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Marx On Religion

John Raines

Publication Year: 2011

"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."Few people would ever expect that Karl Marx is the writer of the above statement. He not only wrote it, but he did so in the same breath of his more famous dictum that "religion is the opiate of the masses." How can one reconcile such different perspectives on the power and ubiquity of religion?In this compact reader of Marx's essential thought on religion, John Raines offers the full range of Marx's thoughts on religion and its relationship to the world of social relations. Through a careful selection of essays, articles, pamphlets, and letters, Raines shows that Marx had a far more complex understanding of religious belief. Equally important is how Marx's ideas on religion were intimately tied to his inquiries into political economy, revolution, social change, and the philosophical questions of the self.Raines offers an introduction that shows the continuing importance of the Marxist perspective on religion and its implications for the way religion continues to act in and respond to the momentous changes going on in our social and environmental worlds. Marx on Religion also includes a study guide to help professors and students—as well as the general reader—continue to understand the significance of this often under-examined component of Marx.

Published by: Temple University Press

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Most of the writings of Karl Marx concerning religion are grouped closely in the years between 1844 and 1849. It makes little sense, therefore, to list them chronologically. I chose, instead, to group them according to various topics. ...

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pp. 1-14

Karl Marx wanted to dedicate his masterpiece, Capital, to Charles Darwin. But the Darwin family prevented it because they didn’t want their names associated with the famous social radical. Still, Marx shared with Darwin the same intellectual passion—to understand a world that had suddenly become mysterious. ...

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Part I: The Young Man Marx

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pp. 15-70

Marx was descended from famous rabbis on both sides of his family going back to at least the fifteenth century. And records show that in Trier, the town where Marx was born in 1818, almost all the rabbis of the past had been his paternal kin. His father’s brother was a rabbi there and Karl became a boyhood friend of the rabbi’s son. ...

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Part II: Consciousness and the Material World

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pp. 71-112

Like many other living things we humans are conscious beings. But human consciousness is characterized by a high degree of self-reflexivity, an intense self-awareness. Marx put it this way: “Man is not only a natural being, he is a human natural being. That is, he is a being for himself and hence a species-being; ...

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Part III: Bad Work/Good Work

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pp. 113-166

In an anthology dedicated to Marx’s writings on religion, why include a section on bad and good work? For Marx, work expresses the human spirit: our human creativity, our suffering, our struggle, and our transcendence. The final product of our work is ourselves as an unfinished and still-evolving species. ...

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Part IV: The Criticism of Religion

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pp. 167-186

Many social scientists see in religion an indispensable instrument by which we humans make our sufferings more sufferable. Religion not only tells us of a different place where things will be better—heaven, paradise, nirvana—it supplies us with a set of ritual practices by which to express, both individually and collectively, our sorrows. ...

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Part V: Occasional Writings

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pp. 187-240

In these occasional essays and outline notes we find Marx and Engels commenting on contemporary religious events and placing them in continuity with Western religious history. The two essays by Engels reflect the same interest. Both were impressed with what religion can do when it becomes the energy and organizing instrument of the poor ...

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Study Guide for Students

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pp. 241-242

1. Why did Marx turn his curiosity from Romantic poetry to the philosophy of Hegel and Feuerbach and, finally, to the economic writings of John Locke, Adam Smith, and David Ricardo? What was his longing, his passion? ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781592138050
Print-ISBN-13: 9781566399401

Publication Year: 2011