September 27, 2023

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Religion is “the opium of the people,” quotes Marx in his Manifesto. Found on page 145 of the text (Introducing Religion), Marx makes a very interesting point.

What does it mean to say?

In order to actually understand this statement, we must understand the effects of opium on the human mind; then contrast it with religion.

Religion is a numbing effect, such as the effects of opium; it numbs us to reality. “To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness.” (p. 146)

Happiness being a choice, a decision to accept, or reject the reality of life. Placing our “happiness,” into a divine entity, rather than to accept reality for what it truly is; suffering. “God will save you,” while the elite exploit us for personal gain through religious persecution. Numbing us the same as opium, making us unaware of the “pain,” caused by the suffering of it.

“Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriation.” (p. 150)

The laboring effects of reality are numbed through religious ideologies, they provide the “toxin,” and subjugate the man to false hope and ideologies founded only in belief themselves. Religion is an individual’s personal belief, their “private Property,” for what they truly believe.

Therefore, “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” (p. 146)

I use these two quotes here to illustrate the connection Marx made between Communism and religion being the “opium of the people.” Marx describes in later passages how “communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion and all morality.” Without morality there is no “universal truth,” to do no wrong; without morality there is no rationality and that can be seen throughout history. Many “men,” need a religious foundation in order to do no harm to their fellow man, however; when they confuse religion with moral superiority, they miss the point entirely.

Marx described religion as “the opium of the people,” for a reason! Opium numbs you to the reality as you see it, literally numbing your frontal cortex that dictates your emotional well-being, it numbs you to the pains of reality. This same effect can be seen through “religion,” doing wrong simply to ask all to be forgiven. That seems like a class divide in itself.

Concluding that Marx saw religion as a tool used by the bourgeois in order to exploit the masses, it is easy for one to see how he would refer to religion as, “the opium of the people.” Opium deprives mankind of their natural senses, just like religion can distort our natural understanding of reality; subjugating us to the illusionary control the bourgeois seem to inflict upon us. Why should we permit such things to continue? To liberate ourselves of persecution from ourselves, to find the truth as we see it; rather than “religion” would have us believe it, numbing us to the suffering from reality like an opium high.