A PHILOSOPHICAL CRITIQUE OF KARL MARX’S CONCEPTION OF RELIGION
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents -------vi
CHAPTER ONE: Introduction
Background to the Study ------ 1
Statement of the Problem ------ 2
Purpose of the Study ------ 2
Significance of the Study ------ 3
Scope of the Study ------- 3
Method of the Study ------- 4
Literature Review ------- 4
Endnotes -------- 6
CHAPTER TWO: Biography of Karl Marx
A Brief History of Karl Marx ----- 8
Influences on Karl Marx ------ 10
The works of Karl Marx ------ 13
Endnotes -------- 16
CHAPTER THREE: Karl Marx’s Conception of Religion
General Concepts of Religion ----- 18
Religion as Opium of the People ----- 22
The Notion of Man as God to his fellow Man --- 23
Endnotes -------- 26
CHAPTER FOUR: A Critique of Marx’s Conception of Religion
The Effect of Religion in an Ideal State ---- 28
The Positive Aspects of Religion in a State --- 30
The Negative Aspects of Religion in a State ---- 32
Endnotes -------- 34
CHAPTER FIVE: Conclusion
Conclusion -------- 36
Endnotes -------- 39
BIBLIOGRAPHY ------- 40
is a contested notion because different persons have different view of
what it is. Religion is fundamental because no society can exist without
it as part of their culture, it is also part of human nature. This
research attempted to analyze the meaning of religion, its positive and
negative aspects in a society and also an attempt was made to analyze
its importance in an ideal society.
This research was carried
out by first, looking at the background, purpose, significant, purpose
of religion. The methods used were historical, expository and critical
methods, and analysis.
We examined the various concepts of
religion by different scholars, especially Karl Marx’s concept of
religion which is the main purpose for this research. We also discussed
how a true nature of religion ought to be and finally, a conclusion was
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
history of religion can be traced to the ancient world. It can be
traced to some religions such as orphism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism,
African Traditional Religions and so on. Religion, no doubt is a basis
of societal order. It is a belief in a supernatural being which can
influence one’s behavior. Religion enables us to play some roles in the
society which includes shaping the life style of the individual that
will make people live in unity. Religion also functions as an account of
the wonders or mysteries in nature. Religion is important because it
gives the individual that consciousness of living a moral life in the
society. Religion is one of the key of morality which teaches us to
separate what is right from what is wrong. It is a source of moral
obligation which makes people to recommend that: “you must live a moral
life because God has commanded you to do so”.1
Having said that,
religion in the era of Karl Marx was a tool of exploitation. At that
time, the powerful and rich (bourgeoisie) used religion as a tool to
exploit their workers or less privileged (proletariat), hence religion
became the tool by which the bourgeoisie satisfied their egoistic desire
through the labour of their workers. No wonder Karl Marx defined
religion as “an opium of the people”.2 The issue of exploitation started
with the origin of religion and not with Karl Marx.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
issue to be addressed is that of religion. Religion as already said
above is a source of moral obligation. But it seems that this definition
of religion is different from what Marx defined religion to be. Marx
defined religion as a form of social consciousness.3 Religion is used to
oppress and subjugate people. He believed that religion exists because
of the economic exploitation that exist in the capitalist system. In the
capitalist system, the masses who are always the majority (proletariat)
are exploited by the minority (bourgeoisie). This leads to the problem
of conflicts. This raises questions about the role of religion in
suppressing people’s genuine agitations. It is this issue that this
research sets out to deal with. The question really is, how can the link
between man and God be compromised in order to serve the interest of
domination and oppression by the bourgeoisie given the fact that
“religion from the theological standpoint can be seen as the link
between man and God”.4
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
concerned about the morality of human conduct, and both presuppose human
freedom and responsibility. Religion today has become a practice that
leaves so much to be desired by people. Speaking from the Christian
perspective, it is clear from what the new generational churches of
today practice, that there is the problem of some so-called men of God,
going about establishing churches with the aim of deceiving and
exploiting people to enrich themselves. For this cause, this project is
necessary in order to expose any false religious practices that may have
informed Karl Marx’s notion of religion. Again, this project is
important for the purpose of transforming religion by giving it a
sincere concept where morality stands as its basis.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
is such a prominent feature in human society that it cannot be simply
ignored.5 So, the significance of this research is to draw attention to
the fact that it is only where religion is practiced with sincerity or
genuinely that one can talk about the moral life of the individual in a
given society: A human being can never be complete without the spiritual
wellbeing which is an essential part of his human person.
this research is important because it tends to show that in a
particular society where true religion is practiced, morality is held in
high esteem unlike in a society where people are treated unjustly.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
is important. But one cannot say for sure that it has all the answers
to human predicaments. Fundamentally, this research shall be centred on
Karl Marx notion of religion. Marx saw religion as the basis of all
However, the notion of religion by different scholars in different eras shall be discussed also where necessary.
METHOD OF THE STUDY
method is a particular way of doing something.7 One of the methods to
be used in this research is historical analysis. This will help to
analyze the development of religion from the historical period to this
period. We shall also use expository method. This will help to bring
into view man’s notion of religion. Finally, we shall adopt the critical
method to enable us x-ray the positive and negative aspect of Marx’s
notion of religion. To this end, we shall rely on library and internet
for textbooks, journals, articles and relevant class notes.
first book to be reviewed is The Philosophical Journey: An Interactive
Approach,8 written by W. F. Lawhead. In the sixth chapter of this book,
both Marx and Hegel said that the dialectics is a historical process in
which different opposing forces resolve their tension by bringing into
being a new stage of history.
Another book to be reviewed is A
Philosophical Look at Religion, written by J. Omoregbe.9 Chapter one of
this book discusses different theories of religions such as the views of
Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim among others. This book will help in
discussing a general concept of religion and also in evaluating Marx’s
theories of religion and making a critique of it.
Next to be
reviewed is the journal article, The Marxist Theory on Revolution and
Violence, by A. Schaff in Journal of the History of Ideas.10 Here, A.
Schaff stresses the revolutions of the proletarians (workers) saying
that the existing social and political system is to be changed by a
revolution and that a social revolution is to be identified with an
overthrow of that existing social system by violence.
book to be reviewed is The Voyage of Discovery, written by W. F.
Lawhead.11 In chapter twenty five of this book, the author wrote on the
influence of Feuerbach’s notion of religion had on Karl Marx. For
Feuerbach, religion is created by humanity through an unconscious
process of projection. This will help form a critique on Marx’s notion
The final book to be reviewed here is “Freud and
Marx on Religion and Morals”, by R. Osborn in the Rational Animal.12 In
this book, Osborn stressed the contribution of Marxism is to stress the
social relevance of morality, the fact that one society is morally
better than another to the extent that it provides a milieu in which men
can approach their full human stature. It is relevant to my work in
that it will help in exposing Marx’s notion of religion and its
A PHILOSOPHICAL CRITIQUE OF KARL MARX’S CONCEPTION OF RELIGION
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