By Adnan Mouhiddin
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the masses.” Karl Marx
The accuracy of this statement is self-evident in the life and practice of religious people. Once institutionalized, faith becomes religion and the latter turns into an oppressive tool either intentionally or unintentionally. Like totalitarian dogmas and ideologies, religions throughout history repressed the humankind and manipulated their congregations mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically. They (religions) controlled the masses both conscious and subconscious and stripped them from their capabilities to reason and critic. In other words, the masses conscious and mind have become hypnotized.
While many Christians struggle to “digest” Marx statement, they tend to forget that Jesus had similar approach to religion. Marx statement is something Jesus would have probably said about religion. Institutionalized Christianity was neither his mission nor his concern. His problem with religion is evident in the Biblical text. He had an obvious problem with restrictive ritual practices (religion) that conflict with the spiritual development of the humankind and the opportunity to make a change. He gave priority to the development and progression over the static ritual and allowed significant margin for progression. He was a progressive man.
While hypnotized, religious people become more responsive to the maintenance of their religious symbols than the dignity and safety of a human being. This symbol may not hold any historical or value significance. For instance, when 12 nuns were kidnapped in Syria few years ago, a hysterical and contagious reaction (initiated by Egyptian Christians) swept through and among Arab Christians. Ironically enough, the hysteria was not triggered because or when the Nuns were kidnapped. Rather, it was triggered when released photos showed them without their necklace crosses. In this case, religion (the heart of a heartless world) reveals its repulsive face when Arab Christians shows no sign of interest for 200,000 victims (then) in the Syrian civil war, but outrageously fume over the absence of some worthless Icons.
This is not an exclusively eastern symptom. Although in different form and at various levels, the same phenomenon occurs among Christians in the west, mainly in the United States. A Christian organisation (NGO) there lead fierce legal battles to stop the removal of a cross here and statue there under the broad banner of ‘Religious Liberty.’ These legal battles result in squandered funds and other resources that should have been invested in man rather than mortal symbols and statues. Under the same hypnotization conditions, some communities are capable of leading public unrest and chaos if the names of Allah or his prophet are insulted. Allah’s name must remain dignified. However, they find blessing in discovering that the name of Allah or his prophet were naturally engraved on some chicken egg. I am not sure whether they realise that eggs are delivered from a hole called the vent, which is a common opening for reproduction and for the evacuation of stools and urine.
Further, religion “is the sigh of the oppressed creature” when the photo of nude woman, out of personal freedom, stirs controversy more than a photo of nude human-being out of indigence and pauperism. Religion becomes the “heart of a heartless world” when American TV preachers (televangelists) generate millions of dollars, milking them from the pocket of those with limited incomes while those preachers enjoy wealthy and luxury life. Religion becomes the “soul of soulless conditions” when some Pope stands before hungry people, preaching patience and heaven while his dress and golden scepter could feed them for one year.
Further, and in a combination of both moral and social disorders, Christians are an example of the human being who goes brutally against their nature, treating their inner issues with facial and flaw superficial solutions. They don’t want a journey with God in which they progressively change. One of the most evident examples is the heartless dogmatic (most often conservative) Christians preaching peace and love. I loathe being told “God bless you” by an angry Christian. There is no sentence that could convey more hypocrisy, deep hidden and suppressed hatred than an angry dogmatic Christian telling you “bless you” or “I will pray for you.” Rather than dealing with their anger and deep hatred first, in which they examine their moral and emotional premises, in which they deal honestly and transparently with themselves and others, they (Christians) chose to bless you with two meaningless and empty words.
In every scenario mentioned above, religion proves to be the opium of the masses whose mind, conscience and critic skills are disabled and benumbed. Religion is the opium of the masses; a verse that was inadvertently omitted from the Gospel.