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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10801/karl-marx-as-religious-eschatologist/

Karl Marx as Religious Eschatologist

October 9, 2009 by

The key to the intricate and massive system of thought created by Karl Marx is at bottom a simple one: Karl Marx was a communist. Marx’s devotion to communism was his crucial focus, far more central than the class struggle, the dialectic, the theory of surplus value, and all the rest. FULL ARTICLE by Murray Rothbard


Barry Loberfeld October 9, 2009 at 9:07 am

RE: “A notorious example is Marx’s law of the impoverishment of the working class under capitalism. When it became all too clear that the standard of living of the workers under industrial capitalism was rising instead of falling, Marxists fell back on the view that what Marx “really” meant by impoverishment was not immiseration but relative deprivation.”

From here:

The term “wage slavery” is generally associated with Marx’s prediction that wages under capitalism would eventually fall to rock bottom, so that the worker, much like a slave, would be laboring for subsistence — hence, “wage slavery.” (Marx actually falsified data to support this prophecy; see Antony Flew in the July 2001 issue of Ideas on Liberty. Engels, for his part, eventually “conceded that workers may earn more than subsistence wages.” Mark Skousen, The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers, 2001, p.163.)

But near the end of his essay, Chomsky writes, “An increase in wages, in Marx’s phrase, ‘would be nothing more than a better remuneration of slaves, and would not restore, either to the worker or to the work, their human significance and worth.’” (Original emphasis.) So, whereas subsistence wages drive the worker into “misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality [and] mental degradation” (again, Marx), even ever-increasing wages deny him his “human significance and worth,” the absence of which we evidently must acknowledge like the presence of the Emperor’s nouveau apparel. Wages plummet, wages soar, wages stagnate — it’s all the same “slavery.” Capitalism is not judged by any real standard but is arbitrarily deemed intrinsically evil, thus leaving only the tautology capitalism is bad because capitalism is bad. At this point, our socialists seem to be reduced to moral gibberish — to paraphrase the Professor.

fundamentalist October 9, 2009 at 11:29 am

“Certainly, one obvious way in which Marxism functions as a religion is the lengths to which Marxists will go to preserve their system against obvious errors or fallacies.”

That is not a characteristic of any religion. It is a characteristic of all people who are prejudiced, which means everyone. The chief characteristic of religion is the worship of a transcendent being. Marx didn’t have that. I’m afraid Rothbard is guilty of re-defining religion in such a way as to benefit his argument.

If Marx is religious, then isn’t libertarianism, too? Libertarianism claims an idyllic pre-history of freedom with property with no state. Men introduced the evil state by conquering each other and forcing obedience. The end of history will come when mankind realizes the evil of the state and returns to its original free state, but until then we must suffer the abuses of the state. The details are different, but as Rothbard argues, the pattern is similar and therefore religious. It seems to me that the details ought to matter.

“One does not apply to Jeremiah or Ezekiel the tests to which less-inspired men are subjected.”

Actually, they did. God told the Israelis that if a prophet’s predictions didn’t come true then consider him a false prophet.

“a man above logic, uttering cryptic and incomprehensible words, which every man may interpret as he chooses.”

That describes so-called prophets like Nostradamus, and parts of the Book of Revelation, but not the prophets of the OT. In the Bible, God always insists on the use of reason as a means to the truth.

“The KGE is to be preceded by a mighty Armageddon, a titanic war of good against evil, in which the good will finally, though inevitably, triumph.”

That may be the view of many Christians, but the Book of Revelation is not so obscure that a casual reader can’t see that Armageddon takes place after the millennial reign of Christ, not before. And it’s not a world-wide conflagration. It takes place in Israel in the Valley of Megiddo, the English translation of Armageddon. And it’s not a battle, it is the destruction of a large army that invades Israel in an attempt to overthrow Christ.

“The pre-mils, who believe that Jesus’s Second Advent will precede the KGE, and that Jesus will run the Kingdom with the cadre of saints at his right hand, achieve the purge by a divinely determined Armageddon between God’s forces and the forces of the Beast and the Antichrist.”

