Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818 in the German city of Trier. His family was Jewish, but later converted to Protestantism in 1824 in order to avoid anti-Semitic laws and persecution. For this reason among others, Marx rejected religion early on in his youth and made it absolutely clear that he was an atheist.
Marx studied philosophy at Bonn and then later Berlin, where he came under the sway of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich von Hegel. Hegel’s philosophy had a decisive influence upon Marx’s own thinking and later theories. Hegel was a complicated philosopher, but it is possible to draw a rough outline for our purposes.
Hegel was what is known as an “idealist” — according to him, mental things (ideas, concepts) are fundamental to the world, not matter. Material things are merely expressions of ideas — in particular, of an underlying “Universal Spirit” or “Absolute Idea.”
Karl Marx abandoned his Christian faith, became an atheist and concluded that religion was a tool of the rich to subjugate the poor. Marx openly denounced religion as ‘the opiate of the people’, and in nearly every nation where the communists assumed power, the churches were, if not abolished outright, neutralized in their effect.1 Opium is a addictive narcotic pain-killing drug. Marx characterized religion as having the same function as opium in that it was used to pacify the oppressed because it stressed peace, non-violence, and loving one’s neighbor. The result of religion per Marx was that it made them feel better but did not solve their problems.
Marxism sought to be scientific and was anchored in a social and economic theory that was believed to mirror the true history of life. Central to that theory was the struggle between the class that owned the means of production (the capitalist ‘bourgeoisie’) and the working class (the ‘proletariat’) that did not. Marx concluded that workers would change their perception of reality only when they realized that there is no God, no afterlife and no good reason not to have what they want now even if they have to take it from others.
Evil, in the socialist worldview, is the oppression of the working class by the bourgeoisie. Having been enlightened by Marx regarding the ‘true history of life’, men and women could now take control of that history. They could accelerate ‘nature’ as it sped towards its goal of a world revolution that would banish such ‘evil’ and produce a socialist utopia.
Marx argued that the solution was to abolish religion which then would allow the poor to openly revolt against their ‘oppressors’ (the land owners, the wealthy, the entrepreneurs, et al.) and take their wealth away so the poor could enjoy wealth and fulfillment in this world. Furthermore, since ‘the rich and powerful aren’t just going to hand these over, the masses shall have to seize them’ by force.2 Eidelberg noted that ‘Marx’s eschatology, his materialistic philosophy of history is, for all practical purposes, a doctrine of permanent revolution, a doctrine which cannot but issue in periodic violence, terror and tyranny’.3
This is why Marx concluded that the ‘abolition of religion’ is a prerequisite for the attainment of real happiness of the people.4 Consequently, an important cornerstone of communism was to take away the opium (religion) from the people and convince them that they should eat, drink and be merry now, for tomorrow they may die (and to have the resources to eat, drink and be merry, they should steal from the rich and the successful). Marx stressed that the Darwinist philosophy, aside from personal pleasures in the here and now, life in the long run has no meaning or purpose because we were accidents of nature that, in all likelihood, never again would occur on the Earth.5
One important factor, however, was not appropriately accounted for in Marx’s unrealistic (yet idealistic) worldview. This was the fact that, as the Bible stresses, workers are worthy of their wages. Starting a business usually entails an enormous amount of risk, and requires extremely hard work and long hours by persons who often have enormous talents to guide that business to success. Most new businesses fail—fewer than one out of five succeeds—and the success of the vast majority of these is usually only moderate.
On the other hand, enormous rewards can result if a business does succeed. The rewards include not only wealth and prestige, but also the satisfaction of achievement and building a successful business. The rewards have to be great in order for people to assume the risks involved. Many people who fail in business lose everything they own. For these reasons, as an economic theory communism was doomed to fail.
To ensure that communism maintains its power base, it is necessary to indoctrinate people against religion, especially the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions, which stress that depriving people of their property without due compensation is wrong and that killing people to take away their property is a grievous sin.6 Furthermore, these same religions also stress that, while we should stand for what is right, justice is not guaranteed in this world (but God has promised rewards in the afterlife for those who pursue righteousness).
Critical in the development of Marx’s theorizing, as well as that of many of his followers, was his rejection of Christianity and its moral values and a turning to an agnostic/atheistic worldview. The Scriptures teach that care, compassion and concern should be expressed toward the poor, the widows, the orphans, the deformed, social outcasts and even criminals, but they also stress that the worker is worthy of his wages and condemn murder (even if part of a social revolution—he who lives by the sword will perish by the sword, (Revelation 13:10). Christianity generally has served as a force that resisted depriving people of the fruits of their labor.
The results of Marx’s atheistic ideal, tragically, have now become very apparent. The Communist ideal that ‘each takes according to his needs, and each gives according to his abilities’ all too often became ‘each takes whatever he can, and gives back as little as he can’. The result has been economic bankruptcy for most Communist countries. In the past decade, we have witnessed the collapse of all the Communist regimes and their replacement by capitalist or socialist governments (Cuba and China now have socialist governments, China has instituted major broad capitalist reforms as it endeavors to coexist with capitalism, and North Korea is fast moving toward a socialist government). The quality of the society is a result of the caliber of its leaders. The most qualified people should be running societies’ schools, factories, and governments. The economic poverty of Russia and much of eastern Europe (which is due to complex, interrelated factors) eloquently testifies to the failure of communism.
Karl Marx died on March 14, 1883. He started his movement with a false presupposition which faulted any logic he and others followed which caused millions of deaths including pain and suffering to this very day. The premises of Karl Marx are those of a lost soul and those who faithfully follow them or hold any part of them as ideal too could be destined to be eternally lost.
Jesus Christ is the only answer to pain and suffering. Accept Jesus as your savior today and live freely from now throughout eternity.
1) Marx, K., A Contribution to the Critique of Hagel’s Philosophy of Right, p. 57, 1844. Reprinted in Early Political Writings (edited and translated by Joseph O’Malley), Cambridge University Press, 1994.
2) Macrone, M., Eureka! 81 Key Ideas Explained, Barnes and Noble, New York, p. 216, 1995.
3) Eidelberg, Ref. 27, p. 10.
4) Marx, Ref. 49, p. 58.
5) Gould, S.J., Wonderful Life: Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, W.W. Norton, New York, p. 233, 1989.
6) Wurmbrand, R., Marx and Satan, Crossway Books, Westchester, p. 11, 1987.
This article is a consolidated and condensed version from the following sources: