AS181: Portable Atheist: Karl Marx on Religion

It has been a few months since the last portable atheist, and this one’s a weird one. Today’s reading is the essay which features the famous quote “Religion is the opium of the people.” What did Marx really mean by that quote? Hitchens, among others, has always said that people misinterpret those words. Find out what Marx really meant!



3 thoughts on “AS181: Portable Atheist: Karl Marx on Religion”

  1. I’m thinking back to my German philosophy courses (Being and Time being the most tedious; don’t think I ever endured Marx) but I recall (I could be misremembering) that Heidegger opined that true cross cultural communication was basically impossible. He was talking about the Chinese, as I recall, but I think that was a meme in Germany in the overlap between Marx and Heidegger.

    I’m not advocating that position, but it could explain why you don’t “get” Marx if you subscribe to that view.

  2. Hello Thomas, thanks again for an interesting show.
    I wanted to address the issue you had about Religion and poverty (socio-economic status). Firstly I am assuming by religion we are referring to an religious institution. Historically they priest class and the rulers have been the same or intimately linked. From the ancient Egyptians to the French and now Saudi monarchs have claimed a divine right or divinity. This has allowed them to claim ownership of resources (the land) and to get the benefit of the work without doing it. (As an aside I see this now in the pay of CEOs that say success is due to them and failure would have been worse without them).
    Also as you mentioned there is a strong correlation between poverty and religiosity. This is similar to superstition and sports with high variability.
    As to the church getting money from the rich as a counter example I disagree. Again as with Saudi Arabia and other historical situations the rulers/wealthy ensure that the priest class receive sufficient funds to ensure the continued support.
    So I am not saying the Marx’s view is totally correct , but to my view it seems more correct than you indicated.

  3. I tried to read Marx back in the day. The communist manifesto is an easy clear pamphlet essentially, I thought it was interesting so I moved on to Das Kapital to see his theories more fleshed out and hit an impenetrable wall of text. Gamely I struggled on, after a few hundred pages the veil lifted and I finally understood what the hell he was getting at. I think the problem is like the time I tied an onion to my belt, it was the style at the time. If you can eventually get into that mindset and peer through the mists of time the meanings become much clearer.

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