Marxism and Religion: Annotated Reading List

The following collection begins with Marx, drawing occasionally on joint works with Engels, before focusing in the last two sections on Engels’s life-long interest in religion.

1. Preliminary

The first item shows that Marx had, like most gymnasium students, studied religion and the history of the church:

1835,    Certificate of Maturity for Pupil of the Gymnasium in Trier 1835, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 643-4. Available at Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/letters/misc/1835-mat.htm.

But he also had to sit a final examination, in which one of the six essays required him to write a piece of biblical interpretation:

Marx, Karl. 1835, ‘The Union of Believers with Christ According to John 15:1-14, Showing Its Basis and Essence, Its Absolute Necessity, and Its Effects’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 636-9. Available at Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1837-pre/marx/1835chris.htm.

By the time Marx began working as editor of the Rheinsche Zeitung in the early 1840s, he found that he needed to response to the overwhelmingly theological nature of public debate, writing a piece in which many of the later elements of his thoughts on religion were first expressed – church and state, fetishism, philosophy and theology.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘The Leading Article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 184-202. Available at Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/07/10.htm.

He had also come into contact with a very Christian communism espoused by Weitling, Cabet and others:

Marx, Karl. 1844, ‘Letters from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 142-3. Available at Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/letters/deutsch-fransosische-letters.htm.

2. Bruno Bauer

Marx had a complex relationship with the Young Hegelians, forging his arguments in response to theirs, especially in light of the overwhelmingly theological nature of public debate in the 1830s and 1840s. The longest and most significant relationship was with Bruno Bauer, the biblical critic and radical political writer, who first taught Marx the biblical book of Isaiah at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin.

1841, Leaving Certificate from Berlin University 1841, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 703-4. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/letters/misc/1841-cb.htm.

Marx’s PhD thesis on Epicurus shows the strong influence of Bauer, but it also marks an effort to outflank theological debate by going back well before theology itself emerged. Who better than the materialist, Epicurus?

Mark, Karl. 1839, Notebooks on Epicurean Philosophy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 423-5, 442–58, 487–8, 493–506 – from the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th notebooks. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/notebook/index.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1840–1, Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature with an Appendix in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 33-8, 73, 102-5. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/dr-theses/ch01.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/dr-theses/ch02.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/dr-theses/ch08.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/dr-theses/appendix.htm.

Bauer and Marx planned a number of projects together, such as a journal of atheism, and a two volume work on Hegel and theology. At this time, Marx publically defended his collaborator.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘Yet Another Word on Bruno Bauer and the Akademische Lehrfreiheit by Dr. O.F. Gruppe, Berlin, 1842’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 211-14. Available at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/11/16.htm.

Part of this collaborative project involved what is now a lost, extensive but incomplete manuscript called ‘On Christian Art’. Marx’s inability to complete the manuscript led to Bauer publishing his part of the first book on his own (Die Posaune des jungsten Gerichts über Hegel den Atheisten und Antichristen: Ein Ultimatum, Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1841). Marx sought another publisher, Arnold Ruge, to whom he wrote on a number of occasions concerning the ever-growing manuscript on Christian art.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘To Arnold Ruge in Dresden, March 5, 1842’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 382-3. Available at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/letters/42_03_05.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘To Arnold Ruge in Dresden, March 20, 1842’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 383-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/letters/42_03_20.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘To Arnold Ruge in Dresden, April 27, 1842’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 387-8. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/letters/42_04_23.htm. NB: the date on the online version is incorrect.

Marx, Karl. 1843, ‘To Arnold Ruge in Dresden, March 13, 1843’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 398-400. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/letters/43_03_13.htm.

The friendship was becoming estranged, until at last the break became public with Marx’s polemical response to Bauer’s Zur Judenfrage (1843) and follow-up article, ‘Die Fähigkeit der heutigen Juden und Christen, frei zu werden’ (1843). Marx found Bauer’s argument, that the basis of freedom is a thoroughly secular state and the release from the false universal of religion, a reinforcement of the deeper logic of the ‘Christian state’.

Marx, Karl. 1844, On the Jewish Question in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 146-74. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/jewish-question/index.htm.

The polemic against Bauer continued, in letters and in sections of longer pieces.

Marx, Karl. 1844, ‘To Ludwig Feuerbach in Bruckberg, Paris, August 11, 1844’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 354-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/letters/44_08_11.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1844, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 326-7. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Economic-Philosophic-Manuscripts-1844.pdf.

Marx, Karl. 1857, ‘Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 10 January 1857’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983, pp. 89-91.

It came to head once again in the most sustained argument against Bauer in the first joint work with Engels. Marx argues that for all his espousal of atheism and of radical politics through biblical criticism, Bauer remains a theologian.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels 1845, The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 78-143. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/holy-family/ch06.htm.

By contrast, in the next joint work, Bauer receives far less attention, for the key arguments against Bauer had already been made.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. 1845–6, The German Ideology: Critique of Modern German Philosophy According to Its Representatives Feuerbach, B. Bauer and Stirner, and of German Socialism According to Its various Prophets in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 5, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976, pp. 94-116. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch02.htm.

Yet this fierce polemic was by no means the end of the relationship, for Marx and Engels continued to keep up with Bauer’s prolific writing, and Bauer visited Marx when in London.

Marx, Karl. 1855, ‘Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 14 December 1855’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 39, Moscow: Progress Publishers, p. 466. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1855/letters/55_12_14.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1856, ‘Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 18 January 1856’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983, p. 4.

Marx, Karl. 1856, ‘Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 12 February 1856’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983, p. 11.

3. Max Stirner

Like Bauer, the engagement with Max Stirner (a pseudonym for Kaspar Schmidt) was deeply polemical. Unlike Bauer, it was relatively brief and intense. Yet the neglected and endless pages on Stirner in The German Ideology are vital for understanding the genesis of historical materialism. Stirner sought to recast the history of the world by means of the individual ego, which thereby becomes the lever of history (using the human Jesus as a signal example). Marx and Engels are drawn to respond on one topic after another – money, labour, class and so on – so that they begin to formulate the first rough outline of historical materialism. In the second draft of The German Ideology, the more substantial sections were moved to the opening part of the book on Feuerbach.

