Religion is the opiate of the people

by Jeff McInnis

Karl MarxIt was Karl Marx who wrote, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” I am tempted to agree with Marx. In addition to doing good things for people, it also fills a void. In many cases, the religious are not nearly as interested in worshiping their Creator as they are in filling a void. However, there are exceptions to that rule. In my original quest that brought me to the cross of Christianity, I had no interest in religion for religion’s sake. I only wanted to, and still want to know, truth.

Religion may be the opiate of the people, but truth is not. While I could agree with Marx that any general religion is an opiate in that it can deaden or lessen the pain felt in this world, the fact is there is only one true religion. Truth, you see, is exclusive. If one proposition is true, it excludes all other things that have to do with the same issue from being true. If you don’t agree, tell me I’m wrong. In so doing, you will just be confirming that truth is exclusive. My statement is either right or wrong; it cannot be both right and wrong. Truth is exclusive.

Each religion makes very exclusive and unique claims and allows no other room for other religions. Indeed, even if a religion was found that allowed for other religions, the situation could not stand. The truth claims of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are enough to rule out the other religions, or themselves be ruled out. In fact, it would be nothing more than a game of religious chess, where one claim by Hinduism was counteracted by a claim of Islam. Each religion would try to one up the other in their claims. Science, too, would play a part in the game, trying to win converts to its religion.

We do not seek truth for the single opiate effect of happiness. We seek truth because living a life based on truth is, by definition, the way life was meant to be lived. We seek it because it is from within the framework of truth that we understand the world and find our true meaning. From truth, true happiness comes, not as the goal but as a sweet by-product.

While living a life based on truth creates inner joy, it can create outer torment – definitely not an opiate effect. I have been hated and even mocked for being a Christian, in exact conformity with the prediction of the Bible. I have had family turn away from me, in absolute lock-step with the prophecies of scripture. This world is full of Christians who have been spit on, beaten, maimed, and even killed for their beliefs, and Jesus predicted it would happen. We cannot consider this type of suffering and still hold that all faith is an opiate. As a Christian, my life pain is not dulled, it is enhanced to a point I never had to experience before becoming a Christian. I see the world much more starkly than I ever did in my Pagan days. My belief in the truth of Christianity does not produce an opiate effect; it allows me to see the pain in the world and brings about the exact trouble that Jesus told us would result from being His disciple.

The non-believing world can certainly say that there are some who practice religion as a way to escape. They are right – there are. But when they write off everyone for this reason, they are guilty of a cop-out adopted to avoid having to argue the issue at hand. There are those today and through history who have endured great pain as a direct result of their faith. They did not quickly recant their belief to get back to their religion-induced opiate state. They persisted in their faith, endured the horror, and suffered. Many died as faithful followers of Jesus. No opiate that caused that type of pain could ever find a market.

 

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy

Why I Am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe

The Poached Egg Apologetics