance of the German "thinker" who takes the small German and specifically Bavarian "March achievements" for the European movement of 1848 and 1849 and who demands that the first, in themselves very superficial, eruptions of a gradually developing and concentrating major revolution should bring forth "completely new world conditions and world relations". The "world-wise" Daumer reduces the whole complicated social struggle, the first skirmishes of which were fought between Paris and Debrecen, Berlin and Palermo in the last two years, to the fact that "in January 1849 the hopes of the constitutional societies of Erlangen were postponed indefinitely" (Vol. I, p. 312) and to fear of a new struggle that could once more be unpleasantly shocking for Herr Daumer in his occupations with Hafiz, Mohammed and Berthold Auerbach.

The same shameless superficiality allows Herr Daumer to ignore completely that Christianity was preceded by the total collapse of the ancient "world conditions" of which Christianity was the mere expression; that "completely new world conditions" arose not internally through Christianity but only when the Huns and the Germans fell "externally" on the corpse of the Roman Empire; that after the Germanic invasion the "new world conditions" did not adapt themselves to Christianity but that Christianity itself changed with every new phase of these world conditions. We should like Herr Daumer to give us an example of the old world conditions changing with a new religion without the mightiest "external" and abstract political convulsions setting in at the same time.

It is clear that with every great historical upheaval of social conditions the outlooks and ideas of men, and consequently their religious ideas, are revolutionised. The difference between the present upheaval and all earlier ones lies in the very fact that man has at last found out the secret of this process of historical upheaval and hence, instead of once again exalting this practical, "external", process in the rapturous form of a new religion, divests himself of all religion.

After the gentle moral doctrines of the new world wisdom, which are even superior to Knigge inasmuch as they contain all that is necessary not only on intercourse with men, but also on intercourse with animals—after the Proverbs of Solomon comes the Song of the new Solomon.

"Nature and woman are the really divine, as distinct from the human and man. . . . The sacrifice of the human to the natural, of the male to the female, is the genuine, the only true meekness and self-externalisation, the highest, nay, the only virtue and piety." (Vol. II, p. 257.)

We see here that the superficiality and ignorance of the speculating founder of a religion is transformed into a very pronounced cowardice. Herr Daumer flees before the historical tragedy that is threatening him too closely to alleged nature, i.e. to a stupid rustic idyll, and preaches the cult of the female to cloak his own womanish resignation.

Herr Daumer's cult of nature, by the way, is a peculiar one. He manages to be reactionary even in comparison with Christianity. He tries to restore the old pre-Christian natural religion in a modernised form. Thus he of course achieves nothing but Christian-Germanic: patriarchal drivel on nature expressed, for example, as follows:

"Nature holy, Mother sweet,
In Thy footsteps place my feet.
My baby hand to Thy hand clings,
Hold me as in leading strings!"

"Such things have gone out of fashion, but not to the benefit of culture, progress or human felicity." (Vol. II, p. 157.)

We see that this cult of nature is limited to the Sunday walks of an inhabitant of a small provincial town who childishly wonders at the cuckoo laying its eggs in another bird's nest (Vol. II, p. 40), at tears being designed to keep the surface of the eyes moist (Vol. II, p. 73), and so on, and finally trembles with reverence as he recites Klopstock's Ode to Spring to his children. (Vol. II, p. 23 et seqq.) There is no mention, of course, of modern natural science, which, with modern industry, has revolutionised the whole of nature and put an end to man's childish attitude towards nature as well as to other forms of childishness. But instead we get mysterious hints and astonished philistine notions about Nostradamus' prophecies, second sight in Scotsmen and animal magnetism. For the rest, it would be desirable that Bavaria's sluggish peasant economy, the ground on which grow priests and Daumers alike, should at last be ploughed up by modern cultivation and modern machines.

It is the same with the cult of the female as with the cult of nature. Herr Daumer naturally does not say a word about the present social position of women; on the contrary it is a question only of the female as such. He tries to console women for their civic destitution by making them the object of a rhetorical cult which is as empty as it would fain be mysterious. Thus he seeks to comfort them by telling them that marriage puts an end to their talents through their having to take care of the children (Vol. II, p. 237), that they retain the ability to suckle babes even until the age of sixty (Vol. II, p, 251), and so on. Herr Daumer calls this the "devotion of the male to the female". In order to find the necessary ideal women characters for his male devotion in his native country, he is forced to resort to various aristocratic ladies of the last century. [ . . . . ]

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. Review of I. G. Fr Daumer, Die Religion des neuen Weltalters. Versuch einer combinatorisch-aphoristischen Grundlegung [Religion of the New Age], [written January & February 1850,] Neue Rheinische Zeitung Politisch-ökonomische Revue No. 2, 1850; in Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 10, pp. 241-246.


Religion as Reflex vs. a Future Rational & Transparent Society

This is a continuing thread through the history of Marxism. I haven't traced it continuously, but I come across key statements of the central notion. For example, two outstanding statements by Trotsky—see my blog: Trotsky on religion (1).

The religious world is but the reflex of the real world. And for a society based upon the production of commodities, in which the producers in general enter into social relations with one another by treating their products as commodities and values, whereby they reduce their individual private labour to the standard of homogeneous human labour—for such a society, Christianity with its cultus of abstract man, more especially in its bourgeois developments, Protestantism, Deism, &c., is the most fitting form of religion. In the ancient Asiatic and other ancient modes of production, we find that the conversion of products into commodities, and therefore the conversion of men into producers of commodities, holds a subordinate place, which, however, increases in importance as the primitive communities approach nearer and nearer to their dissolution. Trading nations, properly so called, exist in the ancient world only in its interstices, like the gods of Epicurus in the Intermundia, or like Jews in the pores of Polish society. Those ancient social organisms of production are, as compared with bourgeois society, extremely simple and transparent. But they are founded either on the immature development of man individually, who has not yet severed the umbilical cord that unites him with his fellowmen in a primitive tribal community, or upon direct relations of subjection. They can arise and exist only when the development of the productive power of labour has not risen beyond a low stage, and when, therefore, the social relations within the sphere of material life, between man and man, and between man and Nature, are correspondingly narrow. This narrowness is reflected in the ancient worship of Nature, and in the other elements of the popular religions. The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then finally vanish, when the practical relations of every-day life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellowmen and to Nature.

The life-process of society, which is based on the process of material production, does not strip off its mystical veil until it is treated as production by freely associated men, and is consciously regulated by them in accordance with a settled plan. This, however, demands for society a certain material ground-work or set of conditions of existence which in their turn are the spontaneous product of a long and painful process of development.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. Capital. Volume I. Moscow: Progress Publishers, Originally published in 1867; First English edition, 1887; translated by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, edited by Frederick Engels. Chapter 1.


Freedom of Conscience

"Freedom of conscience"! If one desired, at this time of the Kulturkampf to remind liberalism of its old catchwords, it surely could have been done only in the following form: Everyone should be able to attend his religious as well as his bodily needs without the police sticking their noses in. But the Workers' party ought, at any rate in this connection, to have expressed its awareness of the fact that bourgeois "freedom of conscience" is nothing but the toleration of all possible kinds of religious freedom of conscience, and that for its part it endeavours rather to liberate the conscience from the witchery of religion. But one chooses not to transgress the "bourgeois" level.

SOURCE: Marx, Karl. "Critique of the Gotha Programme" (1875), Part IV. Published abridged in Die Neue Zeit, Bd. 1, No. 18, 1890-91.


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