heart of a heartless world

We started exploring some interesting territory this morning in my Theology, Art and Film class brought on by the life and work of Frida Kahlo. Most of the conversation revolved around issues of reconciling socialism and Christianity because of her political views and those of her husband Diego Rivera. What really peaked my interest was when Barry put up a quote from Karl Marx from Engels’ “The Condition” that is widely used but rarely in it’s entire context. Maybe the most famous Marx quote about religion is that “Religion is the opium of the people” but here is the entire quote in context;

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of the real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people, the abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which need illusions.”

I’m not here to defend Marxism or even support it’s core ideology but point out that it may have some fair critique of religion as a social construct. It’s not as much an assault on the content of belief but a critique of the function of religion in society. I think there is part of his critique that religion keeps people numb to the current situation they are living in and so those that are oppressed and exploited are ignored. The development of liberation theology, especially in South and Latin America, is an attempt to reconcile Marxism with the Christian mission and the preferential treatment of the poor. I think there is an interesting conversation to be had here especially because issues and language of socialism have been reintroduced into our current landscape and the political script. Some pretty deep waters to be swimming around in at 8 am on a Monday morning but very much worth the time and effort.


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