Grab a cup of coffee because this is going to be long.
Quoting from a book by Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels, on Religion, “Religions are founded by people who feel a need for religion themselves and have a feeling for the religious needs of the masses.”
Now, I would like to clarify; just because I agree with the above statement does not mean that I agree with the conclusions that are ultimately drawn by Marx and Engels on their scrutiny on Christianity.
With that, let me try and explain in simplest terms a practical understanding of religion.
Religion is the attempt or effort to communicate or connect with a supreme being or deity (ies) (who are called either gods/goddesses); brought about by establishing a particular system of faith.
Innately, we have a drive to worship or venerate something. It could be a person, a celebrity, or even material possessions. Your way of worship may be different from those who worship through religious establishments.
If you were to do an honest analysis on the object of your faith, you will find that there is something on this earth that you highly revere or elevate to a point of adoration. Each man therefore, attempts to connect with his own object/subject of worship in their own unique way.
Every human being as well, has within himself an economic drive; that is, a drive to provide for his basic needs, those of his family, in addition to progressing his own life. We all have the need to protect our property, the material things we acquire, as well as to increase on them and create more economy.
Now, I would like us to make one irrefutable argument for the whole of this post, and that is, there exists a God. One Infinite and Supreme Being, Creator of the Universe, who is the Hebrew God, (the God of the Israelites). Any arguments against this, I will discuss at the end of the post.
On a side note, I disregard all atheistic views, because it does not even need to take an educated person to look around and recognize the existence of a Creator.
If we clearly look around, we see a marvelous work of creation, a stunning design in creation. And everything that we know to have been created or made, including this laptop I am typing words into, has a creator or a maker.
Things do not just come into being from non-being. Something brings about something. There cannot be an effect without a cause. So, the big bang theorists have a tough one on that. And if you have come across a such like object or life form, please feel free to comment and we can discuss about it.
Then, for those who would argue why one Infinite Being? Why can’t there be more than one Infinite Being? Because of the below argument;
We know that an infinite being lacks nothing. And for two beings to differ, one must lack something the other has. And therefore, a being that lacks something ceases to be infinite.
So, if we are in agreement, we have One Infinite Being, and I will call Him God on this post.
Back to Karl Marx’s views on religion.
Supposing a rational human being called Buck, desires to connect with God. This desire to connect with God leads him to creating a sort of religion (he devises a way or practice he personally views as suitable according to him, to connect with God).
And there comes another rational human being, called Beck, who sees Buck’s desire to connect with God and the ways in which he has fashioned for himself so as to make that possible. Immediately, a light bulb goes off Beck’s head thinking, “I can capitalize on this dude’s desire to connect with God.” Remember Beck is human and has an economic drive, just like you and I. And here, there has been presented a perfect opportunity to maximize on it.
Now, here is where Marx’s and Engels’ view on religion come in.
Remember the quote I began with, “Religions are founded by people who feel a need for religion themselves and have a feeling for the religious needs of the masses.”
Focusing on Christianity
The Name Christianity, and the History of the Church
Now, firstly, Christianity as a word is not even in the Bible.
Jesus Christ, who is the historical figure surrounding Christianity was a Jew to begin with.
So where did Christianity come from?
We find a text in the earliest sources of history on the name Christians in the book of Acts. And before this, I would like to walk us through a brief history of how Christ followers came to be called Christians.
God (of the Hebrews), had promised the Jews that a Messiah would arise from a town in Bethlehem and sit on David’s throne.
David was a king in Israel who was now long dead. He was a soldier, a warrior, who led armies to battle for Israel.
Thus, presumably, they perceived that this Messiah, who would come, would come in a capacity of a militant.
Jerusalem at that time was under the rule of Roman proconsuls. And the Jews had had it up to their necks with Rome and its extortionate tax collections. They were ready for a military man to lead them to war against the roman rule.
But what did they get? They got a carpenter preaching love your enemies. Not a message they wanted to hear especially at such a time.
So you can imagine the rejection, the disparaging, and the contempt. A simple carpenter claiming to be their Messiah? How audacious and blasphemous!
They rejected Him, and we know the story… He was crucified, died, and was buried and rose again on the third day.
Here, we see, the Jews have rejected this Man, so who are His followers?
Well, those who believed that He spoke the truth and that He was who He said He was.
