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Marx Gave No Haven

In response to:

The Religious Specter Haunting Revolution from the June 4, 2015 issue

To the Editors:

In his review of Michael Walzer’s The Paradox of Liberation [NYR, June 4], Michael Ignatieff writes that secular national liberation activists considered religion “‘a haven in a heartless world’ as Marx so condescendingly put it.” Marx did describe religion as “the heart of a heartless world” in the same famous passage where he called it “the opium of the people,” but a search of his complete works reveals no instance of the “haven” formulation (whose most famous use, as the title of Christopher Lasch’s 1977 book, refers to the family rather than religion).

Whether the original description of religion as “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions” is condescending or sympathetic may be contested, as it has been by religious leftists from Alasdair MacIntyre to the liberation theologians of Latin America.

Tim Barker
Brooklyn, New York