Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Religion Essay

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Karl Marx (1818-1883) was the most influential revolutionary socialist thinker of the 19th century. Marx’s key interests were in establishing a revolutionary party for the working classes and analysing capitalist society in order to find its strengths and weaknesses and so plan its demise. With his friend and colleague, Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), he created “The Communist Manifesto” in which they described the communist society which would be created as a result of the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalists by the working classes. This essay will discuss the view held by Marx and Engels with regard to religion and consider this perspective in its relevance to contemporary society. Although, in Marx and Engels’ opinion, religion is…show more content…
Marx believed that inversion itself must be inverted so that humans regained their place of importance over idols, in society. Marx and Engels believed religion distracts the proletariat from their life of oppression under capitalism, keeping them away from materialistic ideas. The magic of religion blinded them to the reality of what was happening in the material world, leading Marx (1844, p652) to hold the view that “Man makes religion, religion does not make man”. This resulted in Marx’s idea of commodity fetishism, (Marx, 1867) in which he believed that special powers were given to goods, by the working classes, which resulted in an unnatural relationship between the goods and man, with commodities held in a state of supernaturally high regard and taking on the characteristics of gods. Marx and Engels considered the role of religion as an ideology for the proletariat, creating a false consciousness; those holding religious views considered themselves good hard working law abiding individuals, with high moral standards, believing they appreciated the materialistic value of what they had. Politicians, claimed Marx and Engels, were able to use these religious ideals, to convince the proletariat of the benefits of a capitalist society, to highlight the benefits of a capitalist over a feudal society. Marx and Engels saw religion as an ideology, making workers accept the conditions of exploitation
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