This then, counts for some few Jews, and mostly Gentiles. And who are the Gentiles? These were the people who practiced their own forms of religion. All those who were not Jews were called Gentiles. And they were also known for worshipping foreign gods and idols.
The worship of Greek gods and Greek goddesses was the way of worship for the gentiles especially in the areas surrounding Asia Minor.
Remember the quote? “Religions are founded by people who feel a need for religion themselves and have a feeling for the religious needs of the masses.”
So maybe now you may be asking, “What makes Jesus any different?” Well, hang in there, I will conclude with that.
Now, since this Christ followership was distinct from the norm of the gentile worship, they were branded as a peculiar sect.
They were causing the idol trade to go out of business. In the Gentile cities, Jesus was bad for business.
The pagan gentiles were now against them, including many Jews (for many did not believe in Jesus as their Messiah).
Thus, they began persecuting the Christ followers. But this did not deter them, they had found something that was beyond what man could give.
By this time, any following of Jesus was called, “The Way.”
The people in Antioch (which was a gentile city), were now accepting Jesus by the multitudes.
And it was here in Antioch where they were first given the name Christians, meaning, like Christ, or Christ ones. (Keep in mind as well; this is just after the death of Christ).
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.
20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.
23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.
26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
Now, remember our capitalist friend Beck? Supposing he stumbled upon this sect, what do you think would be going on in his mind?
You guessed it! His economic green lights would be blowing the fuses!
And this is the tragic mess that we have partly as Christianity in history today.
If you have read any of the five out of the seven church messages, I have addressed under the category of learning experience on my blog, I point out that Christians in the churches of Ephesus and Smyrna, were severely persecuted by the Jews and by the Romans as well for their faith and belief in Jesus.
There were open massive persecutions of Christians from the death of Christ leading up to the historical church of Pergamum around 300 A.D. (After Death of Christ), the period around which— the kind of religion that Jesus condemned — crept in and finally became the face of what we have as Christianity today.
Recall, which is the governing power at this time? Yes, you got it. Rome!
Christians, who were found to be devoted to their belief that Christ was the Messiah, refused to worship the roman emperors and as a result, they were subjected to mass murders in the roman colosseums and hangings on the stake.
Ever heard of somebody called Flavius Valerius Constantinus? or commonly known as Constantine the great?
He was the Roman Emperor who ruled 306 to 337 A.D. In the course of his wars with his adversaries to establish himself on the throne, he supposedly saw a sign of the cross in the skies (perceiving it was a sign from the gods), and decided to fight under its banner. He won the battle, and this is where Christianity took a 360 degree turn from a persecuted people to an accepted religion.
Christianity from henceforward was structured and made the religion of his jurisdiction. He passed an edict of toleration towards Christians, another edict to construct church buildings; he abolished crucifixions and slavery, and instituted other reforms in favor of Christians.
There were no more persecutions because Christianity was now the religion of the state, and anybody could now become a Christian without necessarily knowing heads or tails of what it really entailed to be a follower of Christ.
The region of Rome was still highly pagan in nature, and now with this new amalgamation, many of their heathen philosophies were brought into Christianity.
Notice now, being a Christian has turned from following the way of Christ, the core teachings of Christianity found in (The Sermon on the Mount— Matthew 5) into an empire.
And if we are all familiar with empires, what do they do? Of course! They conquer, they expand their territories and their power, and they impose their structures to strengthen their imperial edifices.
Beck’s opportunity is finally here.
Consequently, what do you figure? After the end of the Imperial persecutions, around 312 A.D., Christians all of a sudden have numbered to about one half of the population of the Roman Empire.
I hope you are still with me as we seek to understand Karl Marx’s philosophy on religion as the opium of the masses.
Keep in mind as well; we are not in the age of the printing press where Bibles are as many as Justin Beiber’s followers. So, if Beck is to interpret to you what Christianity is all about, you will believe him.
Now, remember Beck’s foundation is already laid, his objective at this moment is to thrive. Therefore, Karl Marx, and I are in agreement up to this point.
At this point in history, Buck is still free to choose his religion. Thus, he is okay with this new Christianity in town. The dark ages of Christianity as a religion are yet to come and rob him even of that choice. Beck now capitalizes on Buck’s desire to reach God. Remember Buck has now found a religion that is widely accepted by all, although he doesn’t know much about it.
So, what does Beck do? You guessed it! He becomes the interpreter, and he is the one who also has the deep insights of understanding Christianity.