Rothbard got this badly wrong. Pre-mils believe that Christ will rule the earth as king with the aid of his followers, but there will be no purging of anyone. The people who are alive on this planet at the advent of Christ will continue to live as they have, some believing and some not. Armageddon takes at the end of the thousand years when there is a rebellion against Christ’s rule and Christ crushes the rebellion. The Beast and Anti-Christ drama take place before Christ’s Advent and rule. The Beast and Anti-Christ try to purge the earth of Christians, but there is no purge of anyone during the reign of Christ.

“The post-mils, who believe that man must establish the KGE as a precondition of Jesus’s Second Coming, have to take matters more directly in their own hands and accomplish the great purge on their own.”

What is Rothbard’s obsession with a purge? Post-mils don’t believe that Christ will return physically to the earth. They do believe that they are called to establish the KGE, not through purges, for crying out loud, but through evangelism and good governance. There are no purges in either school of eschatology.

“…the KGE is almost always depicted as a communist society, lacking work, private property, or the division of labor.”

That may be true of some of the aberrant theologies Rothbard discusses, but not of pre- and post-mils. This shows his complete ignorance of both schools. The KGE in both schools is informed by the depictions of the reign of the Messiah in the OT, especially in Isaiah. Christ rules as a Hoppe-style absolute monarch who finally establishes natural law and the rule of law as God intended. Private property is a key feature.

“In contrast to the nonmilitant variety, which expresses a simple disbelief in God’s existence, militant atheism seems to believe implicitly in God’s existence, but to hate Him and to wage war for His destruction…. For Marx, his quest for utopia was, as we have seen, an explicit attack on God’s creation, and a ferocious desire to destroy it.”

These are very interesting sections because Richard Wurmbrand wrote a book about Marx that says very much the same thing. Only Wurmbrand shows that the religious side of Marx came from his enfatuation with the Satanic Church. Wurmbrand interprets the symbolism of the poem Rothbard reprints here and shows its links to Satanist rituals and symbolism. Wurmbrand uses Marx’s letters and other writings as well as personal associations with leaders of Satanism in Europe. Wurmbrand was a Christian imprisoned and tortured 14 years in Communist Romania. After his release, he came to the US and established the Voice of the Martyrs organization.

I think Hayek’s “Counter-Revolution in Science” provides a better and more focused account of the rise of socialism/communism as atheistic scientism. I wonder, though, why Rothbard doesn’t go all the way back to Plato’s Republic, because that’s where the first communist society appears as far as I know. Plato’s was the first attempt to create a utopia and he didn’t have any religious reasons for doing so. All attempts at utopia result from a dissatisfaction with the way the world is. They’re attempts to answer the ancient question “Why is there so much evil in the world if God is good?” or for atheists “…if the world and mankind is good.” All answers follow a similar pattern: in the beginning there was no evil; something or someone introduced evil; my system will eradicate evil and return man to his original state of innocense. Traditional Christian eschatology (not Rothbard’s distortion of it) teaches that mankind is the problem and therefore mankind cannot solve the problem. Any attempt by mankind to fix the problem will only make it worse. We have to wait for God to change things. Until then, we can only try to apply natural law, God’s law, in an effort to prevent the evil from getting out of hand.

filc October 9, 2009 at 11:57 am

“That is not a characteristic of any religion. It is a characteristic of all people who are prejudiced, which means everyone. The chief characteristic of religion is the worship of a transcendent being. Marx didn’t have that. I’m afraid Rothbard is guilty of re-defining religion in such a way as to benefit his argument.”

It is a charactistic of all religion’s though not on religion’s with the explicit term you used. Stop being closed minded. Rothbard isn’t comparing him to the faith of Christianity. He is comparing him to the institutions which arise from that faith and the inherit fallacy’s which accompany them. And not just Christianity, any deity in which man try’s to establish a social order around.

Rothbard is explaining Marx’s undieing faith despite obvious fallacy’s. This is an exact characteristic of all religion’s.

Your inability to understand this interesting concept may reveal your own zealous self. Keep an open mind, don’t be so easily offended.

“If Marx is religious, then isn’t libertarianism, too?”

Libertarianism is the absence of that religious collectivist tone. Statism(all forms of it) on the other hand is almost certainly a religion.

To elaborate in libertarianism one can practice any social order he wants. One may even decide to start his own marxist commune in a compound. We will not stop them, they are free to do so. That is not a characteristic of religion’s however. Nearly all deity’s on earth have a “My way or the highway” belief system.

All libertarianism asks of you is to not break the non-aggression principle and recognize the obvious existence of private property rights.

So you see, in this sense libertarianism is the only political movement that doesn’t have the most common trait of normal religions.

fundamentalist October 9, 2009 at 12:38 pm

filc: “It is a charactistic of all religion’s though not on religion’s with the explicit term you used. Stop being closed minded.”

No, it is a characteristic of being human. All human invented systems are guilty of it. Stop being dishonest. Rothbard’s definition of religion is aberrant.

filc: “Libertarianism is the absence of that religious collectivist tone.”

Some religions are collectivist, others aren’t. It’s not a defining aspect of religion. Judaism and Orthodox Christianity have always been individualistic.

filc: “Statism(all forms of it) on the other hand is almost certainly a religion.”

So where is the transcendancy? A transcendent being is required for any religion.

Rothbard is trying to equate all religion with irrationality, which is a typical ploy of atheists. However, I don’t know of any religion that doesn’t consider itself rational and founded on reason. And if you accept the premises of most religions, they are all rational in that they follow the logic and reason.

filc: “Nearly all deity’s on earth have a “My way or the highway” belief system.”

That’s simply not true and demonstrates your ignorance of religion in general. You’re trying to equate religion with authoritarianism. I guess all militaries are religions, too, huh?

filc: “All libertarianism asks of you is to not break the non-aggression principle and recognize the obvious existence of private property rights.”

And if someone doesn’t, is it my way or the highway?

Michael A. Clem October 9, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Hmm…hadn’t really thought that of Marx as religous about communism. Sure, his theories were flawed, but they at least seem to be theories. However, anybody can have an almost religious faith in a philosophy, Marxism, Objectivism, libertarianism, or anything else. A rational understanding of any particular philosophy takes work, more work than some people are willing to put into it. One advantage I see with libertarianism is that one can clearly understand the basics without understanding the full implications of libertarianism. Or is that an advantage? ;-)

Abhilash Nambiar October 9, 2009 at 1:27 pm


I knew if you ever read this article, you would begin a theological discussion. The way the concept of God is defined, it is impossible to disprove. Of course it is logically possible to prove that some kinds of Gods cannot exist; along the lines that anything with logically contradictory properties cannot exist (like dry water or friendly enemy). But that still leaves the answer to the ultimate question open ended. And that is a problem when what one is trying to do is develop a functioning society.

Here are Mises’s own words from Human Action:

‘The essential problem of all varieties of universalistic, collectivistic, and holistic social philosophy is: By what mark do I recognize the true law, the authentic apostle of God’s word, and the legitimate authority. For many claim that Providence has sent them, and each of these prophets preaches another gospel. For the faithful believer there cannot be any doubt; he is fully confident that he has espoused the only true doctrine. But it is precisely the firmness of such beliefs that renders the antagonisms irreconcilable. Each party is prepared to make its own tenets prevail. But as logical argumentation cannot decide between various dissenting creeds, there is no means left for the settlement of such disputes other than armed conflict. The nonrationalist, nonutilitarian, and nonliberal social doctrines must beget wars and civil wars until one of the adversaries is annihilated or subdued. The history of the world’s great religions is a record of battles and wars, as is the history of the present-day counterfeit religions, socialism, statolatry, and nationalism.

So you know where Rothbard got the idea that socialism is like a religion.

Libertarianism side steps the theological question by allows us to develop our society not from firmness of beliefs but self-evident axioms. Which is why libertarianism is not a religion. It is a body of knowledge, which consists of logical deductions originating from self-evident axioms. It requires no faith; in fact ‘faith in libertarianism‘ could be an impediment to libertarian scholarship, because it requires extreme intellectual honesty. And yet for the faithful it becomes the basis for peace and safety for which they where always praying for, because non-aggression is fundamental to its nature. So if you pray to God for peace and tranquility, think of libertarianism as an answer to your prayers.

I think it is highly unlikely that God exists, yet I do not see a libertarian society to be an atheistic society, only a secular one. But given the capacity of such a society to unleash all of man’s productive potential, I am certain that it will be the society in which the answer to the great question can be discovered by man once in for all.

fundamentalist October 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Abhilash, don’t you think Rothbard opened the door to theological discussion with his painting Marxism as a religion? If people don’t want to discuss religion and theology, fine. Don’t. But don’t bring it up and then expect people not to respond.

While Mises was one of the most brilliant economists who ever lived, he had some blind spots toward religion for most of his life. That changed in his later life, though. But it’s simply not true that religion is all about belief that can’t be discussed logically. That attitude shows a tremendous ignorance of religious writings, especially Christian.

It’s very simple to take a praxeological approach to religion and show that some religious ideas fit well with human nature and some don’t. The late Francis Schaeffer took that approach, as did CS Lewis and others. In fact, it’s really the approach taken by the natural law philosophers. The gist of the approach is this. If a philosophy or religions claims that something is true, but humans must act as if it isn’t true in order to function, then the philosophy or religious doctrine is false.

Schaeffer demonstrates that for people to live consistently with atheism, they have to deny the existence of free will, love, morality and meaning. But people can’t live like that. Sartre and Camus made valient efforts but admitted their failures. I won’t go into it here, but similar comparisons can be made with other religions. I believe that Orthodox Christianity is the only philosophy/religion that people can act consistently with what they say they believe.

If you take Rothbard’s weird idea of religion seriously, then libertarianism, and only libertarianism might be considered non-religious. But as I wrote earlier, I think libertarianism fits well within Rothbards own definition of religion because it is so broad and vague.

Abhilash: “Libertarianism side steps the theological question by allows us to develop our society not from firmness of beliefs but self-evident axioms.”

You don’t think other philosophies/religions make the same claim? Natural law theorists were using self-evident axioms to prove the existence of God over a millenium ago.

As I have written before, modern day libertarians didn’t invent libertarian ideas. The originated with Church Scholars and in the Protestant Reformation. All that modern libertarians did was strip the requirement for God from them and claim them as their own. Libertarians haven’t invented anything new. Everything they have came from religious people who based their ideas on what God wanted. I take that back, modern libertarians did invent the idea of a stateless society, but even that is not too different from the nation of Israel in the OT before the got a king.

fundamentalist October 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm

PS, as I wrote above, Rothbard got some very important points about Christian eschatology wrong. This debate over religion with atheists libertarians reminds me a great deal of defending Austrian economics against mainstream economists who know very little about Austrian econ and what they know is usually wrong. If atheists are going to criticize religion, you really ought to put a tiny bit of effort into learning something about it. These debates do little more than advertise the ignorance of atheists about anything religious.

fundamentalist October 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm

If you read Hulsmann’s biography of Mises, you’ll find that Mises became a great admirer of Karl Barth. That’s all Hulsmann wrote, but it says a lot. Barth was pretty close to an old fundamentalist theologian. Check out the entry on him in Wikipedia.

Walt D. October 9, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Shouldn’t it be “Religious Scatologist”?

Paul S. Nofs October 9, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I agree with W.T. Stace [24] “we must not jump to the preposterous conclusion that, according to Hegel’s philosophy, I, this particular human spirit, am the Absolute, nor that the Absolute is any particular spirit, nor that it is humanity in general. Such conclusions would be little short of shocking.” Despite Tucker’s fallacious retort, it is shocking as I have read Hegel, Schelling, Fichte and the poet Holderin, at least their philosophical writings.

Schelling writes in 1796 about his treaty Of the I as the Principle of Philosophy, “The author believes that man was born to act, not to speculate, and that therefore his first step into philosophy must manifest the arrival of a free human being.” [Unconditional of Human Knowledge, Schelling translated by Fritz Marti. 1980 Associated American Presses pg.127]

Marti a student of post-Kantian speculation asked, “Is there anything unconditional in human knowledge? Kant says yes, at least our moral obligation. That is our freely taken responsibility. Freedom is the core concept of Kant. And the concept of freedom is what released the so-called romantic enthusiasm in the generation of Fichte and Hegel and Schelling.” [Collected Papers University Press of America 1979 pg. 156]

From Schelling’s “New Deduction of Natural Right (1796) translated by Marti:

Aphorism 15 “When I feel that my freedom is limited, I recognize that I am not alone in the moral world and the manifold experiences of limited freedom teach me that I am in a realm of moral beings, all of whom have the same unlimited freedom.”

