Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 26 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses the relationship between Marx, Marxism, and atheism, outlining the ways in which the phrase ‘opium of the people’ is often misunderstood as an atheist statement. In fact, Marx rejected the term atheism as inadequate to the task as it did not address the socio-economic basis of religious belief. While some forms of Marxism often adopted a mechanistic and dogmatic materialist approach to religion, Marx saw it as the means by which people made sense of social oppression, and therefore worthy of study in its own right. From Marx’s letter to Ruge in 1842 speaking of communism fulfilling the religious dreams of mankind, via Walter Benjamin’s revolutionary messianism, Ernst Bloch’s contention that ‘only an atheist can be a good Christian and only a Christian can be a good atheist’, through to Slavoj Žižek’s work on religion, Marxism has a more complex relationship to atheism than is often thought.

Keywords: Marx, Marxism, opium of the people, Benjamin, revolutionary messianism, Bloch, Žižek, mechanistic materialism

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.