Karl Marx (1818-1883), the founder of communism, said that religion is the opium of the masses. That is, its function was to sedate them. For Marx religion gave an illusory happiness (or comfort) that prohibited those thus sedated from achieving real happiness, that is, happiness here on Earth in this life.
Thus religion impeded his idea of human progress.
Since before the French Revolution (1789-1799) we have gone a long way towards removing the impediment to progress that is Christianity and thus getting the masses off the Christian dope. We have replaced the old hope in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with a new hope in the trinity of freedom, equality, and individuality.
But I question the value of the trade.
Yes we have been liberated from the yoke of the Church, yet ever more circumscribed by large secular institutions. Yes we have been liberated by the oppression inherent in the demands of Christianity. Liberated to live for ourselves and do what we want.
Yes we have been liberated from marital bondage. And those women and children, thus freed from the oppression of husbands and fathers are free to root, hog, or die. You know, what doesn’t kill you…
Yes, we are more equal. That is, equally bad.
In our attempt to create equality we have created vast social welfare networks that take from the productive and give to the unproductive, sucking the vitality out of our economy and more importantly out of our very culture.
Liberated from the burden of tribe and family, we glory in our individuality. Alone and depressed. But at least we have movies, video games, and social media to distract us.
We also have drugs to ease the pain and give an illusion of happiness.
If the hope of succor in this life and peace in the next makes Christianity an opiate, then I’ll say that this Christian dope, with its call to self-discipline and self-sacrifice, is infinity to be preferred to actual opium.
This piece was previously published on Look Away on September 8, 2022.
Mark Atkins has six wee bairns who are all seventh-generation Henry County, Tennessee, and all from the same doe. It is the people of Henry County that he most wants to reach but writes to Southerners generally. He is without credentials but rather dares to speak by the same authority as the little boy who cried 'The king has no clothes!' His core belief and starting point is that like everything, we humans have a nature, it is not so hard to understand, and to pretend that it is other than it is, is to jump off a cliff. Which is what we Americans have in fact done.