Karl Marx and Fyodor Dostoevsky were contemporaries. However, their worldviews could not be more different. The infamous Marxist phrase that expresses his sentiments on religion as The Opium of the People is at the heart of untold death and suffering. Contrast with the perspective that runs throughout the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky, and his assessment of basic human nature, one sees the distinct difference and departure from Marxist theory.
ThoughtCo presents the conventional perception of Marx’s atheism.
“According to Karl Marx, religion is like other social institutions in that it is dependent upon the material and economic realities in a given society. It has no independent history; instead, it is the creature of productive forces. As Marx wrote, “The religious world is but the reflex of the real world.”
According to Marx, religion can only be understood in relation to other social systems and the economic structures of society. In fact, religion is only dependent upon economics, nothing else — so much so that the actual religious doctrines are almost irrelevant. This is a functionalist interpretation of religion: understanding religion is dependent upon what social purpose religion itself serves, not the content of its beliefs.
Marx’s opinion is that religion is an illusion that provides reasons and excuses to keep society functioning just as it is. Much as capitalism takes our productive labor and alienates us from its value, religion takes our highest ideals and aspirations and alienates us from them, projecting them onto an alien and unknowable being called a god.”
Now note Daniel Lattier’s understanding of Dostoevsky’s Critique of Socialism.
Dostoevsky’s thoughts on socialism as intriguingly described in the Dostoevsky Encyclopedia:
“The Rousseauistic view of human nature on which utopian socialism rested was severely challenged by Dostoevsky’s experience of prison in Siberia. The theoretical notion of the fundamental goodness of human beings was now tested against the reality of human nature in the raw. The unrepentant brawlers, thieves, and murderers with whom he spent four years were not merely innocent victims who would happily live in brotherhood and harmony once freed from repressive institutions. Returning from ten years in Siberia Dostoevsky encountered a socialism that had taken on a much more revolutionary cast. His remarks about it in both fiction and journalism over the next two decades are almost uniformly hostile. The enmity—largely theoretical—between Christianity and the socialism of the late [Vissarion] Belinsky and his circle, had now become a reality, and this revolutionary and atheistic doctrine the major rival of Christianity for the hearts and minds of the new generation. Dostoevsky’s critique of socialism, then, begins with its atheism. Dismissing the essential spiritual nature of human beings, the socialists can concern themselves only with man’s material needs. As Dostoevsky wrote in his notebook for 1863-1864: ‘The socialists want to regenerate humans, to liberate them, to present them without God and the family. They conclude that having forcibly changed the economic way humans live they will achieve their goals. But humans are transformed not from external reasons but only from moral changes.’ In his notes for an unfinished article, ‘Socialism and Christianity,’ Dostoevsky wrote that ‘the socialists go no further than the belly.’ Lacking any spiritual basis for human brotherhood, the socialists must resort to compulsion to establish it. French socialism, he wrote in 1877, ‘is nothing other than the compulsory union of humanity’; or, as he said, more vividly, about the slogan of Roman Catholicism, which he saw as sharing the goals of socialism, ‘Fraternité ou la mort’ (‘Be my brother, or off with your head’). These two ideas—that human problems can be solved by exclusively material remedies, but that this cannot be done without compulsion—run through Dostoevsky’s critique of socialism.”
With the two hundred year observance of Marx’s birth, the significance of embracing historical materialism, has swept over the ruling elites and underpinned most governmental regimes. Those who reject the moral and Metaphysical embodiment within Dostoevsky’s writings directly caused the collapse of a civilized society.
If Marx based his theories on purported scientific reason, the body count of carnage, suffering and death must be the natural outcome from the abandonment of religious belief. A godless world results in a Grand Inquisitor Planet, as Dostoevsky describes in The Brothers Karamazov.
In order to repudiate the nihilism of Karl Marx, George A. Panichas argues that in The Dark World of Fyodor Dostoevsky that “A novelist who is a “discerner of spirit” contends with and dramatizes ultimate questions, the “everlastingly accursed questions” as they are called. Such a novelist reveals in the world he portrays a special dimension of moral insight, a special mission, a special aspect of the human situation. He thus reveals the uniqueness of this poetic vision and, inevitably and finally, its identifying moral meaning.”
Mr. Panichas goes on to state.
“In Dostoevsky’s world strange and unexpected surprises have a way of suddenly snaring us. Such a world finds us unprepared. There is some truth to Nicolas Berdyaev’s remark that Dostoevsky must be read only “in an atmosphere of spiritual manhood.” Berdyaev is simply reminding us that Dostoevsky’s world is not for a pilgrim but rather for a spiritual wrestler. Dostoevsky’s world constitutes an arduous wrestle with and against an uncanny power. Just as one feels that he has finally overcome his adversary, he finds himself astonishingly toppled, needing again to begin another breath-catching effort to disentangle himself and to escape from the power that weighs and presses heavily against him. In Dostoevsky’s world there is undiminishing strain and pressure. Inevitably, one is pushed towards a border situated somewhere between death and life, victory and defeat, dream and reality, being and nothingness.”
Marx is not consumed with moral concerns. The regretful decline of the human dilemma and its accompanying global devolution can be traced to the adoption of a materialistic and self-gratification paradigm. As more indoctrinated serfs readily accept their enslavement, Marxist rationale seeps into the society. Accepting the Dostoevsky model is a crucial step to reverse this decay.