Frederick Engels 1874

Emigrant Literature

Source: Marx and Engels On Religion, Progress Publishers, 1957;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.


... Our Blanquists share the Bakuninists’ desire to represent the most far-reaching, most extreme trend. That, by the way, is why they often adopt the same means as the Bakuninists, though with opposite ends in view. The point is, therefore, to be more radical than everybody else as far as atheism is concerned. Fortunately it is easy enough to be an atheist today. Atheism is so near to being self-obvious with European working-class parties nowadays — although in certain countries it is often enough like that of the Spanish Bakuninist who maintained that it was against all socialism to believe in God but that the Virgin Mary was a different matter, every decent socialist ought naturally to believe in her. It can even be said of the German Social-Democratic workers that atheism has already outlived itself with them: this purely negative word no longer has any application as far as they are concerned inasmuch as their opposition to faith in God is no longer one of theory but one of practice; they have purely and simply finished with God, they live and think in the world of reality and are therefore materialists. This seems to be the case in France too. If not, nothing would be simpler than to have the splendid French materialistic literature of the past century spread on a large scale among the workers. For in that literature French thought made its greatest achievement both in form and in content and, considering the level of science at that time, it is still infinitely high today as far as content is concerned and has not been equalled as to form. But that cannot be to the liking of our Blanquists. In order to prove that they are the most radical of all they abolish God by decree as was done in 1793:

“Let the Commune free mankind for ever from the ghost of past misery” (God), “from that cause” (non-existing God a cause!) “of their present misery. There is no room for priests in the Commune; every religious manifestation. every religious organization must be prohibited.”

And this demand that men should be changed into atheists par ordre du mufti is signed by two members of the Commune who have really had opportunity enough to find out that first a vast amount of things can be ordered on paper without necessarily being carried out, and second, that persecution is the best means of promoting undesirable convictions! This much is sure: the only service that can be rendered to God today is to declare atheism a compulsory article of faith and to outdo Bismarck’s Kirchenkulturkampf laws by prohibiting religion generally....