Letter: Marx and religion

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Deborah Orr is entitled to endorse Marx's view that "religion is the opium of the people" ("Prosperity is making paupers out of all of us", 17 September) provided she knows what he actually meant.

His comment is frequently twisted to imply that religion was a narcotic given to a gullible proletariat by the nineteenth century Church. Marx thought otherwise: in his own words, religion is both "the expression of real misery" and "the protest against real misery".

In a sentence which precedes the famous reference to opium, he writes: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions."

Seen in its proper context, the full quotation indicates that Marx had a more profound view of religion than is commonly supposed. Is it laziness, I wonder, that leads modern commentators to misrepresent him so often or is it evidence of a fashionable disdain for religion that, in this particular respect at least, Marx did not share?

The Reverend ROD GARNER

Holy Trinity Southport

Merseyside

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