The antagonism of the early marxists to all forms of religion, spirituality, idealism, was so extreme that it seems almost an oddity now. And the tenets of historical materialism, despite denials, were so reductionist that a simple psychology of man was forced into a version of behaviorism. Man was a passive causal entity and not an individual. The Kantian ethical socialists rushed in to try and correct this, in vain. Why did it happen that way? It is part of the history of the Hegelian movement, and the increasing crystallization of scientism, despite the heroic labors of Kant.
Sadder still, the onset of the communist idea took the form of a Reformation church in the early modern. This confusing later outcome is unfortunate. The left doesn’t have to compromise with religion, but it does have to create a broader framework that can at least deal with religion on an intelligent basis. If the left could accurately critique religion that would be enough, but its histories of religion are grotesque.
This situation ironically arose in ancient India which produced a version of a materialism that could embrace the spiritual aspects of man, with the term ‘spiritual’ rendered as a material category. The legacy is instructive. The crudity of historical materialism, still useful as a simple model of economic determination, is not necessarily the fault of ‘materialism’, but of economic fundamentalism, and the limits of theorizing.
The left should be expert in religious histories, from Xtianity to Buddhism, and able to provide real guidance in these areas, as an aspect of a populist platform. The perspective of Feuerbach can remain in place: the larger dialectical atmosphere of thought would move between opposites with ease, and stop the muddle of idiot dialectic for a taste of the real thing.