WAR, RELIGION AND ATHEISM Part 2: Marx and Engels


My purpose is to debunk the notion some people have that religion causes most or all war (yes I have heard people make that claim, and the Crusades are commonly used as purported “evidence” for it), and instead to show that war comes from the inner nature of man. Most particularly, as a way of demonstrating that very point, I intend to show that one of the out-workings of that nature comes via atheistic philosophies.

One of the great ironies of 20th Century communism is that while its founders saw belief in God as one of the enemies of the evolution of mankind (sound familiar?) as I will show, communism, and by association atheism, became the greatest source of misery and destruction in the twentieth century.MARX’S PLAN

The “Communist Manifesto” declares in part 1 that “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle” or, as Fredrich Engels put it in his preface to the German edition of 1883, “…all history has been a history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting”. History, to Marx, has been a struggle between the haves and the have-nots (didn’t he have?). Vladimir Pozner, in his introduction to “The Communist Manifesto”, said that the view of Marx and his followers was that “…property and power go hand in hand; that whatever class owns (controls) the property is in fact the ruling class” 1. Ironically, it was subsequently the fact that all communist and socialist leaders were the ones with the power, and dictated what happened to the property!

Karl Marx believed in a kind of social evolution. He said that any human society develops along certain lines, and never regresses. It begins in a tribal stage, and in this stage only is the means of production shared collectively. After that comes the slave-owning society, then the feudal society, and then the capitalist society, in which the means of production is owned by the capitalist class.

Marx believed that a society where the products of collective labor are collectively shared can be created, and will succeed the capitalist society, by abolishing private ownership of the means of production (i.e. bourgeois private property) and turning it into public, collective property. Unfortunately, as Pozner writes, in all the nations where private property has been abolished, such as the USSR, China, Albania, Bulgaria, Cuba, etc, none of them instituted public, collective property. “What replaced private ownership”, says Vladimir “was state ownership” 2. Therefore, he concludes, “real” socialism or communism did not exist in any of these states. This is not, in my view, a reason to try again to get it right, but it’s a reflection of the reality of human nature: no Utopia is possible without God.

Marx believed that each stage of this social evolution had to run its course. However, he seems to have been more than eager to precipitate the move to its next stage.

As I said before, Marx may well not have desired to see human suffering to the extent that it occurred in states where revolutionaries battered their way to power, but they all saw themselves as Marxists: his writings had a profound effect. Poszner, sympathetic to “true” socialism, believes that no man has influenced the course of human history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries more than Karl Marx.

Francis Wheen, in “Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography”, wrote that “The architects of the 1917 revolution all cited Marx, and “Das Kapital” in particular, as the divine authority for the correctness of their views”3.


Marx, in his “Manifesto”, stated that “communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things”

He ended with a rallying cry to the cause of the communists:

“They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution…”


Some writers are keen to distance Marx from the horrors that followed. However, if I were to make such a proclamation, in such a position of influence upon a cause of my choosing, and what followed was bloody and violent, I would most likely be hauled off to prison for incitement to violence and revolution, would I not?  Of course, Marx was already dead by the time of the Bolshevik revolution.

It’s no good saying that Marx’s choice of words was unfortunate, and that “he didn’t mean what people thought he meant”: Marx was an intelligent and brilliant man and he knew how to use words. Pozner said that while Marx “did call for the use of force” to impose the new order, his reasoning had nothing to do with totalitarianism. But how can you not continue to use force in order to overturn an entire (and huge) society and then maintain your will over the people, just as the Bolsheviks did in Russia?


It’s plain that Marx really had it in for the people with political and monetary power. However, his assault was also on the “social” order of things. What did that include? It’s well known that he was opposed to the Church as a bastion of bourgeois thought and power, but it’s often said that he had no desire to attack or abolish the church.

Marx said that the hateful term “free trade” was used for exploitation:

“Veiled by religious and political illusions, it (the bourgeoisie), has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation”….”It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm…in the icy waters of egotistical calculation” (The Communist Manifesto).

So Marx wished to highlight his belief that the Church and religion was being used by those who were oppressing the workers.

I would have no argument with the idea that the established church organization of the day was partially to blame for perpetuating class divisions and oppression, and there certainly was oppression, but many of the 19th and 20th C campaigners for workers’ rights, and for the immediate relief of poverty – in Britain at least – were themselves Christians and church men.

