Friday, March 23, 2012

The Opiate of the Masses

“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 people.”
—Karl Marx

I relate to this sentiment more and more as my interests broaden and I’ll explain why. I see religion as a distraction. There are so many more important things that are happening in this world. Our climate is changing, our environment is under threat, and there are civil wars, oppressive governments, corrupt politicians, unscrupulous capitalists, greedy corporations, human rights violations, poverty, famine, preventable diseases and many more things which require immediate attention. However, millions of people spend unfathomable amounts of time practicing and spreading religion. Without portraying myself as an elitist who claims to have found “the truth”, I think the debate on religion is over, and has been for a long time. When leading apologists like William Lane Craig when push comes to shove, rely on faith and a subjective sense of the ‘witness of the holy spirit’ and admit that their reasons alone will not convince anything, the debate is over.

I was having a discussion this week, and the prospect of what could happen if we fail to do anything about where humanity is headed, we are doomed. If we don’t put an end to the profit and consumption-driven capitalism that western culture is based on within a decade, our future may be very bleak indeed. I don’t think most common people really take seriously the consequences of runaway climate change. Sure, people have watched Al Gore’s documentary, or perhaps have watched ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, but the message still hasn’t hit home with everyday people. Overconsumption of food and fossil fuels continues unabated, farm land in New Zealand is largely used for extremely inefficient Dairy and Meat industries, which are the biggest polluters in this country, and produce the bulk of our carbon emissions.

Imagine if all that time and effort being put into religion, was diverted into something that would really make a difference? Those millions of people could pressure governments to stop feeding the corporate gravy train, and enact measures to protect our future, and our planet. We could stop the habitat destruction and mass wildlife extinctions that are taking place. Instead we have largely apathetic populations that are caught up in trivialities like religion and celebrity pop-culture. As long as people are distracted by these kinds of things, they fall prey to consumerism and maintaining the status quo that will lead to our collective demise.

However, these are not the only things that keep the population in the dark. People get distracted by television, video games, facebook and the list goes on. That’s not to say any of these things are bad, but simply that they play too large a role in a society that is on the verge of collapse. People need to be aware and to get active. Sorry for the length and rantiness.


  1. As a counterpoint, aren't religious organizations supporters of charity and change?

    1. oh, one more. found a good summary source of bishop letters: