Karl Marx as a Radical Protestant Infidel?

15 Nov

At the Religion in American History blog, Janine Giordano Drake reviews a new book by Jonathan Sperber: Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life.

What Drake picks up from Sperber’s book is intriguing: Marx was grounded less in secularized Judaism that in the radical Protestantism of the 19th century. Drake writes:

Marx’s father, Heinrich Marx, converted to Protestantism in 1819 in order to escape the prohibition of Jews from government positions within Germany. Sperber argues that if all he wanted was an opportunity to get appointed to a legal office, Heinrich could have become Catholic. He writes, “Going from Judaism to Protestantism in deeply Catholic Trier meant exchanging one form of minority existence for another.” Marx, he argues, was the son of a man who appreciated the radical Protestant tradition for its rejection of the close ties of the Roman Catholic church with the Prussian government. He appreciated the  French Revolution’s Enlightenment and Deist ideals, saw these democratic impulses more aligned with Protestantism than the ancient Roman Church. After his father died, a librarian found in Heinrich’s library a copy of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man. 

At the same time, Sperber argues, Marx also defended minority Catholics around the world against a Protestant Prussian government. While he personally rejected religion as a Young Hegelian, he did not support the “Society of Free Men,” a group which asked all members to cut ties with Christian churches. He called this attitude “revolutionary romanticism, their addiction to their own genius, their dubious seeking of fame.” Marx did not object to private faith as much as he did to dogmatic religious institutions. He was not a lifestyle radical, either–he strove for a traditional nineteenth century marriage and a middle class upbringing for his kids, and did not call for others to reject these visions of the good life. Rather, argues Sperber, Marx was a political radical who sought to “move toward a criticism of the social and political circumstances that encouraged and enforced [religious institutions’] orthodoxy.”

For the entirety of Drake’s comments, see here:

Religion in American History: Karl Marx as a Radical Protestant Infidel?.

Advertisements

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 )

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

Exploring the Past

Reading, Thinking, and Blogging about History

Enough Light

"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." - Blaise Pascal

Lenten Lamentations

Preparing to Participate in God's Mosaic Kingdom

The Text Message

Discoveries from processing and reference archivists on the job

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Wirelesshogan: Reflections from the Hogan

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

The Way of Improvement Leads Home

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

The Pietist Schoolman

The website and blog of historian Chris Gehrz

Native News Online

American Indian News

Reformed Journal: The Twelve

Reformed. Done Daily.

i-history

by Alex Scarfe

blogwestdotorg.wordpress.com/

Thoughtful Conversation about the American West

Northwest History

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

%d bloggers like this: