An insightful human being once said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”
Some may find this statement to be a gross generalisation and therefore easily ignored.
Others may find this statement to be insulting, sacrilegious or downright inflammatory.
The truth of the matter is that this statement need not initiate either response.
Let us analyse this statement as a combination of words put together to propose a complete idea.
First, let us look at the use of the word “opiate”.
Opiate is defined as:
1. a drug containing opium or its derivatives, used in medicine for inducing sleep and relieving pain.
2.? any sedative, soporific, or narcotic.
3.? anything that causes dullness or inaction or that soothes the feelings.
4.? mixed or prepared with opium.
5.? inducing sleep; soporific; narcotic.
6.? causing dullness or inaction.
–verb (used with object)
7.? to subject to an opiate; stupefy.
8.? to dull or deaden.
Taken at its coarsest level, the statement can be read as “Religion is the ‘sedative’ or ‘pain relief’ of the masses”.
Now, is this that far from the truth?
What is religion cited by the ‘faithful’ as providing?
Solice. Strength in time of need. An end to suffering.
Are these not also the outcomes of taking a sedative, or pain killer, such as an opiate?
So, in its most rudimentary logical form, this statement is proven true by the very religions that balk at its straightforward coarseness.
Taking this analysis a step further, let us assume a different meaning for opiate, to ‘stupefy’ or ‘dull or deaden’.
This would change the statement to read “Religion is the ‘stupefication’, ‘dulling’ or ‘deadening’ of the masses”.
Would this statement not satisfy the most hard line agnostic in their belief that religion is a source of control by the few over the many?
So, instead of inciting anger from both quarters, should this statement that “Religion is the opiate of the masses” be celebrated as the most splendid modern statement to be made about religion.
This statement is elegantly neutral, allowing both extremes to feed unilaterally from the same trough.
So why do members of both courts find it so hard to accept this statement as ‘real enough’?
Why should it cause friction on both sides of the fence, even as the intellectual who stated it first is trying to placate the friction while laying bear the ludicrousness of the situation?
Because both parties, the hard line ‘fundamentalists’ in both camps, want to hold the ‘hard line’. Neither side wishes for a softening. They want the friction. It is how they survive.
When the BNP say they will march in an Asian neighbourhood, but do not show up to do battle with the locals who have justifiably come out in force to defend their homes and families from the white supremacists, do the locals head home happy with their bloodless victory? No, they fight the police who have come to keep the peace.
Not because any one race, creed or religion is more or less violent or more or less wrong than another.
This happens because we are all humans, rubbing each other the wrong way all day long, in every situation.
How is the one-sided riot any different from the commuters shoving and pushing, swearing and spitting, to get onto an already crowded train?
I will tell you – it is not.
We are all in this together.
And the truth that statements such as “Religion is the opiate of the masses” point out is that even when you please everyone and give them what they want, it is not enough.
We are all at fault. If we are not the hard liners, we do not attempt to soften their edges, to help them see this is one boat, one ship and that we are all one race – the human race.
We can sink or swim altogether.
It is up to us. That is one lesson it seems that no fundamentalist has learnt yet, neither from the religious nor from the rationalist perspective.
We are all the blind leading the blind.
When will we open our eyes and see?Tweet