Stirner, Max. 2005 [1845], The Ego and His Own: The Case of the Individual Against Authority, translated by Steven T. Byington, Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. Available at http://flag.blackened.net/daver/anarchism/stirner/theego0.html.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels Marx. 1845–6, The German Ideology: Critique of Modern German Philosophy According to Its Representatives Feuerbach, B. Bauer and Stirner, and of German Socialism According to Its various Prophets in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 5, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976, pp. 117-452. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch03.htm.

4. Ludwig Feuerbach

In contrast to the polemic directed Bauer and Stirner, the approach to Feuerbach was far more positive. In his early letters to Feuerbach, Marx cannot find enough praise for Feuerbach.

Marx, Karl 1843, ‘To Ludwig Feuerbach in Bruckberg, Kreuznach, October 3, 1843’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 349-51.

Marx, Karl. 1844, ‘To Ludwig Feuerbach in Bruckberg, Paris, August 11, 1844’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 354-7.

Feuerbach’s famous inversion, concerning the projection of the gods by human beings, becomes the moment when the criticism of religion is complete – although Marx does not miss the dialectical point that the criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism.

Marx, Karl. 1844, ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law: Introduction’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 175-87. Available at Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm.

But Marx would soon make his crucial move beyond Feuerbach, arguing that Feuerbach had gone only halfway, focusing on religious alienation. The real task remained, namely to deal with alienation here on earth, with its material conditions.

Marx, Karl. 1844, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 297. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Economic-Philosophic-Manuscripts-1844.pdf.

Marx, Karl. 1845, Theses on Feuerbach, Volume 5, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976, pp. 3-8. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/original.htm.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels 1845–6, The German Ideology: Critique of Modern German Philosophy According to Its Representatives Feuerbach, B. Bauer and Stirner, and of German Socialism According to Its various Prophets in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 5, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976, pp. 23-30, 35-7, 38-41. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1867, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 35, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1996, p. 375, n. 2. Available as ‘note 4’ at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch15.htm#S1.

Marx was, however, not averse to availing himself of slightly odd arguments, mentioning the work of a certain Daumer, who argued that early Christians did indeed – as the Romans alleged – slaughter human beings and eat them during the Eucharist.

Marx, Karl. 1847, ‘Minutes of Marx’s report to the London German Workers’ Educational Society on November 30, 1847’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 6, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976, pp. 630-1. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/30.htm.

Engels too would follow a similar path to Feuerbach, moving from the assumption that Feuerbach had said the last word on religion, providing thereby the philosophical basis of communism …

Engels, Friedrich 1844, ‘The Condition of England: Past and Present by Thomas Carlyle, London, 1843’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 461-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/df-jahrbucher/carlyle.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1844–5, ‘Rapid Progress of Communism in Germany’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 235-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/11/09.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1845, ‘Feuerbach’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 5, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976, pp. 11-14. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/feuerbach.htm.

… to finding Feuerbach’s contribution important but limited.

Engels, Friedrich. 1886, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 26, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1990, pp. 353-98. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach/index.htm.

a. On Opium

Perhaps the most well-known slogan of Marx is that religion is ‘the opium of the people’. Yet, the image is quite ambivalent, for opium was perceived as both a common medicine and source of poetic inspiration, and, especially towards the end of the nineteenth century, as a social curse. It was both vital economically for the British Empire and yet it led to some of the worst elements of colonialism. Marx himself used opium as a medicine for his many ailments, as Jenny points in a letter to Engels.

Marx, Jenny (senior) 1857, ‘Jenny Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, about 12 April 1857’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983, p. 563. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/letters/jenny/57_04_12.htm.

For an excellent study of the ambivalence of the opium metaphor an dthe implications for Marx’s statements on religion, see:

McKinnon, Andrew M. 2006, ‘Opium as Dialectics of Religion: Metaphor, Expression and Protest’ in Marx, Critical Theory, and Religion: A Critique of Rational Choice, edited by Warren S. Goldstein, Leiden: Brill, pp. 11-30.

b. Marx and Luther

A rarely acknowledged feature of Marx’s engagements with religion is his almost uniformly positive appreciation of Luther, the monk who inaugurated the German revolution, albeit inadequately.

Marx, Karl. 1844, ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law: Introduction’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 182-3. Available at Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm.

Marx’s frequent citations, whether in jest or in serious economic analysis, are always appreciative, for Marx found Luther’s economic criticisms very pertinent.

Marx, Karl.1856, ‘Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 5 March 1856’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983, p. 21. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1856/letters/56_03_05.htm.

Marx, Karl.1859, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 29, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987, pp. 364, 448–9. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/ch02_3.htm#hoard.

Marx, Karl. 1861–3, Economic Manuscript of 1861-63 (Continuation): A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 32, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, pp. 531–41. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1863/theories-surplus-value/add3.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1866, ‘Marx to François Lafargue in Bordeaux, London, 12 November 1866’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987, p. 334. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1866/letters/66_11_12.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1867, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 35, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1996, pp. 146, 203, 314, 588–9, 741. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/index.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1869, ‘Marx to Eleanor Marx in Paris, London, 26 April 1869’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 43, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1988, pp. 270-1.

Marx, Karl. 1894, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume III in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 37, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1998, pp. 329, 345, 391–2, 594, 605–6, 889. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch24.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch36.htm.

5. Marx, Hegel and the State

Marx’s detailed notes on Hegel indicate the depth of both the influence of Hegel and the need for Marx to step beyond him. Here Marx argues that Hegel’s theory of the state suffers a similar problem to theology, indeed that Hegel’s argument is itself deeply theological:  he begins with theology and thereby projects from sensuous human beings a world spirit or abstract thought which becomes a great over-riding force of history with its own existence and power. Marx suggests that Hegel’s dialectic begins with the estranged and abstracted infinite thought, its negation becomes the negation of the infinite and the positing of real, sensuous existence, and the negation of the negation is nothing less than the reassertion of the absolute and the banishment of sensuous existence

Marx, Karl. 1843, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 3-129, especially pages 24, 26, 28-31, 33, 39, 46-8, 79, 83, 86, 88-91, 101-3. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/index.htm.