Aphorism 23 ” …The individuality of my will itself is sanctioned by the highest demand of practical (moral) reason.

Aphorism 24 “However this demand is addressed to all beings. Every moral being – not ought but must- remain an individual as long as they ought to fulfill that demand.

Marti quotes Shelling in his Theological epistemology of Augustine, Kant and Schelling, “Therefore the I does not obtain its reality from anything outside of its own sphere, as objects do, but singularly and alone by itself. This concept of the I is the only one owing to which it can be called absolute.” Marti continues, “It should be obvious that the designation of the I as the “Absolute” is as absurd as it would be to say, in Augustinian language that the soul is God. But as “God is the blessed life of the soul” so is absoluteness the ground of possibility of an I. (philosophically absolute literally means ‘without ties’ or ‘free’) [Collected Papers pg. 169]

Yet they can offer no more than a postulate. “I am I, for myself alone. Can anybody be I for me?” The realization of that postulate is the unconditional in human knowledge. Not as an abstract concept or rational deduction but as the arrival of a free human being; unconditioned and absolute.

As for Marx’s oppression theology he presents two sides of the same coin of little value. He describes the capital and capitalism which for him was the mercantilism of the oppressive European monarchies. His communism was a theology of the oppressed, real or imagined. Oddly the tenets of mercantilism (Marx’s capitalism) are strikingly similar to the ten commandments of communism. Orwell’s Animal Farm describes the role reversals more imaginatively. Marx was not interested in abandoning the totalitarianism of the mercantilist or his communist ideal. In both the individual is totally unimportant just another replaceable cog in the machine.

Individualism like the God-man definitions imply identifies the ultimate importance of the individual. As such the individual becomes a slave of self concern. The reality is a paradox of the relation in the individual of one’s importance and unimportance. Totalitarianism and its sire individualism (think Hitler, Stalin, etc) represent a very dangerous coin indeed.

Abhilash Nambiar October 9, 2009 at 5:32 pm


I do not disapprove of you commenting Rothbard’s theological understanding. I was just so sure you would and waited for you to and said so. You seem to think of Mises religiosity as his blind spot. Mises’s religiosity or lack there of, does not bother me. His quotation that I marked stands true regardless, history is its testament.

In this world of free religion, people have various ideas of what their faith is. I am not particularly interested addressing any flaws there might be in your personal belief system. There is one respect in which christians are very similar to atheists. Atheists do not have anything in common except the fact that they do not think god exists. Christians (or should I say people who call themselves christians, but you may think they are not?) too seem to have little else in common except for the fact that they think highly of Christ. The difference is christians are more likely to present (or appear to present) some sort of United Front, while atheists are more likely to openly acknowledge their differences. There is supposedly a ‘right’ understanding of christianity – if only people knew, things would we all right, but alas they are ignorant, poor dears! This pretty much sums up the attitude of every christian who disagrees with any other christian and anyone else.

Do I think self-evident axioms can be used to prove the existence of god?
I know it has been tried. But on closer scrutiny such arguments have come short. That does not mean god does not exist, only that that particular argument is not a good one. The best argument I know so far is Plantinga’s ontological argument and William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument.

I recognize that the fore-runner to the modern libertarian ideas can be found in teaching of Jesuit and Protestant scholars. I do not find the idea discomforting or unpleasant in any way, not any more than knowing that Gregory Mendel is the father of genetics or Pope Gregory XIII developed the modern calendar. Theology was a profession for some of the best minds in those days, not that much today, but that is a relatively recent trend. The fields of science, math, economics, law, engineering etc., seem to compete more successfully for the minds of the most intelligent today.

Also consider this, the Isaac Newton, one of the most respected physicists of all time, believed in alchemy!! So we know it is possible to be smart and believe in some utterly nonsensical things.

But the most important reason for my lack of discomfort of course is that the ideas the concept of time, genetics or economics can stand on its own merit, independent of the question of the existence or non-existence of a deity. I am willing to leave it at that and won’t be addressing the shortcomings of Francis Schaeffer or CS Lewis’s arguments.

For the sake of brevity I could try and explain religious compatibility with libertarianism with an example – You could refrain from coin clipping because you think it is a sin, and you will burn in hell for eternity if you do. Or you could do it because you realize private property self-evidently exists and that it would be stealing. So what do we have here? We have a point of compatibility between religion and libertarianism. If you ask me which religion has the most points of compatibility, I would answer Protestant Christianity.

So religion could just be playing the role of a useful fiction, gluing a lot of useful ideas together (and some pretty dangerous ones might I add). In fact it is becoming increasingly clear to me that it is the case. And here most Unitarians will agree with me (although I suppose to you they are not Christians). This is coming from a guy who is a strong admirer of the Protestant work ethic by the way. But one must distinguish between what we know to be useful and what we know to be true.

Here is where I stand. If in case you (or people who believe like you) find out tomorrow beyond a shadow of a doubt that your God does not exist, it does not suddenly become permissible for you or anyone to steal or kill. If you try, people like me will stop you. That is the risk you take with your ‘libertarianism as faith’ attitude.

But on the other hand if I find out tomorrow beyond a shadow of doubt that your God does exist, I should be prepared to accept any and all punishment that he may choose bestow on me for my unbelief and any sinful action resulting from that unbelief. That is the risk I take. And here is why I think I made the better decision and here is why:

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

—Marcus Aurelius

fundamentalist October 9, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Abhilash Nambiar: “His quotation that I marked stands true regardless, history is its testament.”

No. There is nothing true in it.

Abhilash Nambiar: “Christians … too seem to have little else in common except for the fact that they think highly of Christ.”

There are two main divisions in world Christianity today. They are the “liberals”, for want of a better word, who deny the truth of the Bible and the divinity of Christ, and there are traditional Christians, also called orthodox. The divide between liberals and orthodox is huge. The things dividing orthodox are quite small and for the most part non-essentials. Even the divide between Protestants and Catholics is not as big as the divide between liberals and orthodox. Catholics and Protestants agree on all of the fundamentals except the means of salvation.

Abhilash Nambiar: “If you ask me which religion has the most points of compatibility, I would answer Protestant Christianity.”

Could that be because Protestant Christianity invented modern ideas of liberty?

How would you explain the disagreements among the Austrian, neo-classical, and neo-Keynesian schools of economics? I suppose those are religious, too. What Rothbard attempted to do, and you seem to agree, is that the term religion means nothing more than something you don’t like. If words have meaning and we need them to have somewhat clear meanings in order to communicate, Rothbard does serious damage to communication and understanding with his ridiculous definition of religion. It does nothing but obscure and deceive.

In response to Aurelius’ comment, his mistake is to assume his idea of justice is the same as the gods. Humans disagree on what justice is, so why wouldn’t the gods, or God, have a different idea of justice than what we have? Aurelius advertises his arrogance to assume that his concept of justice is the same as that of the gods. Aurelius might say that such a god would be unjust and so he will not worship him, but if such an unjust god exists, and has any power, I doubt he will care whether Aurelius worships him or not, and will do what he wants with him. Besides, Aurelius is just flippant and it’s sad that such flippancy passes for wisdom today.

gene October 9, 2009 at 7:16 pm

sorry, just can’t buy it that marx or his philosophy was “religious”. Ideological, certainly, like most all worldviews, but religious, I don’t think so.

Marx could have made the same assertion, based on similar reasoning for Murray’s philosophy, and with as much validity, which isn’t much.

religious orders often exist in a semi communist state, but communism does not equate with religion.

Marx never truly described “communism” because he knew it could never exist, it is an ideal, just like a “true free market”.

The same mistake is made confusing the Soviet system or the Chinese system for “communism” as confusing our existing system for a “free market”.

The systems themselves are closer to religions than either idea ever will be.

Abhilash Nambiar October 10, 2009 at 12:36 am

‘No. There is nothing true in it.’

That is so deep. People have been fighting and killing those of the wrong religion for ages. Have you forgotten Protestants where once burned as heretics or the crusades? Now don’t get stuck with just these anecdotes, there are plenty more.

‘Could that be because Protestant Christianity invented modern ideas of liberty?’

Well Protestant is derived from the word Protest. And they where Protesting against the established faith of the time which was Catholicism. And Jesuit scholars who where the fore-runners to the Austrian school where Catholics. So there. Protestant Christianity did not invent modern ideas of liberty. Maybe Catholics did. At least they got the ball rolling. Although I can see how in a climate of schisms the concept of liberty would become more urgent as a mechanism to avoid bloodshed. Here is what application of theory to history shows, as the political power of the Catholic church widened, people’s freedoms became more restricted. So god fearing people went and invented a new religion on their own, one that was more compatible with their understanding of what freedom meant. Eventually that process went out of control and Rothbard here has documented several nut-cases that resulted from it.

‘How would you explain the disagreements among the Austrian, neo-classical, and neo-Keynesian schools of economics? I suppose those are religious, too.’
This I can answer. By discovering errors in logical deductions that adherents to any particular view have indulged in and these disagreements can be resolved. That is the logical argumentation that Mises was speaking about. But if adherents of any economic view continue to hold to their beliefs despite being logically debunked, then yes, the disagreements take on a religious color.

So what is religion here? ‘nothing more than something you don’t like.’?
That is not how Rothbard has used the term religion here. Religion here is defined as a body of statements which at its core are held together based on one or more core assumptions that are considered true purely based ‘firmness of belief’ and are not up for discussion or debate. You can also see how by this definition Marxism easily passes off as a religion. By that logic even Objectivism can be called a religion and indeed it does behave like one. IMO it is another one of those cults with several points of compatibility with libertarianism. Now I am sure you won’t say ‘Could that be because objectivists invented modern ideas of liberty?’

Now if your definition of religion is different then, I suggest you find a better word to describe whatever it is that you are intending to describe. I can only tell what the meaning of the word is derived from current usage. And meaning of words can change as usage changes. Think of what the word ‘gay’ used to mean before and means now. Better yet, think of what the word ‘liberal’ meant before and it does today.

As for Aurelius’ comment. He is talking about his idea of justice. That is pretty obvious from the comment itself. And he is not assuming at all that his idea of justice agrees with god’s idea of justice.

I will spell it out for you. All he is saying that any supreme being whose idea of justice places devoutness to itself above virtuous living is not worthy of worship, in his opinion. But on the other hand if virtuous living is the number one priority for this being then it won’t bother about your lack of devoutness. Considering that living a life of virtue has other advantages as well, choosing to live a virtuous life is a smart, simple and easy decision to make, which is what he is recommending. That is his idea of a good life. Is this flippant for you?

Bruce Koerber October 10, 2009 at 9:16 am

What is indeed true is that Marx was an ego-driven interpreter and had no intention for the economy other than ego-driven intervention.

Thomas Talionis October 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I think it’s fair to call any belief system of the utmost importance a religion.

Mike C. October 10, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Philosophy tends to emphasize just the use of reason and critical thinking whereas religions tend to make use of reason, but they also rely on faith, or even use faith to the exclusion of reason. Marx wouldn’t have claimed that his theories were revelations from a god or that his observations should be taken on faith. He based his theories on rational arguments — that may or may not be valid, but it is this effort which differentiates his work from religion. In religion, and even in religious philosophy, reasoned arguments are ultimately rooted in faith in God, gods, or religious principles which have been discovered in some revelation.

Any system of philosophy which cannot adhere to reason and the knowable provable facts as the source for its support could also be said to be losing its argument and defending a system based more and more on irrational and false assumptions. When a system such as Marxism, which starts on the ethical premise, much the same as most religions, that man, is a greedy evil sinner who must repent and be saved by something somehow, has to keep papering over the tracts and cracks to defend its crumbling foundation then I think one could validly claim it has more in common with religion than philosophy.

Vanmind October 12, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Great stuff. The entire two-volume set is fascinating.

Marc Sheffner August 20, 2011 at 7:24 am

Great discussion. Thanks to all contributors.

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