Is it true that Marx wished no harm upon the church? Did he not support the “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions”?

“Left” leaning commentators (I think I’m middle-ish, politically) will commonly say that when Karl Marx wrote, in his “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”, that religion “is the opium of the people”, he merely meant to say that religion was being used to have a soothing and doping effect on the workers while the ruling class oppressed them: he meant no harm to religion itself. However, if we read just a little more of that same “Critique”, in other words, if we keep his words in context so as not to fool anyone, we find that Marx also wrote:

“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness”.

Marx was influenced early on by men like materialist philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. Dimitri Pospielovsky describes in some detail the background to this influence, saying that to Feuerbach’s mind, “religious commitments should be intellectually and emotionally destroyed by the catharsis of an intense hatred towards the old God”4.

Pospielovsky writes that long before Marx devised a political programme the destruction of religion had already been proclaimed by Marx, who said that:

“When the political state as political state comes violently into being…the state can and must proceed to the abolition of religion, to the destruction of religion” 5.

In his introduction to “Critique”, he said “the foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man”.

In “Das Kapital” he called gods “the product of the human brain”. These gods “appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own…”6.

“The religious world is but the reflex of the real world”

(Taken from Capital, Volume 1, section 1).

Marx was expressing his belief that God is a construct of man. To Marx, belief in God was empty: there is no God. He was an atheist, and he prescribed “the abolition of religion” for the evolution of society, and for “real happiness”.

Soviet and Chinese citizens should have been leaping for joy through the 20th Century!


Moreover, Marx’s atheism, which was his religion, could not be divorced from his view of communism any more than fire-breathing can be divorced from dragons. He said:

“Communism begins from the outset with atheism; but atheism is at first far from being communism; indeed, that atheism is still mostly an abstraction.”

(Karl Marx “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844: Private Property and Communism”).

It was by ushering in the next evolutionary stage of human society that the illusion of “bourgeois” religion would be rendered unnecessary, and he intended to see some aid given to the ending of that illusion.


Marx, in his “Manifesto” called the family structure of his day the “bourgeois family”, based on capital and gain. He said that “the bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course…”

Was Marx talking only about wealthy families? My Oxford Dictionary defines “bourgeois” as “having to do with the middle class”. It’s clear from history that his followers regarded all traditional understanding of family ties as a bourgeois invention which needed to go (sound familiar?). Orlando Figues, in the book “Whisperers”, writes that the family was the first arena in which the Bolsheviks in Russia engaged the people after their successful revolution. In the 1920s “they took it as an article of faith” that the bourgeois family was socially harmful, being a “stronghold of religion, superstition, ignorance and prejudice”. The new code on Marriage and the Family (1918), writes Figues, established a legislative framework that clearly aimed to cause the breakdown of the traditional family. It removed the influence of the Church from marriage and divorce 7.

The war communists waged on their own citizens affected peasant and “workers” families just as it affected the “ruling classes”. I will expand on this later in my series.


Fredrich Engels was the son of a wealthy mill owner. He befriended Marx in August 1844, and from then on they corresponded regularly, and encouraged one another in their common beliefs. They collaborated on “The Communist Manifesto”. .Some of their correspondence is very illuminating.

We can get a glimpse of the character of Engels, and an example of his personal application of the concept of Natural Selection, in his letter to Marx in December of 1859:

“Dear Moor,

Herewith Post Office Order for £5 payable at Camden Town. Beta is the dirtiest dog I have ever come across. The infamous article put me into a real rage. Unfortunately the chap’s such a cripple already that no amount of beating could make him more misshapen than he is. However, sometime we shall have to wreak personal vengeance on the rascal. At any rate, some satisfaction can be derived from the fact that Kinkel’s beautiful soul is forced to seek its mate in a filthy pig of this kind. Just think what it takes to produce one single Bettziech! Whole generations of crippled moles having, by the Darwinian process of Natural Selection, evolved to the highest degree the faculty to live on dung, with shit for their chosen element. Filthy, blatant lies and impotent malice — such are the tools with which that mendacious parson Kinkel’s bad conscience seeks to keep on its legs. Let us get these fellows once face to face again, and you’ll see what becomes of the gang of scoundrels.”