Greater clarity of Marx’s argument may be found in both a note from the Kreuznach notebooks and, a little later, the section on Hegel in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts.

Marx, Karl. 1843, ‘A Passage from the Kreuznach Notebooks of 1843’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 130. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/07/kreu.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1844, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 326-46. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/hegel.htm.

At the same time, Marx was writing on the question of the ‘Christian state’ promoted by Friedrich Wilhelm IV, arguing at first that theology, as an other-worldly concern, should have nothing to do with the worldly concerns of the state.

Marx, Karl. 1843, ‘Comments on the Latest Prussian Censorship Instruction’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 109-31, especially pp. 116-22. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/02/10.htm.

Soon, however, he would make a far more interesting dialectical argument: the secular state is in fact an attempt to resolve the contradictions of the ‘Christian state’, so much so that the secular state embodies those contradictions and is therefore the ultimate expression of the ‘Christian state’.

Marx, Karl. 1844, On the Jewish Question in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 156-8. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/jewish-question/index.htm.

Engels makes a very similar argument in a delightful piece on Friedrich Wilhelm IV, outlining the impossible contradictions of a ‘Christian state’.

Engels, Friedrich. 1843, ‘Frederick William IV, King of Prussia’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 360-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/10/king-prussia.htm.

Or indeed the English constitution:

Engels, Friedrich. 1844, ‘The Condition of England II: The English Constitution’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 499-504. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/condition-england/ch02.htm.

We find a similar line in the later Communist Manifesto: in the bourgeois revolution of the eighteenth century, Christian values became those of liberty and freedom of conscience.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. 1848, The Manifesto of the Communist Party in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 6, Moscow: Progress Publishers, pp. 503-4. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch02.htm.

Similar issues continue to appear in works through to the early 1990s.

Marx, Karl. 1844, ‘Critical Marginal Notes on the Article “The King of Prussia and Social Reform. By A Prussian”’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 189-206. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/08/07.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1865, ‘Marx to Hermann Jung in London, London, 20 November 1865’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987, p. 200. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/letters/65_11_20a.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1866, ‘Instructions for the Delegates of the Provisional General Council. The Different Questions’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 20, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985, p. 194. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1866/08/instructions.htm.

Marx, Karl, and Engels, Friedrich. 1848, ‘Demands of the Communist Party in Germany’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 7, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, p. 4. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/03/24.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1891, ‘A Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic Programme of 1891’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 27, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1990, p. 229. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1891/06/29.htm.

a. On grace

A thread in these discussions concerns grace (Gnade), which may be read as the theological form of revolution, as the basis for the ‘social principles of Christianity’, or as the justification for the pure arbitrariness of the Prussian king, who is appointed ‘by the grace of God’ (a phrase found on Marx’s passport).

Marx, Karl. 1847, ‘The Communism of the Rheinischer Beobachter’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 6, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976, pp. 220-34, especially p. 231. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/09/12.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1861, ‘Marx’s Passport, 1861’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 41, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985, between pp. 330-1.

Marx, Karl. 1843, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 24–6, 35–6, 51–2. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/index.htm.

And then, many instances of polemical emphasis on the Prussian king’s favourite phrase, ‘by the grace of God’:

Marx, Karl. 1848, ‘Reply of the King of Prussia to the Delegation of the National Assembly’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 7, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, p. 474. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/10/19a.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1848, ‘Reply of Frederick William IV to the Delegation of the Civic Militia’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 7, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, pp. 476-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/10/20.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1848, ‘Counter-Revolution in Berlin’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 8, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, p. 16. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/11/12.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1848, ‘Second Stage of the Counter-Revolution’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 8, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, p. 134. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/12/07a.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1849, ‘Montesquieu LVI’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 8, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, pp. 262-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/01/21.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1849, ‘The Trial of the Rhenish District Committee of Democrats’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 8, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, pp. 323-39. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/02/25.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1849, ‘Three New Bills’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 9, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, pp. 50 and 54. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/03/13b.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1849, ‘The New Prussian Constitution’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 9, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, p. 430. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/05/13.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1849, ‘The Summary Suppression of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 9, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, pp. 451-4. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/05/19c.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1856, ‘The Right Divine of the Hohenzollerns’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1986, p. 157. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1856/12/13.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1858, ‘Affairs in Prussia (2)’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980, p. 126.

Marx, Karl. 1858, ‘The King of Prussia’s Insanity (2)’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980, p. 66.

Marx, Karl, and Engels, Friedrich. 1848, ‘German Professorial Baseness’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 8, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, pp. 106-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/11/30b.htm.

Marx, Karl, and Engels, Friedrich. 1849, ‘Vienna and Frankfurt’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 9, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, pp. 48-9. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/03/13.htm.

Engels, Friedrich, 1873, ‘The Republic in Spain’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 23, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1988, p. 419.

Engels, Friedrich. 1849, ‘The Comedy with the Imperial Crown’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 9, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, p. 194. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/04/04f.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1849, ‘The Revolutionary Uprising in the Palatinate and Baden’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 9, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, p. 475. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/06/03.htm.

So much so that God’s love even diverted a bullet intended for his breast:

Marx, Karl. 1844, ‘Illustrations of the Latest Exercise in Cabinet Style of Frederick William IV’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 209-10. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/08/15.htm.

6. Fetishism

Perhaps the most interesting and complex engagement with a religious idea in Marx’s work is that of fetishism. He first encountered the term while reading, in its German translation, Charles de Brosses’s Du culte des dieux fétiches ou Parallèle de l’ancienne religion de l’Égypte (1760). De Brosses deployed a term that had arisen from Portuguese encounters on the African west coast in order to produce a wide-ranging theory of religion, using that material in order to reconstruct the religion of ancient Egypt.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘Exzerpte aus Charles de Brosses: Ueber den Dienst der Fetischengötter’, in Marx Engels Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4:1, Berlin: Dietz, 1976.

For very useful background, see also:

Pietz, William 1985, ‘The Problem of the Fetish I’, Res: Anthopology and Aesthetics 9: 5-17.

a. Idols and Fetishes

Significantly, de Brosses made heavy use of biblical material as ‘evidence’ of ancient Egyptian religion, especially the biblical texts on idolatry, which were now subsumed under the new category of fetishism. Marx’s most extensive religious usage of fetishism seems to have taken place in the lost manuscript On Christian Art. However, we can find various elements of his approach to fetishism in a number of other publications at the time.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘The Leading Article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 189. Available at Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/07/10.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘Proceedings of the Sixth Rhine Province Assembly. First Article: Debates on Freedom of the Press and Publication of the Proceedings of the Assembly of the Estates’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 169. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/free-press/ch05.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘Proceedings of the Sixth Rhine Province Assembly. Third Article: Debates on the Law on Thefts of Wood’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 262-3. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/10/25.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1842, ‘To Arnold Ruge in Dresden, March 20, 1842’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 1, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 384. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/letters/42_03_20.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1844, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 312. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/needs.htm.

Marx continued to make use of the specifically religious dimension of fetishism throughout his writings, most notably in the notes on John Lubbock, made in the early 1880s.

Marx, Karl. 1853, ‘The Future Results of British Rule in India’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1979, p. 222. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1853/07/22.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1859, ‘A Historic Parallel’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980, p. 273.

Marx, Karl. 1894, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume III in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 37, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1998, p. 817. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch48.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1880–2, The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, edited by Lawrence Krader, Assen: Van Gorcum, 1974, pp. 335-51.

b. On Moloch

The Ethnological Notebooks also show that Marx never forgot the insight he acquired from de Brosses, namely, that the category of idolatry may be subsumed under and thereby be transformed by the category of fetishism. In that light, both he and Engels deploy a favoured biblical motif, the god Moloch, known for demanding child sacrifice – an apt image of the myriad modes of exploitation.

Marx, Karl. 1845, ‘Draft of an Article on Friedrich List’s Book Das Nationale System der Politischen Oekonomie’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 266. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/03/list.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1855, ‘Agitation Against Prussia. – A Day of Fasting’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980, p. 95.

Marx, Karl. 1859, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 29, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987, p. 294. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/ch01a.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Marx_Contribution_to_the_Critique_of_Political_Economy.pdf.

Marx, Karl. 1864, ‘Inaugural Address of the Working Men’s International Association’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 20, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985, pp. 10-11. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1864/10/27.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1882, ‘Marx to Engels in London, Algiers, 8 April (Saturday) 1882’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 46, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1992, p. 234.

Marx, Karl, Engels, Friedrich. 1845, The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 21. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/holy-family/ch04.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Marx_The_Holy_Family.pdf.

Marx, Karl, Engels, Friedrich. 1848, ‘The Civic Militia Bill’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 7, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, p. 264. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/07/21b.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1846, The Condition of the Working-Class in England in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 474. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/condition-working-class/ch08.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/condition-working-class-england.pdf.

Engels, Friedrich. 1893, ‘Engels to Natalie Liebknecht in Berlin, London, 1 December 1893’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 50, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 2004, p. 234.

c. Economics

Yet Marx did not rest content with religious fetishism, seeking to expand and reshape the term in an economic direction. So we find it used in order to explain the alienation of labour:

Marx, Karl. 1844, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 272-9, 304-6, 325-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/labour.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/comm.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/power.htm; and the whole at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Economic-Philosophic-Manuscripts-1844.pdf.

Marx, Karl. 1857–8, Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft of 1857-58) [Second Instalment] in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 29, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987, pp. 209-10. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/.

Or the mediatory role of money:

Marx, Karl. 1844, ‘Comments on James Mill, Élémens d’économie politique’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 211-13. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/james-mill/.

Marx, Karl. 1857–8, Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58 (First Version of Capital) [Grundrisse] in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 28, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1986, pp. 154-64, 257. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch04.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch06.htm.

Or as the key to the commodity-form:

Marx, Karl. 1867, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 35, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1996, pp. 81-94, 142-3, 639. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch03.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch25.htm.

Finally, in the extraordinary Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63, Marx expands this economic sense of fetishism to include all the abstractions from the real, social process of labour, such as the capitalist as a personification of capital, the productive powers of capital, use value and exchange value, the application of forces of nature and science, the products of labour in form of machinery, wealth and so on. They confront the worker as alien, objective presences in advance that rule over him. In short, capital itself becomes a power before which the worker is powerless: all these items ‘stand on their hind legs vis-à-vis the worker and confront him as capital’. Indeed, just like the commodity-form, capital ‘becomes a very mysterious being’. It is not for nothing that Marx writes of the ‘religion of everyday life’.

Marx, Karl. 1861–3, Economic Manuscript of 1861-63 (Continuation): A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 32, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, p. 492-4. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1863/theories-surplus-value/add3.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1861–3, Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63 (Conclusion): A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 34, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1994, pp. 121-5; 457-61. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1861/economic/ch38.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1864/economic/ch02b.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1894, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume III in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 37, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1998, p. 817. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch48.htm.

d. Roman Catholicism and Protestantism

A minor note that anticipates Weber in some respects is Marx’s repeated observation that whereas the external forms of Roman-Catholicism are appropriate for a monetary system, Protestantism is the appropriate reflex of the internalised world of credit and commodities. As with some of his key ideas, Marx picked this suggestion up from Engels’s early comment that Adam Smith was the ‘economic Luther’.

Engels, Friedrich. 1844, ‘Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 422. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/df-jahrbucher/outlines.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1844, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 290-1. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/epm/3rd.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1867, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 35, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1996, p. 90. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1894, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume III in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 37, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1998, p. 587. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch35.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1868, ‘Synopsis of, Volume One of Capital by Karl Marx’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 20, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985, p. 267. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/1868-syn/ch01.htm.

7. Engels’s Biblical Temptations

In contrast to Marx, who never seems to have had a religious commitment, Engels’s was a devout and sincere Reformed (Calvinist) Christian. With must angst and struggle, he gradually turned away from his faith, although he maintained a lively interest in Christianity, eventually coming to terms with close to the end of his life with a thoroughly intriguing argument.

a. Reformed Faith

Engels was born and baptised into a sincere and devout Reformed (Calvinist) family.

Birth Certificate of Friedrich Engels, Barmen, December 5, 1820: Extract from the Barmen Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages 1820, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 577.

Baptism Certificate of Friedrich Engels: Extract from the Baptism Register of the Elberfeld Reformed Evangelical Parish 1821, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 580.

He shared the same faith as his parents, not without devotion, as a poem written when he was 16 suggests.

Engels, Friedrich. 1837, ‘Poem, Probably Written Early in 1837’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 555-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1837-pre/engels/37poem.htm.

And the church was so much a part of their lives that it would appear in the lively letters between Engels, while he was in Bremen, and his sister, Marie.

Engels, Friedrich. 1838, ‘To Marie Engels in Barmen, end of December 1838’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 403-4. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1838/letters/38_12_31.htm.

Yet he was not without his questions, contrary views, strength of opinion, so much so that his parents worry about him, while at the same time opening a small window into a pious and rowdy home (five children).

Engels, Friedrich (senior). 1835, ‘Friedrich Engels Senior to His Wife Elise in Hamm, Barmen, August 27, 1835’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 581-3.

Engels, Friedrich (senior). 1842, ‘Friedrich Engels Senior to Karl Snethlage in Berlin, Barmen, October 5, 1842’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 586-7.

This critical edge shows up the youthful writings of his late teens and early twenties. Published in magazines and newspapers under pseudonyms (at least initially), they lambast the pietism of his home town, Elberfeld (Wuppertal, when Barmen is included as a twin town), and manifestations of conservative Christianity wider afield.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘Letters from Wuppertal’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 7-25. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/03/telegraph.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘From Elberfeld’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 30-1. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/11/elberfeld.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘Joel Jacoby’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 63-5. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/04/jacoby.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘Landscapes’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 95-101. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/07/landscapes.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘Siegfried’s Native Town’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 132-6. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/12/siegfried.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1842, ‘Polemic Against Leo’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 281-3. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/06/10.htm.

Later, after the 1848 revolutions and the issuing of a warrant for Engels’s arrest, his mother wrote to him, attempting to call him back to the fold of the faithful.

Engels, Elisabeth 1848, ‘Elisabeth Engels to Frederick Engels in Brussels, Barmen after 4 October 1848’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 38, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982, pp. 540-1.

Engels, Elisabeth. 1848, ‘Elisabeth Engels to Frederick Engels in Berne, Barmen, 5 December 1848’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 38, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982, pp. 543-6.

As Engels was to put to Conrad Schmidt many years later: he had to come to terms with his own ‘pious ultra-reactionary family’.

Engels, Friedrich. 1892, ‘Engels to Conrad Schmidt in Zurich, London, 12 September 1892’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 49, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 2001, pp. 525-8, especially p. 527. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1892/letters/92_09_12.htm.

See also:

Engels, Friedrich. 1844–5, ‘Rapid Progress of Communism in Germany’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 231. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/11/09.htm.

b. Krummacher

A crucial figure who influenced Engels deeply was F. W. Krummacher, head minister of the Reformed parish in Elberfeld and thereby the youthful Engels’s own minister. Engels finds Krummacher simultaneously unbearable and fascinating, an affront to reason and yet persuasive, an apparent reactionary who partially conceals a potentially more radical streak. These contradictions in Engels’s response to Krummacher were to characterise his approach to Christianity.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘From Elberfeld’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 30-1. Available from http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/11/elberfeld.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘F.W. Krummacher’s Sermon on Joshua’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 28-9. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/05/telegraph.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Wilhelm Graeber in Berlin, Bremen, about April 28-30, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 442-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_04_30.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘Two Sermons by F.W. Krummacher’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 121-2. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/09/sermons.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘Reports from Bremen: Rationalism and Pietism’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 126-30. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/10/bremen.htm#249.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘Reports from Bremen: Theatre. Publishing Festival’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 102-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/07/bremen.htm#181.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘Reports from Bremen: Ecclesiastical Controversy’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 155-60. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/01/bremen.htm#14.

c. Biblical Debates

Contradictions also become a vital issue in what was the most crucial territory for the young Engels, the Bible. Reading the latest biblical criticism – David Strauss, Bruno Bauer – as well as the work of other Young Hegelians, Engels found his Reformed assumptions challenged and reshaped. All of which revealed in the extensive correspondence with his close friends and ministers in the church, the Graeber brothers.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Friedrich Graeber, Bremen, February 19, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 414-17. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_02_19.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Friedrich Graeber, Bremen, April 8, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 420-3. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_04_08.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Friedrich Graeber in Berlin, Bremen, about April 23-May 1, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 425-37. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_04_23.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Wilhelm Graeber in Berlin, Bremen, about April 28-30, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 442-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_04_30.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Friedrich Graeber in Berlin, Bremen, June 15, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. pp. 453-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_06_15.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, To Friedrich Graeber in Berlin, Bremen, July 12-27, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 457-63. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_07_12.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Wilhelm Graeber in Berlin, Bremen, July 30, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 464-9. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_07_30.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Wilhelm Graeber in Berlin, Bremen, October 8, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 471-4. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_10_08.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Friedrich Graeber, Bremen, October 29, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 476-81. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_10_29.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Wilhelm Graeber in Berlin, Bremen, November 13-20, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 481-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_11_13.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839–40, ‘To Friedrich Graeber in Berlin, Bremen, December 9, 1839 – February 5, 1840’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 487-93. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_12_09.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘To Wilhelm Graeber in Barmen, Bremen, November 20, 1840’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 513-16. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/letters/40_11_20.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1841, ‘To Friedrich Graeber, February 22, 1841’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 525-8. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/letters/41_02_22.htm.

The Bible was never far from his mind, with other texts from the time reflecting his intense interest in matters biblical. One is a commentary on Karl Gutzkow’s play, König Saul, and the other a rather good poem which illustrates the closely interwoven nature of biblical, theological and political debates in the German states.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘Modern Literary Life’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 73-80. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/03/literary.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1842, The Insolently Threatened Yet Miraculously Rescued Bible or: The Triumph of Faith, To Wit, the Terrible, Yet True and Salutary History of the Erstwhile Licentiate Bruno Bauer; How the Same, Seduced by the Devil, Fallen from the True Faith, Became Chief Devil, and Was Well and Truly Ousted in the End: A Christian Epic in Four Cantos in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 313-51. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/cantos/index.htm.

