More on Hitchens

Jurriaan Bendien J.Bendien at wolmail.nl
Sat Nov 9 05:50:13 MST 2002


If you read Marx carefully, you will see that his attitude to religion is
much more nuanced than Hitchens:

"The foundation of irreligious criticism is this: Man makes religion,
religion does not make man. Religion is indeed man's self-consciousness and
self-awareness so long as he has not found himself or has already lost
himself again. But, man is no abstract being squatting outside the world.
Man is the world of man -- state, society. This state and this society
produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because
they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world,
its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point
d'honneur, it enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its
universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic
realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired
any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly
the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real
suffering [NB] and a protest against real suffering [NB]. Religion is the
sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart 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 the people is the
demand for their real happiness. 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. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the
criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that
man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so
that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism
of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his
reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses,
so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only
the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve
around himself.

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has
vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of
philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement
in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been
unmasked. Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth,
the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of
theology into the criticism of politics. The following exposition [a
full-scale critical study of Hegel's Philosophy of Right was supposed to
follow this introduction] -- a contribution to this undertaking -- concerns
itself not directly with the original but with a copy, with the German
philosophy of the state and of law. The only reason for this is that it is
concerned with Germany.

It is clear that the arm of criticism cannot replace the criticism of arms.
Material force can only be overthrown by material force; but theory also
becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is
capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it
demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to
grasp the root of the matter. But, for man, the root is man himself. The
evident proof of the radicalism of German theory, and hence of its practical
energy, is that is proceeds from a resolute positive abolition of religion.
The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest
essence for man -- hence, with the categoric imperative to overthrow all
relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, abandoned, despicable
essence, relations which cannot be better described than by the cry of a
Frenchman when it was planned to introduce a tax on dogs: Poor dogs! They
want to treat you as human beings!"



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