Marx the Marcionite

Joseph Ratzinger (The God of Jesus Christ) discerns an underlying commonality between rigorous asceticism and free libertinism. Both express a hatred of the body: “In the false asceticism that is hostile to the creation, the body becomes a dirty bag of maggots that deserves only disdain or, indeed, ill treatment. Similarly, the basic principle underlying libertinism is the degradation of the body to a mere thing. Its exclusion from the realm of ethics and of the mind’s responsibility means its exclusion from that which makes man human, its exclusion from the dignity of the spirit. It becomes a mere object, a thing, and thus the life of man, too, becomes cheap and common” (43).

Both reach back to Marcion, the ancient heretic who believed that the Father of Jesus was a different God from the Creator of muck and matter. And Marcionism lurks too behind the revolutionary impulse of modernity, which expresses “a rage directed against reality itself: “When he despises his body, man quarrels on a radical level with Being itself, which he understands, no longer as God’s creation, but as ‘the existing order,’ which must be destroyed. In the ideology of revolution, Marx and Marcion are terribly close to one another” (44–5).

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