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Karl Marx and the Opium of the People

Currently, Marx is writing for a socialist journal in France and he is really stirring people up. He is writing short, pithy opinion pieces and he is good at it. He has a genius for that perfect turn of phrase. This year he has published a critique on Hegel's philosophy and he intends to set Hegel right. Marx explains that religion has helped society endure its suffering by becoming "an opium of the people," but religion has caused as many problems as it has solved. Science and reason are the real answers to suffering. It is time to set aside humanity's crutch and grow up. Marx will start losing his financial backing as his agitation continues. Eventually, he will get the boot from France and head for England where he will spend the rest of his life preparing his magnum opus... Capital. [1]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Slogans like "Religion is the opiate of the masses" or "From each, according to his ability, to each, according to his need" are not originally from Karl Marx. He borrowed those slogans and used them in short bursts to make the most impact on the reader. That was his genius. What was NOT his genius was building a coherent economic system. Sure, he wrote Capital, but it is a disjointed collection of short essays that require an army of commentators to explain. As the historian, Paul Johnson, put it, Marx was a writer in the Jewish Talmudic style. I study the Talmud and it is really tough. Was Karl Marx Jewish? Technically, yes, but he was raised as a Christian after his father converted. Exactly how he developed a Talmudic writing style is a mystery. Marxism itself depends on a strong central authority and it is supposed to be an evolution beyond religion. Like the street preacher warning that the end is near, Marx warned of the coming collapse of capitalism. What collapsed was his own economic system because his followers were more focused on the "central control" part of the system rather than making sure everyone was reading out of the same hymnal. And as economist, Thomas Sowell, pointed out, Marxism does not scale up. It can only work in small homogenous groups. [2] [3] [4] [5]

Armageddon is Now... or Maybe Later

Let's look at the list of religious happenings this year. Main stream religions are on the defensive. The membership of the LDS Church has reached 25,000 and is growing rapidly. When Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, are murdered by a mob, their martyrdom is sealed and Brigham Young will lead the Church on a New Exodus into the Utah Territory. The Báb of India has revealed himself to be one of the inspired interpreters of the Qur'an. He is a believer in the coming of the 12th Imam and in later years the Bah´'í faith will consider him the spiritual reawakening of Elijah the Prophet and John the Baptist. The Millerites have received a revelation that the end of the world is nigh. William Miller is a Baptist preacher and last year he received a similar message. His followers will be disappointed again. Out of his teachings will come Advent Christianity including the 7th Day Adventists. And for scientists and philosophers it is a matter of faith that God does not exist at all. There is no god, but reason. Karl Marx has called religion the opium of the people. The fight for the modern soul is well underway.

My Take by Alex Shrugged
New religious attitudes of the 1840s forced main stream religions to reevaluate their positions. They aren't going to change that much, nor that quickly, but they are going to look at their agenda. Jews left traditional Judaism in droves in the 1840s. Thus Reform Judaism was formed in an attempt to bring them back. Traditional Judaism also changed, making optional much of the Middle Ages poetry that had crept into the service. After Napoleon had conquered the Papal States, the Pope and the Catholic Church in general had lost a lot of institutional inertia and sought to reform itself. Today we are still in the midst of this reevaluation of ourselves, our souls and our place in the Universe. It is not clear how this story will end but from my point of view the people who would wish to erase God's Name have the upper hand. [6] [7] [8]

In Other News

  • Sarah Bernhardt is born in Paris, France. She will become a dramatic actress, an early star of film and earn the nickname of "The Divine Sarah". [9] [10]
  • Samuel Morris sends a telegraph message from Washington D.C. to Baltimore... "What hath God wrought." This Bible quote was chosen by the wife of the first Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office. (No conflict of interest there, eh?) [11] [12] [10]
  • The YMCA is founded in England. A Bible study group grows into a place where young men can keep spiritually and physically fit in the city where the base temptations of the Industrial Age abound. [13] [10]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1844, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right 1844. marxists.org (2009). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. 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.”
  2. Sowell, Thomas. Marxism: Philosophy and Economics. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0043201717. 
  3. Sowell, Thomas. Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy. Basic Books. ISBN 9780465081387. 
  4. Johnson, Paul. Intellectuals. Harper & Row. ISBN 0060160500. 
  5. Alex Shrugged notes: I am summarizing what I have been reading in the book "Intellectuals" by Paul Johnson and my memory of Thomas Sowell's books. I am willing to be corrected, but I think I am summarizing the topic correctly.
  6. Napoleon and the Pope: from the Concordat to the Excommunication. napoleon.org (2016). Retrieved on 8 August 2016. “The coronation in 1804 was attempt by Pius to win back the lost ground and also to re-initialise the relationship. But in the end, Pius found himself negotiating in the void. He returned to Rome empty handed. From then on, Franco-Vatican relations slowly deteriorated. And for both men, it was the other's fault.”
  7. Marshall, T. W. M.. Notes on the Episcopal Polity of the Holy Catholic Church. D. Appleton. OCLC 4093839. 
  8. Beam, Alex. American Crucifixion: The Murder Of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church. PublicAffairs. 
  9. Sarah Bernhardt - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “She was referred to as 'the most famous actress the world has ever known', and is regarded as one of the finest actors of all time.”
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 410-411. 
  11. Henry Leavitt Ellsworth - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “His wife, the former Anna G. Ellsworth, dictated the inaugural message on Samuel F. B. Morse's new telegraph system. 'What hath God wrought' read the message, suggested by her mother, the wife of Morse's great champion Henry Leavitt Ellsworth.”
  12. Baltimore-Washington telegraph line - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “In 1843 the United States Congress appropriated $30,000 to Samuel Morse in order to lay a telegraph line from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland. The company's first experimental line was demonstrated on May 24, 1844 and commenced with the transmission of Morse's first message, 'What hath God wrought!', a phrase from the Bible's Book of Numbers. The phrase was suggested by Annie Ellsworth, whose husband was a supporter of Morse's.”
  13. YMCA - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “The YMCA was founded by George Williams, a London draper, who was typical of the young men drawn to the cities by the Industrial Revolution. He and his colleagues were concerned about the lack of healthy activities for young men in major cities; the options available were usually taverns and brothels. Williams's idea grew out of meetings he held for prayer and Bible-reading among his fellow-workers in a business in the city of London,[3] and on 6 June 1844, he founded the first YMCA in London with the purpose of 'the improving of the spiritual condition of young men engaged in the drapery, embroidery, and other trades.'”

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