Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Louis Greenspan
This study fundamentally departs from conventional approaches to the "communist-religious" problematic. On the one hand, we reject the orthodox historical materialist denial that communism involves the positive germination of religious practices of any form whatsoever. On the other hand, we also dismiss the "utopian" attempt to convert Marx's theory of this era into a secular extension of Judeo-Christian eschatological principles. Thus, though our central thesis is that Marx's theory of communism logically contains a religious moment, we radically redefine the salient terms of this proposition.
This revision stems from our excavation and evaluation of Marx's critique of religion. We limit our purview to Marx and to the sources that influenced him in this area. In Chapter I, we uncover the thematic roots of Marx's critique and trace the rationalist assumptions that were held by his source influences and that were reproduced, mostly unconsciously, in his writings on religion. In Chapter II, we examine the evolution and significance of this thematic legacy in Marx's texts. In particular, we detail the effect of Marx's rationalist premises on his implicit construction of a true/false universality semantic frame. In this context, we demonstrate that Marx's critique consists of two logically distinct, yet historically intertwined, layers, or the substantive and the methodological critiques, respectively. In Chapter III, we evaluate Marx's critique and argue that its substantive side is invalid on both methodological and empirical grounds. This verdict turns on our contention that the Western rationalist tradition is one-sided. We also maintain, however, that the methodological side of Marx's critique is valid. We argue that the excision of the substantive critique does not injure the core of Marx's contribution to religious science, but rather makes possible its reclamation. In Chapter IV, we substantiate this point by using Marx's methodological approach as the requisite "ground floor" of a new theoretical framework for conceptualizing the "communist-religious" problematic, and, by extension, for constructing a new religious science. In the course of this exposition, we redefine religion in oikic terms, delineate why it is useful to attribute a religious dimension to communism, sketch the contemporary political implications of our thesis, and outline a model of religious science that synthesizes the fundamental claims of the historical materialist and the "holistic" traditions.
Bell, James Stewart, "From Opium to Oikos: The Limits and Promises of Marx's Critique of Religion" (1985). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1152.