A primer of the often overlooked yet significant writings of Marx on religion
Marx on Religion
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edited by John Raines
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 studentsas well as the general readercontinue to understand the significance of this often under-examined component of Marx.
"Like the Hebrew prophets of old, Marx knew that to speak of social justice we must become socially self-critical, and that means becoming critical of the ruling powerswhether they be kings or priests or investment bankers.... For Marx, all ideas are relative to the social location and interests of their production. And like the prophets before him, the most revealing perspective is not from the top down or the center outward, but the...point of view of the exploited and marginalized. Suffering can see through and unveil official explanations; it can cry out and protest against the arrogance of power."
"The collection is probably a good way into the study of Marx for those who begin from a religious orientation."
"Marx on Religion is a thoughtfully chosen, intellectually challenging selection from the writings of Marx (and Engels) on religion. ...Marx on Religion is a valuable teaching tool. Its particular merit in our polarized times is that it promotes contact across the widening abyss."
Part I: The Young Man Marx
Part II: Consciousness and the Material World
Part III: Bad Work/Good Work
John Raines is Professor of Religion at Temple University. He is the author of over a half-dozen books, including What Men Owe to Women: Men's Voices from World Religions.