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In this study, my task has been to carry out a critical exposition and evaluation of  karl marx’s philosophy of Religion with The view to highlighting the validity or defects of his theory. Karl marx is one of the greatest  figure in the history of ideas in the 19th century. According to him, the origin and continuing existence of religion may be attributed to the economic exploitation of the masses in the capitalist system. He agreed with feuerbach that God is nothing other than a projection of the best qualities in man, and that religion is man self alienation. But Marx felt that feuerbach did not go to the root of the problem. He did not try to find out why men turn to religion and thereby alienate themselves.






1.1 Background of the Study:

This research work is in the area of philosophy of Religion. Philosophy of religious is simply the application of philosophy to religions thinking. Joseph Omoregbe defines the study as “a free unprejudiced, rational inquiry into the nature,  meaning and purpose of the religion and the truth value of religions tenets (Omoregbe;8) philosophy of religion is not theology; there is a difference between a theologian and a philosopher

As Brooke Moore and Kenneth Bruder explain in their book titled Philosophy: The Power of ideas, if one subscribes to a religion, then one  also veritably  accepts  certain purely philosophical doctrines. For instance, if one believes in a non-material God, then that means that such a person believes that not all that exists is material, and that means he accepts a metaphysics of immaterialism.

If one believes that one should, then he is taking sides in the debate among ethical philosophers concerning ethical naturalism. Such person has committed himself to a stand against naturalism. Our religions believes commit us as well to certain epistemological principles. A lot of people who make no claim to have seen, felt, tested, smelted or heard of God still say they know that God exists so they most maintain that we can have knowledge not gained through sense experience.

To maintain this is to take sides in an important epistemological issue. These and many other metaphysical, ethical, and epistemological points of view and principles are assumed by and incorporated in religion and it is the business of the philosophy of religion to understand and rationally evaluate them (Moore & Bruder (377) Of Course, Theology, too seeks clear understanding and rational evaluation of the doctrines and principles found in religion, including those that are metaphysical,

ethical, and epistemological. But for the most part theologians starts from premises and assumptions that are themselves religions tenets. The philosopher of religion, in contrast, does not make religions assumption in trying to understand and evaluate religions belief. This is why Omoregbe says it is a “free” unprejudiced, “rational inquiry.


1.2  Statement of The Problem:

Karl Marx is one of the greatest figures in the history of ideas of the 19th century and his ideas have been tremendously influential over the generations. He is a colossus in political theory, economic analysis and sociology. But his position as a philosopher of religion is not regard to the meaning and purpose of religion and that makes him also a philosopher of religion.

His philosophy of religion is really generated from the background of his socio-political philosophy of historical and dialectical materialism. In this study, our task is to carry out a critical exposition and evaluation of Karl Marx philosophy of religion with a view to highlighting the validity or defects of his theory. This is why we would be able to assess his importance in the history of philosophy generally and in philosophy of religion particularly.

This study is thus not only a research study of the formation and development of philosophy from its beginning to the present. (Copestone 6) we want to be able to locate the importance of Karl Marx in the course of this development. Consequently, some of the questions, which constitute the guiding questions of this research are: what is Marx’s view on religion? How is his view on religion determined by his theory of class struggle? Was Marx an atheist? Why did he dismiss religion as “opium of the people”? Can we defend religion against the attack of Marx? These constitute the central problem of this research study.

13 Objectives and Purpose of The Study:

The objective or purpose of this study is to carry out a critical exposition and evaluation of Karl Marx’s view on religion with a view to assessing its validity or exposing its flaws. We aim to consider to what extent his overall radical rejection of religion has implications and consequences for religion belief and for philosophy of religion. This way, we would be able to assess his value and importance in the history of the development of theories of religion

Capitalist society.

1.4  Significant of The Study:

Philosophers and their theories are products of social conditions of their time. If one fails to recognize the fact, as stroll and popkin says … it may be impossible to account for so many people” Karl Marx is a very influential philosopher of the 19th century and is renowned in the realms of sociology, economic, political theory and philosophy. His views on religion need to be taken seriously and Marx had very uncomplimentary views on religion.

He rejected religion positing that religion is the product of exploitation, oppression and suffering and that it is an “opium” a sedative used by the exploiters and oppressors to prevent the exploited from rebelling. Is this true? Consequently it is necessary and pertinent that we take a deeper and more critical look into his theory of Religion.

1.5 Justification of The Study:

The justification of this study follows from its significance. We have stated that Karl Marx is a colossal figure in the history of philosophy. His attack on religion has certain implications and consequences, which this researcher considers devastating from religion. It is necessary to highlight these consequences and implication as the ideas of this great man does influence generation and shape the lives of people. And for us Africans, who are fundamentally religious, it is necessary for us to save religion from the skeptical or revolutionary attack of the likes of Karl Marx. To that extent the study is justified.

1.6 Organization of The Study:

This research study is organized into five chapters, which are concerned with different themes of study. In chapter one, we present our introduction, which includes the statement of the problem, objective of the study, significance and justification of the study, method and scope of the study, the organization of the study The second chapter is the review relevant literature.

The third chapter is an overview of Karl Marx’s philosophy i.e. the major elements in his philosophy; his theories of dialectical materialism, historical materialism, the class struggle, the theory of surplus value are all articulated. The fourth chapter focuses mainly on his views on religion. In a sub-section of the fourth chapter, we address the issue whether or not Marx was an atheist.

Our position is that even though he postulated a materialistic philosophy and presented a radical attitude against religion, he still was not an atheist. This leads us to argue in the fifth and the final chapter that for us Africans, religion is primary and fundamental, sacred and vital and holds immeasurable positive values; and   this cannot be dismissed as “opium”. In critically appraising Marx’s theory in the final chapter, we concede that there is   some element of truth in Marx’s position because it is a fact that religion is practical more among the poor and the suffering than among the rich and well to do.

  • Method and Scope:

Every science has its object of study as well as its peculiar methods; one would expect in a philosophical treatise of this nature, the method adopted should be the philosophical method:

Nonetheless, what is the “philosophical method”? Or what is the method of philosophical investigation? Philosophers are not in agreement as to the method of their study, but Pantaleon Iroegbu in Metaphysic: The Kpin of philosophy    states some methods of doing philosophy as follows:

  • The inductive-deductive approach
  • The synthetic- analytic approach
  • The transcendental method developed by Immanuel Kant.
  • The Phenomenological-hermeneutic interpretational method used by Paul Ricoeur (Iroegbu 322)

The method adopted in this study is a combination of analysis and criticism. We intend to carry out a critical and analytic exposition of Marxist philosophy and his views on Religion. This we do systematically and logically in a style that is typically philosophical. To do this, we have relied on available literature on the subject. The scope is determined by these available literature, but even though our practical concern is with Marx’s view on religion, we aid not limit ourselves to just that but extended to highlight the key elements in the Marxian philosophical system.


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