Source: MECW Volume 40, p.550 First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in: Marx and Engels, Works,Moscow, 1929.


Part XI of Engels’ “Dialectics of Nature”, is titled:


Here, Engels discusses his belief that our ancestors were “apes”. He says that Darwin has given us an approximate description of them (because Darwin had seen them, of course):

“They were completely covered with hair, they had beards and pointed ears, and they lived in bands in the trees.”

(hmmm…sounds familiar – I think I’ve seen a photograph – wait – no, it was an “artist’s impression”)

As the ape-man gradually descended from the trees, its hands, the organs and the products of labor, were freed up for other uses, and the creature began to fashion tools: the first laborers were born.

Engels takes us (as it’s so well documented) from the trees all the way to…the oppression of the workers by the bourgeoisie. He concludes that mankind’s evolution, left unchecked, can be harmful to him and to the rest of nature. Therefore, man’s further evolution requires control:

“To carry out this control requires something more than mere knowledge. It requires a complete revolution in our hitherto existing mode of production, and with it of our whole contemporary social order” (emphasis mine).

Engels, in his December 1859 letter, further expressed his enthusiasm for the work of Darwin:

“Darwin, by the way, whom I’m reading just now, is absolutely splendid…Never before has so grandiose an attempt been made to demonstrate historical evolution in nature, and certainly never to such good effect”.


Marx was just as enamored with Darwinian evolution as Engels. As I noted in my introduction last week, Socialists and communists are very proud of this fact:


In a letter to Lasalle in 1861, Marx wrote:

Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history”

(Marx to Lasalle in Berlin, 16th January 1861 Pub: Gesamtausgabe, International publishers).

In Marx’s comments on Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” of December 1860, he wrote:

“This is a book which contains the basis of natural history for our views”

Five years after Marx’s death, Engels wrote that Marx’s fundamental proposition:

“in my opinion, is destined to do for history what Darwin’s theory has done for biology…”8.


It is clear, then, that as an atheist Marx saw Darwinian evolution as being complementary to his own view of social evolution, and arriving at a fortuitous time. The godless imaginings of Darwin and his ape-men were in lock-step with the philosophy of Marxism, even if that was not Darwin’s intention. Marx and Darwin in turn profoundly influenced and indoctrinated the barbaric and ruthless leaders and followers of totalitarian regimes of twentieth century communism, who saw nothing wrong with extinguishing human life – their own citizens – on a huge scale. Man to them was just another “animal”: their hatred could be vented without conscience or fear of judgment. The same attitude is easily found in the philosophy of Adolph Hitler, another mass-murderer. Hitler did distrust Marxism: he thought it was the haunt of Jews, who he hated long before he became chancellor. However his belief, based on his understanding of evolutionary theory and the ascent of man from apes, was that entire “races” of people were not only inferior but were like a plague: they should just be wiped from the face of the earth. Hitler was no more a Christian than Mother Theresa was a Nazi. In succeeding articles I will support this and other points.

1 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, with an introduction by Vladimir Pozner, The Communist Manifesto (Bantam Dell, New York, p 1992) p xiii

2 Ibid, p xvi

3 Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography (Atlantic Monthly Press, New York NY 2006) p 98

4 Dimitry V. Pospielovsky, A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious PoliciesSt. Martin’s Press,New York,NY p1987) Chapter 1 p 9.

5 From Marx and Engels, Collected Works (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1975) Vol. 5, p.7.

6  Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography (Atlantic Monthly Press, New York NY 2006)  p 43

7 Orlando Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia (Metropolitan Books,New York) First US ed. 2007).

8 Marx and Friedrich Engels, with an introduction by Vladimir Pozner, The Communist Manifesto (Bantam Dell, New York, p 1992) p xxii





11 thoughts on “WAR, RELIGION AND ATHEISM Part 2: Marx and Engels

  1. I absolutely love your website.. Very nice colors & theme.

    Did you make this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my own
    blog and would love to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called.
    Kudos! THIS SITE


  2. “Some writers are keen to distance Marx from the horrors that followed. However, if I were to make such a proclamation, in such a position of influence upon a cause of my choosing, and what followed was bloody and violent, I would most likely be hauled off to prison for incitement to violence and revolution, would I not? ”

    This is an argument?

    Utter tripe.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s