This article gives chronology, nuance, and context to an analysis of how early socialist attitudes to religion changed. It asks why socialists argued with increasing fervour between the early 1830s and 1848 that social reform had to be rooted in spiritual as well as moral values. Two of the largest groups, the Icarians and the Fourierists, moved from a rational deism to Christianity. Both were driven by the need to defend themselves from accusations of immorality levelled against Fourier and the Saint-Simonians because of their rejection of monogamous marriage. The Fourierists, strongly influenced by their dominant female members, transformed Fourier's diety into a Christian God. Cabet, under pressure of ‘moral outrage’ from his critics, did likewise and found that this corresponded to the experiences of the Icarians in their artisan organizations. The religion of the early socialists was a democratic and a pragmatic morality, derived from artisan corporations, and seen as a vital base for fraternal association which was their solution to the ills of society.
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