Welcome to the headless professor video series. Today we are talking about Karl Marx and his view of religion. We remember Karl Marx primarily as the father of communism. He constructed a philosophical system that is known as Dialectical Materialism. Now the materialism part of his system refers to the fact that he denied that there was any kind of spiritual reality. Marx contended that everything that really existed was matter: the physical world. All of human consciousness, from political views, to art, to religious views, was merely a reflection of man’s underlying material needs that would find their way into a given economic system: the means of producing goods and services to meet man’s material needs. Let’s talk about the dialectical part of Marx’s system. Marx had his academic training in philosophy and he studied the great German philosopher Hegel who talked about the dialectic of ideas. For Hegel any idea, or thesis, automatically generated its opposite, the antithesis, and between these two ideas, thesis and antithesis, there was a powerfu dialectic, a dynamic of energy that would eventually generate a new idea between the two: a synthesis. But, that new idea was itself a thesis and would eventually generate its antithesis and this new dynamic of the dialectic would create yet a new idea, a new synthesis, and this process would fuel the force of history and keep things going until a perfect system of ideas was created. So, that’s the dialectic. What Marx did is he took the dialectic of ideas from Hegel and changed it into a different kind of dialectic, a dialectic of economic and political systems. For Marx, in any given society, one social class was the rulers because it held the means of production. In the time of slaves the ruling class was the slave owners, in the feudal system of medieval Europe the ruling class were the land barons because they held the means of production, the land, In modern capitalism the ruling class would be the capitalists, those who own the financial institutions and the factories. Within any given society in which one class owns the means of production there’s also going to be an exploited class. In the ancient Roman times the exploited class would be the slaves, in medieval Europe under the feudal system the exploited class would be the peasantry. In modern society the exploited class would be the working class, what Marx called the proletariat. Now, in every social society where there is a ruling class and an exploited class there will be a dynamic, a kind of dialectic of struggle between these two classes. That struggle will eventually result in a revolution bringing about a new society. Marx thought that this kind of struggle would continue until the perfect society was created, the perfect society in which there was no more class exploitation. and of course Marx thought that this perfect class would be under a kind of communism where everybody would own everything and everybody would produce from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs. That was Marx’s ideal of communism. Marx thought that every form of society, be it art, politics, and even religion fit the needs of this class dynamic. Most religions were created by the ruling class as a tool to help them keep up, and keep down the exploited class. Some religions grew up among the exploited class primarily as a tool to help them assuage their frustration at being exploited. One of Marx’s most famous quotations is that “Religion is the opiate of the people.” It’s like a pacifying drug that the exploited class uses to make it feel less suffering at the hands of its exploitation. From the perspective of the ruling class, religion is the ideal tool for exploitation, a way to suppress and oppress the exploited class even further to keep them under control. Now, Marx thought that when we get to the perfect society, his view of communism, we will no longer need these different tools of oppression. We won’t need a government according to Marx. He thought that the perfect communist system would have government fade away. He also thought that religion would fade away, that it too would no longer be necessary. Now we see that Marx’s prediction about communism didn’t work out in the real world. Communist governments had to remain totalitarian dictatorships. Their governments did not fade away and religion did not fade away in communist societies either.