Over the following years, Engels would maintain his interest in matters biblical, commenting to Marx from time to time on debates, new developments, the latest book he had read – such Ernst Renan’s The Antichrist or Rev. Charles Foster’s The Historical Geography of Arabia and the relationship between Hebrews and Arabs.

Engels, Friedrich. 1844, ‘Engels to Marx in Paris, Barmen, 19 November 1844’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 38, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982, pp. 9-14. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/letters/44_11_19.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1845, ‘Engels to Marx in Brussels, Barmen, 17 March 1845’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 38, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982, pp. 26-30. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/letters/45_03_17.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1873, ‘Note on a review of E. Renan’s l’Antéchrist’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 23, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1988, p. 452. Available at

And the discussion over ancient Hebrews, Arabs and Persians:

Engels, Friedrich. 1853, ‘Engels to Marx in London, Manchester, before 28 May 1853’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 39, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983, pp. 325-8. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1853/letters/53_05_28.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1853, ‘Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 2 June 1853’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 39, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983, pp. 332-4. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1853/letters/53_06_02.htm.

Engels, Friedrich, 1853, ‘Engels to Marx in London, Manchester, 6 June 1853, evening’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 39, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983, pp. 339-42. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1853/letters/53_06_06.htm.

d. Schelling

Back in the early 1840s, a young Engels was undertaking the obligatory military service in Berlin. The work was not onerous, so Engels availed himself of the opportunity to join in with the Young Hegelians meeting in Hippel Cafe, as well as attend the lectures of Schelling. Called back from retirement by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV (and his advisors) to refute Hegel, Schelling delivered a series of well-attended inaugural lectures in Berlin. Engels’s wrote, still under pseudonym, three pieces: one a collection of lecture notes with commentary, another a more sustained criticism, and the third a satire, written in the voice of a pious champion of Schelling.

Engels, Friedrich. 1841, Schelling on Hegel in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 181-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/anti-schelling/ch01.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1842, Schelling and Revelation: Critique of the Latest Attempt of Reaction Against the Free Philosophy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 189-240. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/anti-schelling/ch02.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1842, Schelling, Philosopher in Christ, or the Transfiguration of Worldly Wisdom into Divine Wisdom: For Believing Christians Who Do Not Know the Language of Philosophy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 241-64. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/anti-schelling/ch06.htm.

See also:

Engels, Friedrich. 1843, ‘Progress of Social Reform on the Continent’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 404-5. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/10/23.htm.

8. Revelation and Revolution

The developments that may be traced in the previous section, especially an awareness of contradictions in the Bible and in Christianity, would lead to a profound sense of the political ambivalence of Christianity in the thought of Engels.

a. Revelation

The path to that ambivalence passes through Engels’s fascination with the biblical book of Revelation. However, lest we think that here at last is concrete evidence that Marxism is merely a secularised Judaeo-Christian eschatology, Engels’s engagements with Revelation are distinctly not apocalyptic. The themes of Revelation may be deployed playfully among friends, as critical satire, and in order to express a profound sense of change in his own life – usually in terms of the effect of the new, free thought.

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘To Friedrich Graeber, Bremen, February 19, 1839’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 414-17, especially p. 414. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/letters/39_02_19.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1840, ‘Requiem for the German Adelszeitung’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 66-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/04/requiem.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1841, ‘To Friedrich Graeber, February 22, 1841’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 525-8, especially p. 527. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/letters/41_02_22.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1842, The Insolently Threatened Yet Miraculously Rescued Bible or: The Triumph of Faith, To Wit, the Terrible, Yet True and Salutary History of the Erstwhile Licentiate Bruno Bauer; How the Same, Seduced by the Devil, Fallen from the True Faith, Became Chief Devil, and Was Well and Truly Ousted in the End: A Christian Epic in Four Cantos in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 313-51, especially pp. 344-51. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/cantos/ch04.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1842, Schelling and Revelation: Critique of the Latest Attempt of Reaction Against the Free Philosophy in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 238-40. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1841/anti-schelling/ch05.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1844, ‘Engels to Marx in Paris, Barmen, 19 November 1844’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 38, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982, p. 13. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/letters/44_11_19.htm.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels 1845, The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 210-11. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/holy-family/ch09.htm.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels 1845–6, The German Ideology: Critique of Modern German Philosophy According to Its Representatives Feuerbach, B. Bauer and Stirner, and of German Socialism According to Its various Prophets in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 5, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976, pp. 272-301. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch03g.htm#c.1.2.3.

Later, Engels would return to the book of Revelation, but now through an appreciation of Bruno Bauer’s critical work on the text. The biblical book becomes a historical window into earliest Christianity, with none of the usual beliefs and structures associated. It presents a group of Jews (not Christians) who believed the end would come soon. There is no Trinity, for Jesus is subordinate to God, and certainly no Holy Spirit. There is no doctrine of original sin, no baptism or sacrament of communion, no justification by faith, no elaborate story of the death and resurrection of Christ, and no religion of love. This position would become the basis for Engels’s argument concerning the revolutionary origins of Christianity.

Engels, Friedrich. 1883, ‘The Book of Revelation’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 26, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1990, pp. 112-17. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/subject/religion/book-revelations.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1882, ‘Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 24, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, pp. 427-35. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1882/05/bauer.htm.

b. Atheism

However, before indicating the readings for that position, it is worth recalling that Engels maintained – in his later life – a staunch, materialist atheism, finding the church and religion in general quite reactionary and rejoicing in the advance of atheism among the working class. The texts are almost endless.

