September 28, 2010 11:29

“Religion is the opiate of the people”; “Religion is only the illusionary sun around which man revolves, until he begins to revolve around himself.” ~ Karl Marx


Baptism didn’t do him any good.

KARL MARX was born on May 5, 1818, in Trier, Prussia, descending from a distinguished line of Jewish scholars.  His father was an attorney, and when in 1816 a Prussian decree prohibited Jews from prestigious positions in law, Marx’s father became a Lutheran.  On August 26, 1824, Karl and his siblings were baptized.

Karl was confirmed at fifteen and for a while appeared to be a committed Christian.  However, as he continued his education, all appearances of Christianity faded away.  He received a doctorate in philosophy from Jena University.  He worked as an editor in Paris and Brussels before settling in 1849 in London where he remained for the rest of his life.  There he became involved in revolutionary politics but spent most of his time studying at the British Museum.

Marx was a poet.  As a boy his poetry revolved around two themes: his love for Jenny von Westphalen, the girl next door whom he married in 1841, and the destruction of the world.  His poems were filled with savagery, hatred, suicide pacts, and pacts with Satan.  In one poem he wrote, “We are the apes of a cold God.”  One of his favorite phrases was from Faust, “Everything that exists deserves to perish.”  The theme of a coming apocalyptic conflagration occupied his thinking throughout his life.  He wrote of the “Day of Judgment” when “the reflections of burning cities are seen in the heavens.”  In a speech in 1856 he said, “History is the judge, its executioner the proletariat.”  This vision of doomsday was an artistic notion in Marx’s mind, not a scientific conclusion.  It was a conclusion from which he as a political scientist worked backward.

Many of his favorite phrases showed his disdain for religion: “Religion is the opiate of the people”; “Religion is only the illusionary sun around which man revolves, until he begins to revolve around himself.”  An acquaintance concluded, “Marx does not believe in God, but he believes much in himself and makes everyone serve himself.  His heart is not full of love but of bitterness, and he has little sympathy for the human race.”

What kind of fruit would attitudes like these produce in a man’s life?  Marx had a very unhealthy lifestyle.  He smoked and drank heavily.  He seldom bathed or washed.  He was totally incompetent at handling money.  He never seriously tried to get a job but instead lived off loans from family and friends that were never repaid.  His mother once expressed her wish that Karl would “accumulate capital instead of just writing about it.”

Marx was saved financially by substantial inheritances that provided an annual income equal to three times the earnings of a skilled workman at that time.  Even with this generous inheritance, all Marx and his wife knew how to do was to spend and borrow.  The family’s silver service was often at the pawnbrokers, as were their clothes.  At one point only Karl had enough clothing left to leave the house, and he was down to his last pair of pants.

His family life was also disastrous.  One daughter died of an opium overdose and another in a suicide pact.

In spite of his writings regarding the struggle of the working class, Marx only knew one member of the working class personally.  She was called “Lenchen” and was the Marx family’s servant from 1845 until her death in 1890.  Although Marx collected reports of many low-paid workers, he never found evidence of a worker who was paid no wages at all.  Yet one such person lived in his own house.  Lenchen never received a cent from Marx for her labors, only room and board.  Marx fathered a son, Freddy, by her but convinced his protégé  Friedrich Engels to claim paternity in his stead.  Freddy was allowed to visit Lenchen only by coming to the back door, but Freddy never realized that the radical philosopher was his father.

From One Year Book of Christian History by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten

Tyndale House Publishers

Used by permission – all rights reserved

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