Is Religion the Opium of the People? Marxianism and Religion

  • Kai Nielsen
Part of the Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion book series (CSPR)


I shall first describe in unnuanced terms the canonical core of Marxian social theory, that part of the theory which makes it a distinctive social theory and must remain, though perhaps in some rationally reconstructed form, for Marxianism to continue to be a distinctive social theory. I shall then turn to a characterization of the proper sense of ‘ideology’ to be utilized in giving a Marxian account of religion as ideology.l In doing this I will argue that there


Religious Belief Existential Problem Historical Materialism Marxian Theory False Consciousness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Andrew Levine, ‘What is a Marxist Today?’ in R.X. Ware and Kai Nielsen, eds., Marxism Analyzed (Calgary: Alberta: The University of Calgary Press, 1989), pp. 29–58.Google Scholar
  2. Kai Nielsen ‘Analytical Marxism: A Form of Critical Theory’, Erkenntnis, vol. 39 (1993), pp. 1–21; ‘Elster’s Marxism’, Philosophical Papers, vol. XX, no. 2 (1992), pp. 83–106; Marxism and the Moral Point of View (Boulder, Co.: The Westview Press, 1989). Joe McCamey, The Real World of Ideology (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    G.A. Cohen, Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defense (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978), p. 158.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Joshua Cohen, ‘Minimalist Historical Materialism’, in Rodger Beehler et al., eds., On the Track of Reason: Essays in Honor of Kai Nielsen (Boulder, Co.: The Westview Press, 1992), p. 161.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    G.A. Cohen, History, Iabour, and Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pp. 3–108.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Karl Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Hegels Philosophy of Right (1844), p. 42.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), p. 146.Google Scholar
  8. 25.
    Engels, ‘On the History of Early Christianity’ (1894–5), p. 313.Google Scholar
  9. 36.
    Erich Fromm, Marx’s Conception of Man (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1961), pp. 24–57. See also his Psychoanalysis and Religion (London: Victor Gollancz, 1951) and his The Dogma of Christ and Other Essays on Religion, Psychology and Culture (London: Victor Gollancz, 1963).Google Scholar
  10. 44.
    G.A. Cohen, ‘The Future of Disillusion’, in Jim Hopkins and Anthony Savile, eds., Psychoanalysis, Mind and Art: Perspectives on Richard Wollheim (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992), pp. 142–60.Google Scholar
  11. 45.
    Barry Allen, Truth in Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  12. 46.
    Marx W. Wartofsky, ‘Homo Homini Deus Est: Feuerbach’s Religious Materialism’, in Leroy S. Rouner, ed., Meaning, Truth, and God (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982), pp. 154–5.Google Scholar
  13. 47.
    For example, see Barry Allen, ‘Atheism, Relativism, Enlightenment and Truth’, Studies in Religion, vol. 23, no. 2 (1994). For a forthright expression of atheism by a philosopher whose methodology is very similar to Allen’s, see Richard Rorty, ‘Religion as Conversation-Stopper’, Common Knowledge, vol. 3, no. 1 (Spring 1944), pp. 1–6. See my reply to Allen in the same issue of Studies in Religion.Google Scholar
  14. 48.
    J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982)Google Scholar
  15. Antony Flew, ‘The Burden of Proof’, in Leroy S. Rouner, ed., Knowing Religiously (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985), pp. 103–15Google Scholar
  16. 49.
    Bernard Williams, ‘Review of The Miracle of Theism’, Times Literary Supplement (11 March 1983). See also my Philosophy and Atheism (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1985), pp. 211–31.Google Scholar
  17. 49.
    See here Wartofsky, ‘Homo Homini Deus Est’; and his Feuerbach (London: Cambridge University Press, 1977).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Claremont Graduate School 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Nielsen

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations