Critical Analysis of the Quote
According to Max, “religion is the opiate of masses” (48). This statement has elicited heated debate among scholars over the years as they try to analyze its meaning as per the thoughts of Max. In this quote, Max compares religion to opium, a drug known to help its users escape from the realities of this world. Once taken, it eliminates all the harsh realities and struggles in the world and one develops a sense of unexplained happiness in what many describe as being high. To Max, religion and opium works almost in the same way, taking one from the scientific world where every theory and belief must be supported by hard facts, to a world where imagination is made to be real.
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When analyzing this quote, it is important to bring out the analogy that the speaker meant to bring out. Opium is considered a dangerous drug by those who do not use it, but to the users, it is the best thing that ever happened to them. To the non-users, this drug makes one become irrational, erratic, and sometimes wild. It would be important to determine if religion has similar characteristics.
According to Marx, some of the religious teachings are dangerous to the peaceful co-existence of people from different religious beliefs (73). The Jihad- a holy war among the Muslims that is often directed against non-Muslims- has widely been used to justify some of the terror attacks in various parts of the world. The war between the Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims that has been witnessed in the Middle East is a good example of how religion can be dangerous. The constant war between the Jews and Muslims is a further confirmation that religion can be as dangerous as opium.
Opium is known to cause self-destruction. The users of this drug may not realize that they are destroying important internal organs such as the lungs and sensitive organs within the brain. To them, once they take opium, they feel high and every other thing becomes less important. They consider the promise of the imaginary world to be so strong that they cannot resist the need to take the drug.
This characteristic of opium can be closely compared with religion. A good example is the popular belief that Muslims who die during a Jihad war will be given seven virgins to be their wives. The desire to get such a promise would make them engage in very irrational acts such as being suicide bombers to receive the gift that comes after death. It is irrational for one to take his or her life because of the promise of a better life in the afterlife.
Opium is widely considered to imprison those who get addicted to it. As Marx states, a drug addict may be willing to do anything to have access to opium so that they can feel normal (92). The addiction can be so bad that the body systems fail to function completely, until such a time that the drug will be provided with the normal dose that the addict is used to. This characteristic of opium is shared by some of the religion teachings. In Christian faith, Catholic bishops and fathers are not allowed to marry. In many instances, we have had cases where some of these bishops have been accused of abusing young children sexually.
This is a clear indication that as normal men, they have bodily desires that should be met by being intimate with women. This can easily be addressed by being married, just as other men do. However, they are imprisoned by the religion and cannot attempt to have a family of their own, even if their hearts may desire so. They have strict teachings that they must adhere to even if they have contrary opinions.
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Drug addicts consider opium to be a painkiller, a medicine that soothes the nerves and takes away the pain and frustrations that one may have. It treats their physical as well as emotional pain. Whenever a drug addict has any form of pain, the first form of medication that comes to their mind is opium. It kills the sensitivity of the nerves, eliminating the pain in a very efficient manner. Religion has almost the same characteristic.
One of the biggest concepts of Christianity is the forgiveness of sins and the life there after. Sometimes people engage in activities that are socially immoral. These immoral acts may create a burden in one’s conscience as they try to imagine how others suffered unfairly because of them. Many people have committed suicide because of guilty conscience. However, Christianity comes with a solution to those who have such guilty conscience.
All they need to do is to go before God, confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their savior who washes away the sins, and all shall be forgiven. This belief is so strong that after making such confessions, even a murderer will feel relieved and clean before the society. The pain in the heart and the regret is taken away and in its place joy and the need to continue believing in God is placed.
Connecting the Quote to the Works Studied in Class
The Karl Max quote can be closely connected with Harrison Bergeron’s the Absence of Religion in Dystopian Society (Boscaljon 75). Aron says that the word dystopian “Describes an imaginary society that is as dehumanizing and as unpleasant as possible” (52). It is a society that is full of frightening things and events that cannot sustain a normal life. Religion promises a world free from pain, suffering, any form of labor, and unfulfilled desires to those who obey the teachings and keep the word. For Christian, they have the promise of the life everlasting free from pain and sufferings. For Muslims, happiness and joy in the afterlife is believed to be their portion if they keep the word. Other religious groups also have their own promises to those who remain faithful to the teachings.
In Describing the Dystopian world, Aron (81) says that it is a world that only exists in the imaginary context because of the pain and suffering that is associated with it. Such undesirable societies full of terror and pain only exist in religious teachings. Among the Muslims and Hindus, there is the hell fire that is meant for those who disobey the teachings of religion. Christians also have the belief that those who die before repenting their sins shall burn in hell.
It is such promises of terror after death that make many people follow their religious teachings without questioning anything. It imprisons them as they struggle to live by the word to avoid being subjected to eternal sufferings after death.
Connecting the Quote to Lessons Learnt Outside of Class
The concept brought out in this quote can easily be connected to some of the events which take place in the daily events within our society. Depending with the view that one has of opium, it can either be good or bad. For a long time, this drug was used as a pain reliever for soldiers who were wounded in the battlefield. It was very effective in relieving them of the pain. Boscaljon says that some of the primary compounds in the drug can be extracted and used as stimulants in a medical setting (32).
The positive side of the opium to people can closely be compared to the benefits that opium promises its users. Religion has brought sanity to the world (Aron 56). All the moral behaviors that people around the world hold are derived from religion.
Among Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, the value of families is heavily emphasized. It explains why these faithful prefer staying as large families who care for the weak and provide for the less fortunate. Among the Christians, one of the fundamental principles is love for others as one loves self. Under normal circumstances, no one may wish harm on self. In the same way, they should not inflict any form of harm on others. This teaching creates a world of peace, love, and unity. The joy that one gets after taking opium is the same joy that people who live in such peaceful societies get.
Aron, Raymond. The Opium of the Intellectuals. New Brunswick, N.J: Transaction, 2011. Print.
Boscaljon, Daniel. Hope and the Longing for Utopia: Futures and Illusions in Theology and Narrative. New York, NY: Cengage, 2015. Print.
Marx, Karl. On Religion. New York, NY: Dover Publications, 2012. Print.