An atheist quoting Karl Marx.

Boy, do I hate to feed that stereotype, since there’s not much economically in which I agree with Marx.  Plus, I hate giving fundamentalists who have no appreciation for nuance more fuel for their atheists-are-all-communist-socialist-Marx-Nazi-evil-people” fire.  But Michaelyn is having to read his work for a Western Civ course and reminded me of this quote, which is spot on the money.

“To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness.”

Damn, Marx.  Get it.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Vyckie Garrison

    “To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.” I actually copied the whole quote in context and carried it around in my purse for quick reference when I first lost my faith.

  • Glodson

    Marx was quite right about religion. Sadly, it took me some time to realize that.

  • Abram Larson

    “…since there’s not much economically in which I agree with Marx.”

    JT, as someone whose thought and writing I respect and read daily, I encourage you to not confuse Marx’s ideas with the Western stereotypical view of Communism and the Soviet Union. Marx wrote eloquently on the class struggle. His theories on the value of labor and how capitalists exploit it are still widely used today in criticisms of neo-liberal economics. I understand that economics is probably not your area of expertise, but it is mine. There are many things that I think Marx got wrong. However, there are many things that he got right.

    • invivoMark

      Though I have not read Marx, I was once an aspiring economist. This reflects what I understood at the time – Marx advanced our understanding of class struggle, among other facets of economics, and much of what he wrote hasn’t been overturned.

      Marx wrote a lot more than just an advocation for Soviet-style Communism, so it’s quite alright to say one agrees with much of what Marx wrote.

      • Ibis3

        If memory serves, he didn’t write an advocation for Soviet-style Communism at all.

        • Jeff van Booven

          He barely even wrote an avocation for how to run a government at all. There’s something like two lines where he actually says something close to how to run a socialist government, and even then they’re pretty vague. Most of his important work isn’t advocating for a new system, but rather critiquing capitalism, in which he did advance the field quite substantively. He’s far more important to the field of economics and cultural studies than most people would give him credit.

  • Jeff van Booven

    Though, I would caution simply quoting Marx on religion as he does take a bit of nuanced view; in that, he argues that religion is the expression of discontent, primarily caused by shitty economic conditions. So his solution to religion is more along the lines of fixing capitalism than it is removing religion. E.g. he would argue to treat the disease (economic system) rather than the symptom (religion).

    • invivoMark

      And on that point, he’s probably right. There is quite a bit of evidence for this. For a sniff test, compare the income inequality of America with the relative equality of the more socialist states of Europe.

      Higher income inequality very strongly correlates with religiosity.

  • Efrit Freeq

    Marx doesn’t have to have been right about everything for him to have been a deep and perceptive thinker about many things, with useful things to say. When we recognize a perceptive statement, we’re not engaging in argument from authority, nor signing up to everything that person said.

    • Billy Bob

      Yeah, but the fundies seem to think that

  • Nox

    “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

    Marx certainly wasn’t right about everything. But he was extremely right about some things.

  • randall.morrison90

    If atheists had political control of this society, how do we know the results would not be imprisonment, torture, and murder for MILLIONS…as has AllWAYS happened when atheists had control?

    And here you are quoting Marx.

    You are a tool, JT.

    • Glodson

      If atheists had political control of this society, how do we know the
      results would not be imprisonment, torture, and murder for MILLIONS…as
      has AllWAYS happened when atheists had control?

      JAQing off. Cherry Picking. Slippery Slope.

      The key defining feature of the regimes you are talking about is authoritarianism. You are shallow in your understanding of politics and even ideology. Many countries in Europe are very secular and increasingly atheistic. Besides, we can point to a multitude of theistic countries in which the same actions occur. As stated before, the link is authoritarianism. The Khmer Rouge was bad. Maoist China was a nightmare. Soviet Russia was horrible. But how many theistic states have the same elements? (The answer is many, looking at the violence done in the name of a unified state. )

      And here you are quoting Marx.

      The quote was a good quote. And your misunderstanding of Marxism is not our problem. Hell, before you try to tackle what Marxism is and why he would have loathed what communism became, why don’t you try JT’s original post again. Like where he said “Boy, do I hate to feed that stereotype, since there’s not much economically in which I agree with Marx.” It is almost like he doesn’t agree with everything the man thought, and would dissent because of that disagreement, but not let the areas in which he found Marx wrong to detract form what he thinks Marx got right.

      Funny how that works.

      You are a tool, JT.

      So says the idiot.

      • randall.morrison90

        Ah, I see…only a “True Marxist” would understand Marx.
        Lenin, Trotsky, Mao and the other Mass Murderers MISINTERPRETED Marx!
        Funny how that works, says the Useful Idiot (a term Lenin loved, by the way) chuckle.

        • Glodson

          I believe you have mistaken the writings of Marx with your strawman.

          They took the ideas and twisted them. That’s not hard to understand. Further, this is besides the point. JT quoted one line from Marx that he agreed with while noting that he doesn’t agree with much of Marx in regards to economic thought. And you took that and just went down the slippery slope fast.

          Your problems with reading comprehension, logic, and intellectual honesty are not my problem.

          So yea. You’re pretty stupid.

    • Joe

      Hmm, I must be living under a rock, not to have noticed the slaughter of millions here in Autralia, with its atheist Prime Minister. Its almost as if some other factor (like the authoritarianism Glodson mentions), is the contributing factor to these regimes.

  • John H

    Marx was very much correct in many of his critiques of capitalism, and in fact, his interpretation wasn’t really that far from Adam Smith’s. His major point of divergence was that he thought that, on the balance, forces of concentration of wealth were more powerful than those distributing wealth. History has proved him quite correct on that point. His other major contribution (along with Engles) was to conceptualize economic classes as political groups that were privileged or marginalized (to use contemporary language) on the basis of economic status. Labor unions are a formulation of Marx and Engles, for example. Another refinement of the analysis of capitalism he offered was the recognition of the dependence of the system on vast reserves of unpaid labor (what Neoclassical economists now call a “negative externality” or “external(ized) cost”) in the form of producing, training, and maintaining new laborers (Marxist Feminists extended this to note the gendered nature of such labor). Ultimately, Marx’s project was to look at how to do market economics (and initially capitalism, though he eventually figured it was an unsustainable system) better than people were. He’s been seriously misrepresented by especially his enemies but also avowed fans. A lot of his ideas are standard progressive economic politics today.