Constantine is long dead by now. (You will also note that Beck is not a particular person, he is the guy who seizes the opportunity when it arises).
According to Karl Marx’s theory, material interests are what determine ideas. Beck has material interests or what I have been calling economic drive, and here is an idea that has presented itself —Ribbon wrapped and all.
The union of church and state has now resulted to what is today known as the Roman Catholic Church. With the enterprise mind of a government, politics set in, taxes need to be paid (in form of tithes and offerings), and mostly the seat of the president needs to be filled. Here is where the papal seat comes in.
The papacy, in subsequent years expanded its power through subjugation in the name of Christ.
Then arose the universal compulsion to accept the faith, the papal conferred power, rule of degenerate popes around 904 to 911 A.D: corruption, simony, robbery, the Spanish inquisitions, wars, sexual immoralities, many others, and principally for the highlight of this post false doctrines which benefit Beck.
Buck has now been frightened out of his wits by Beck’s interpretation of Christianity. Of course, Buck does not own a Bible so he does not really know the truth. And here, the dark ages have already set in. He is now required to follow the religion of the state.
Beck’s material interests do not care much for the interests of Buck and thousands of his counterparts.
According to Beck’s interpretation of Christianity, Buck is required to pay some amount of money as penitential obligations for himself in order to lessen the amount of suffering in purgatory for sins committed (and these came in form of indulgences).
He is also required to buy relics from the church in order to assist him during prayer so that his prayers may be heard and answered by God. These doctrines mainly taught, “yes, you are saved by grace, but you stay in through works. In other words, Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for your sins, but you have to do something about the temporal sins you commit before death.”
Johann Tetzel, who was responsible for these collections during Martin Luther’s time, was known for his infamous quote.
“For a soul to fly out (of purgatory) is for it to obtain the vision of God, which can be hindered by no interruption. Therefore, he errs who says that the soul cannot fly out before the coin can jingle in the bottom of the chest.” In “Luther and Tetzel,” Publications of the Catholic Truth Society (Great Britain), 1900, Volume 43.P.25.
And any attempt to stand up against these practices, was termed an emphatic heresy.
If you read on the history of the reformation, you will discover that Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for his bold stand against these practices.
The church as well, accused him of taking out some books from the Bible, which were never there in the Jewish scriptures. These were added by church padres to support their false doctrines.
Quoting from Halley’s Bible Pocket Handbook,
“The number of papal persecutions far outnumbered the early Christian martyrs under pagan Rome; these included hundreds of thousands among the Albigenses, Waldenses, and Protestants of Germany, Netherlands, Bohemia, and other countries.”
The oppressed had now become the oppressor, but remember this was not the face of Christ. Christ’s design was to conquer by purely spiritual and moral means.
Like the Christians in Antioch, following Christ was brought about by a voluntary change of the heart and life which made others desire the joy and love they saw in His followers.
So now here, we have a religious system which has clearly been established by man; and we have Karl Marx’s view of religion, of which I totally agree up to this point.
“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”. —Karl Marx.
“Marx believed that religion had certain practical functions in society that were similar to the function of opium in a sick or injured person: it reduced people’s immediate suffering and provided them with pleasant illusions which gave them the strength to carry on.
Marx also saw religion as harmful to his revolutionary goals, as it prevented people from seeing the class structure and oppression around them, thus religion was a hindrance to the socialist revolution.” —Wikipedia.
Now, I would like to debunk the philosophical views of particularly Fredrich Engels, who specifically cites the belief of Christianity as unreliable, agreeing to the ideas that firstly, the Christian Gospels are not a record of history but of human fantasies arising from emotional needs, and secondly, that Jesus was not a historical person.
For such learned people, my heart breaks at such conclusions because there exists over 5,000+ complete and fragmented Greek manuscripts indicating that Jesus was a historical person, including Roman historian manuscripts which are generally taken to be unbiased sources.
These far outnumber any original historical documents we have in history up-to-date.
Thousands of misguided people taking to heart Marx’s and Engels’ theories without an honest and thorough analysis of the facts have swayed themselves to embracing atheistic views in the world today.
Quoting from Halley’s Bible Pocket Handbook,
The papacy is not the church, but a political machine that got control of the church, as by assumed prerogatives, interposed itself between God and its people.
Peter forewarned about such an occurrence saying,
2 Peter 2
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
Now, The Evidence for Faith
At some point on this post, I said I would give my arguments for the Hebrew God, being the One, Infinite Creator of the Universe.