Engels, Friedrich. 1843, ‘Letters from London’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 385-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/05/16.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1843, ‘Progress of Social Reform on the Continent’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 404-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/10/23.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1844, ‘The Condition of England: Past and Present by Thomas Carlyle, London, 1843’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 444-68, especially pp. 444-6, 450, 461-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/df-jahrbucher/carlyle.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1844, ‘The Condition of England. I. The Eighteenth Century’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 469–76, 486. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/condition-england/ch01.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1844, ‘The Condition of England II: The English Constitution’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 501-4, 510-12. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/condition-england/ch02.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1844, ‘Parsonocracy in Prussia’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 523. Available at

Engels, Friedrich. 1844, ‘Continental Socialism’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 212. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/05/16.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1845, ‘“Young Germany” in Switzerland (Conspiracy Against Church and State)’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 651-3. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/09/20.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1846, The Condition of the Working-Class in England in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 408-12, 421, 556, 569. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/condition-working-class/ch07.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/condition-working-class/ch12.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/condition-working-class/ch13.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1874-5, ‘Refugee Literature’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 24, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, pp. 15-16. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/06/26.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1876-7, ‘From Engels Preparatory Writings for Anti-Dühring’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 25, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987, pp. 591–3, 603–7.

Engels, Friedrich. 1877-8, Anti-Dühring: Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 25, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987, pp. 16, 22, 26, 40–1, 62, 67–8, 79, 86, 93–9, 125–6, 130, 144, 232, 244, 300–4. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/cw/volume25/index.htm; specific relevant sections at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/introduction.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch02.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch05.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch07.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch08.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch11.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch13.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch22.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch23.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch27.htm.

Engels, Friedrich.1873-82a, Dialectics of Nature in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 25, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987, pp. 318–20, 325, 423, 474, 480–1, 498–500, 551–2, 565. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/index.htm; specific relevant sections at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch01.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch06.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch07a.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch07c.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch07f.htm; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch07f.htm#physics.

Engels, Friedrich. 1881, ‘Draft for the Speech over the Grave of Jenny Marx’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 24, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, pp. 419-21.

Engels, Friedrich. 1884, ‘Engels to Eduard Bernstein in Zurich, London, July 1884’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 47, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1995, p. 173.

Engels, Friedrich. 1886, ‘Engels to Florence Kelley-Wischnewetsky in Zurich, London, 25 February 1886’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 47, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1995, p. 416.

Engels, Friedrich. 1886, ‘Engels to Friedrich Adolphe Sorge in Hoboken, 16-17 September 1886’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 47, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1995, p. 491. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/letters/86_09_16.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1886, ‘Engels to Friedrich Adolphe Sorge in Hoboken, London, 29 November 1886’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 47, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1995, p. 533. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/letters/86_11_29.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1889, ‘The Ruhr Miners’ Strike of 1889’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 26, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1990, p. 539. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1889/06/01.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1890, ‘Engels to Conrad Schmidt in Berlin, London, 27 October 1890’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 49, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 2001, pp. 57-65, especially pp. 61-2. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1890/letters/90_10_27a.htm.

See also:

Marx, Karl. 1855, ‘Anti-Church Movement. – Demonstration in Hyde Park’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980, pp. 302-7. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1855/06/25.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1855, ‘Agitation over the Tightening-Up of Sunday Observance’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980, pp. 323-7.

Marx, Karl. 1879, ‘Account of Karl Marx’s Interview with the Chicago Tribune Correspondent’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 24, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, pp. 568-79. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/bio/media/marx/79_01_05.htm.

c. Revolutionary (and Reactionary) Religion

By far the most significant dimension of Engels’s dealings with Christianity is the way he could both castigate it for being thoroughly reactionary and argue for its deep-seated revolutionary tendencies. On the reactionary side, we find the following texts:

Engels, Friedrich. 1839, ‘Letters from Wuppertal’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works Volume 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 13-15. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1839/03/telegraph.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1845, ‘Description of Recently Founded Communist Colonies Still in Existence’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 4, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 214-28, especially p. 215. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/10/15.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1872, ‘The Congress of Sonvillier and the International’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 23, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1988, p. 67.

Engels, Friedrich. 1880, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 24, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, p. 287. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Engels_Socialism_Utopian_and_Scientific.pdf.

It is worth remembering that atheism was, quite deliberately, never an official platform of the International.

Marx, Karl. 1868, ‘Remarks on the Programme and Rules of the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 21, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985, p. 208. Available at http://www.marxists.org/history/international/iwma/documents/1868/iasd-comment.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1871, ‘Account of Engels’s Speech on Mazzini’s Attitude Towards the International’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 22, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1986, p. 608.

Engels, Friedrich. 1871, ‘On the Progress of the International Working Men’s Association in Italy and Spain’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 23, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1988, p. 28.

Engels, Friedrich. 1871, ‘Engels to Carlo Cafiero in Barletta, London, 1-3 July 1871’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 44, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, p. 164.

More often, however, Engels explored the revolutionary history and potential of Christianity, noting this feature already in the early 1840s.

Engels, Friedrich. 1843, ‘Progress of Social Reform on the Continent’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, pp. 392-408. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/10/23.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1843, ‘Letters from London’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975, p. 380. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/05/16.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1846, ‘Engels to the Communist Correspondence Committee in Brussels, Paris, 23 October 1846’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 38, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982, p. 84. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1846/letters/46_10_23c.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1867, ‘Engels to Ludwig Kugelmann in Hanover, Manchester, 8 and 20 November 1867’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987, p. 467. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867/letters/67_11_20.htm.

Marx, Karl, and Engels, Friedrich. 1850, ‘Reviews from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-Ökonomische Revue No. 2’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 10, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978, pp. 241-6. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/02/daumer.htm.

By the time he came to write his influential piece on Müntzer and the Peasant War, Engels tried to argue that the theological language was merely an outer garment for a radically secular political message.

Engels, Friedrich. 1850, The Peasant War in Germany in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 10, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978, pp. 397-482. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/peasant-war-germany/index.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1870, ‘Preface to the Second Edition of The Peasant War in Germany’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 21, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985, pp. 93-100. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/peasant-war-germany/ch0a.htm.

Yet he was also moving to the point that Christianity itself has a revolutionary core, and that its first emergence was thoroughly revolutionary – so much so that one can find many parallels with the early socialist movement (splits, persecution, struggle for cohesion and so on).

Engels, Friedrich. 1873, ‘Engels to August Bebel in Hubertusburg, London, 20 June 1873’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 44, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, p. 514. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1873/letters/73_06_20.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1882, ‘Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 24, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989, pp. 427-35. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1882/05/bauer.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1884, ‘On the Peasant War’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 26, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1990, pp. 554-5.

Engels, Friedrich. 1892, ‘Engels to Karl Kautsky in Stuttgart, London, 1 February 1892’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 49, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 2001, pp. 342-3.

Engels, Friedrich. 1894, ‘Engels to Karl Kautsky in Stuttgart, London, 26 June 1894’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 50, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 2004, p. 314. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894/letters/94_06_26.htm.

Engels, Friedrich. 1894, ‘Engels to Karl Kautsky in Stuttgart, London, 16 July 1894’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 50, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 2004, p. 321.

Engels, Friedrich. 1894, ‘Engels to Karl Kautsky in Stuttgart, London, 28 July 1894’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 50, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 2004, pp. 328-30.

Until at last, not long before he died, Engels published a long study that had been on his mind for almost fifty years. In it he argued that Christianity was revolutionary, that its followers came from among the oppressed and downtrodden classes, that it faced insurmountable problems, that the socialist movement might learn a lesson or two, that it simultaneously overturned the ancient world and offered an other-worldly redemption while doing so. As a teaser he offered an outline of his argument in his introduction to a reissue of Marx’s The Class Struggles in France:

It is now, almost to the year, sixteen centuries since a dangerous party of overthrow was likewise active in the Roman empire. It undermined religion and all the foundations of the state; it flatly denied that Caesar’s will was the supreme law; it was without a fatherland, was international; it spread over the whole empire, from Gaul to Asia, and beyond the frontiers of the empire. It had long carried on seditious activities underground in secret; for a considerable time, however, it had felt itself strong enough to come out into the open. This party of overthrow, which was known by the name of Christians.

Engels, Friedrich. 1894–5, ‘Introduction to Karl Marx’s The Class Struggles in France’, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 27, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1990, p. 523. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1895/03/06.htm.

There followed the whole argument.

Engels, Friedrich. 1894–5, On the History of Early Christianity in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 27, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1990, pp. 445-69. Available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894/early-christianity/index.htm

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20 Responses to “Marxism and Religion”

  1. AKMA Says:

    I’m surprised that more of the Marx and Engels corpus isn’t available in open-access formats. Is “intellectual property” not an even greater theft than material property?

    1. AKMA Says:

      OK, I retract that; I just checked out marxists.org and saw the archive there. Next question, though: why are you citing the print editions rather than the online editions?


      1. The archive is a great resource, but it is patchy at best, especially on the early Engels and often on Marx, and the translations are often different as well. It is also extremely difficult to list page numbers. Eventually, I will build up a pdf collection of this list and make them available. Plus the original language refs, which I left out for now.

      2. AKMA Says:

        So, want to construct a more reliable open-access text and translation project?

  2. Craig Says:

    I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for this. I’ve been working on political theology for my graduate work and cannot express how much a resource like this is appreciated. Many, many thanks.

  3. Sophie J Says:

    Wonderful resource, I agree.

    This is a powerful fusion, Marxism and Religion and is my favorite subject, its about time the left brought out a clear understanding of it, rather than reciting the famous quote ” Religion is the opium of the masses, heart in a heartless world …”. That is all very good, but there is far more written by the classic philosophers like Marx, Engles and Lenin.

    Marx’s writings on religion are among his most beautiful prose, and Engles shows strength and understanding (and gives some very honest directives for matters of the day and still relevant to today).

    Through many heated internet discussions, I came to an understanding that the ‘left’ actually ‘broke’ with a classical Marxist approach to religion following Kautsky’s papers on the subject, around the time of the second international, which gave a very lazy, surface understanding of the subject, and therefore allowed many on the left to champion bourgeois atheism above all. Of course the Stalinist dictatorship really helped to fix that position as it made Marxism itself into a religion particularly with the personal re-ification of Lenin.

    So glad to have come across your blog (it was shared on face book), best wishes x


    1. Sophie, I have a long and comprehensive study of Marx and Engels on religion coming out in November. Called ‘Criticism of Earth: On Marx, Engels and Theology’.

  4. fragilekeys Says:

    Robert, I just came across your blog today, but am so moved. Thank you for this resource especially.

    What does it mean to sign out with a “God speed”? — God speed…


    1. Not quite sure, I prefer riding a bicycle, so God speed makes little sense to me.

  5. fragilekeys Says:

    Woops, not only do I take the liberty of using a stranger’s first name, but on top of that I botch it à cause de a quick glance of the eye. Sorry Roland.


  6. I’ve had all sorts of variations on both names. The best would be Poland Boner.


  7. [...] with a quick glance at his blog, Stalin’s Moustache. There he has a most informative page, Marxism and Religion: Annotated Reading List, in which readers can survey the relationship between Karl Marx and Bruno Bauer and Ludwig [...]

  8. Elias Says:

    Great job, thanks very much. One objection though:

    “Marx’s PhD thesis on Epicurus shows the strong influence of Bauer … Who better than the pre-Socratic materialist, Epicurus?”

    Epicurus is not counted among the presocratics. Epicurus lived about a century after Socrates, he studied philosophy under a Platonist teacher, he was certainly influenced.

    And the way I understand his thought, I would not call him a pure “natural philosopher” or “materialist” in the strict sense of the word. Presocratics, indeed, were pure natural philosophers, today they would be regarded as scientists, not philosophers. Epicurus, I think, was focused on the implications this naturalist worldview had for the behavior, attitudes and moral disposition. He was the philosopher of ataraxia (inner peace, the state of not being disturbed by anything external). Figuratively speaking, I would call him Buddhist.


    1. Ah thank you – a slip of the typing finger. Although I hesitate to call Epicurus a Buddhist, even figuratively.


  9. [...] As for Marxism, it was also a lot more nuanced than people (even Marxists) like to think. I do not even need to go into detail about it because Roland Boer, a Marxist Bible scholar, already did so for me. You can read about Marxism and religion here. [...]

  10. melmakko Says:

    Thank you, this is very useful.

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