Toward The Critique Of The Hegelian Philosophy Of Right

by Karl Marx
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"Religion Is The Opium Of The People"

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Last Updated on June 30, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 273

Context: Marx is best known today, of course, as the creator of the philosophical basis of modern communism. He is generally regarded as supremely materialistic and as a vigorous exponent of atheism. Many philosophical attacks against religious institutions were made by German thinkers of the nineteenth century, not the least of which was that of Hegel. According to his more sympathetic Western critics, Marx does not set himself against the "spiritual" in his reply to Hegel, but instead he calls for the abandonment of the illusions enforced by conventional orthodoxy and the overthrow of "a condition which requires illusions," namely, the exploitation of workers by capitalism. In the opening paragraphs he gives his assessment of the role of religion in his world:

. . . Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its general basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human being inasmuch as the human being possesses no true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly a struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.
Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their conditions is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions.

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