On a post I had written previously on why Jesus stands out; I shortly went through some of the popularly known religions in the world today. If you carefully follow the teachings of each one of them, you will discover one interesting thing. Each one of them teaches on the things that one has to do in order to attain that transcendental state, or touch the infinite.
Thus, what would be the conclusion? That religion is man’s effort to reach the infinite which is clearly impossible.
Then you have the Hebrew God.
Because it is an impossibility for mere man (a finite being) to touch the infinite, the infinite then chooses to touch the finite. And so we have Jesus, the infinite (God) becoming the finite Man (Jesus), revealing to humanity the true nature of God.
What does Jesus say? He says, “Now Sir or Madam, for you to reach this heavenly place you are searching for, you have to be perfect. And nobody is perfect before God. There is no work that you can do to attain this perfect standard, there is no amount of devotion you can do to please God, and that is why I am here.” Well, Jesus did not say this but, in summary, this was His message.
He lives a perfect sinless life, loving and forgiving His friends and enemies, and He grants eternal life to whoever believes in Him and His words.
And there is that sense of freedom you get that you don’t have to work yourself through some rigorous ritual, tradition, or devotion following some man-made systems to reach God. You can just believe in the finished work of the cross, and do as Jesus commanded. And that is, to love God, and to love one another just as we love ourselves.
You will find too, that some of the teachings of Jesus are in agreement with some of the renowned world religions. Again, what makes Jesus different?
He claimed to be God in human form. Either, He needed to be in a psychiatric ward, or He spoke the truth. He told people to believe in Him, to go to Him, to place their faith in Him.
He was not just saying, believe my teachings.
He said, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life and he who has Me has life, I Am the Bread of Life, I Am the Light of the World, I Am the Door, I Am the Good Shepherd, I Am, the Way, the Truth and the Life, I am the True Vine, and finally, before Abraham was, I Am.”
Mind you Abraham was long dead, almost, two thousand years when Jesus was speaking these words.
So yes, Christianity was made a religious tradition by man: but Jesus Christ is not a religion.
Jesus Himself, was against religious hypocrisy, and spoke against it with absolute sternness.
Therefore, it is clear that this dark age of church history, in as much as it was perpetuated in His name, had followed none of His teachings. This was a man-made agenda with man’s political ambitions.
Now, I once heard a wise man say, if you want to learn what Muslims believe, you do not go to 9-11 and say, “Islam is about terrorists”, the same for the Indians, you do not say, “they are animal worshippers.”
That is ignorant thinking.
You have to be intellectually open to understand what the evidence for their faith is.
So what you do is, you read the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the teachings and life of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, the Qur’an and the life of Mohammed, and the teachings and life of Jesus as recorded in the first four gospels of the New Testament.
You also check on consistency of the manuscripts, historical authenticity of all manuscripts, archeological evidence, the literary style and then you can accept or reject a belief based on evidence for faith.
You do not follow blind faith. (This wise man is called Cliffe Knechtle)
Quoting from Britannica, “In Marx’s dream of a communist revolution, religion would be abolished, and the workers would be so happy being equal they simply wouldn’t need it anymore. But unfortunately for Marx, the revolution in Russia came after he had died and gone to wherever it is that atheists go. And by then, Stalin and his gang had proved there were lots of other ways to oppress people which didn’t have any of the fun bits of religion or, indeed, opium.”
In conclusion, for the Marxists and the atheistic movement, they are left with a problem that they are yet to solve. If God does not exist, and the communist way is the most preferable way of life, how will they be able to limit man’s economic drive?
And they cannot say through the government, because clearly, we have seen what happens when any government is granted power (be there checks and balances), over the economy, let alone religion.
Also, they cannot make the assumption that all men should, or will be agreeable to a communist way of life because again, that is limiting a man’s free will and choice to expand his own economy, which as a theist I believe God gave to each and every person.
And as they scratch their heads to solve these problems, Jesus gave the solution.
Paul said, “in the last days people will be ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Kindly do not be among these. Humble yourself under the mighty Hand of God and ask Him to guide you to truth.
If you are done with that cup of coffee, please meditate genuinely on these things.
God Bless! 🙂
Historical Sources: Publications of the Catholic Truth Society, 1900.
Halley’s Bible Pocket Handbook, Twenty Third Edition, Zondervan Publishers.
Wikipedia on The Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1843
Featured Image Credit— Religion