Opium Of The People Karl Marx, the venerated German icon of the world proletariat, philosopher and the pioneering revolutionary asserts that religion ‘is the opium of the people.’It is an intoxicant. It offers temporary relief to the working people from their daily hardships of life.
Birth Of Illusion
Economic poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, ill-health, debt, and other widespread social maladies of the class society render the working class helpless and hopeless and constrain them to seek a helping hand in the form of God, Messiah, saint, savior and so on. The working class finds temporary solace in its illusory world of God, heaven, etc. But they do not get a permanent solution to their frustrating privations and agonies by resorting to this illusory world of religion.
Religion is thus a human product; it is not a divine gift or creation.
The capitalist class, one of the historical ruling classes legalizes various forms of injustice in a class society and brainwashes, through the religion, the working people into believing in illusions of God, his grace, his protection, rebirth, afterlife, heaven and hell, and so on. This is in a sense something akin to the Hindu karma and rebirth theory. The exploiting class not only blunts their rebellious sharpness but also weakens their combative spirit, in this invidious and secretive way, with the potent spiritual tool of the all-pervasive irrational religion.
There was a time when there was no private property; there was a time when there was no religion. The ancient tribes lived happily by using natural resources commonly for their livelihood and needed no God.
Private property divides society into the class of capitalists and the class of workers where the former exploits the latter by applying, among other things, the opium of religion to them. Class society is one source of sustenance and prevalence of religion. A classless society will be one without religion.
How Religion Ends
The Marxist solution for establishing a classless society is a social revolution and abolition and socialization of the private property. The Marxist idea and aim are that private property, the historical source of class oppression should not be a means for exploiting the socially weaker class of workers by the dominant property-owning class, the capitalists. Religion loses its influential status as a powerful tool in an exploitation-free classless society.
Religion withers away just as the State as the symbol of the power of the ruling class and the ‘organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another’ withers away.
Karl Marx expresses the essence of religion in his following inimitable words:
‘Man makes religion, religion does not make man.’
‘Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world and the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusion.’
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