Is religion opium for the masses?The phrase "religion is the opiate of the masses" or "religion is opium for the people" is a fairly common attack on religion from those who are dismissive of it. Most who use the phrase are thinking of Karl Marx, though he was not the first to use it. Marx taught that religion allowed people a fix for their unhappiness, like a drug—artificial and illusory. He thought freeing people from religion would help build a better society.
"The masses" or "the people" is intended as derogatory. Marx saw religious people as poor, uneducated, simple, and easily deceived. He wanted people to build a society with a realistic view of the cosmos that he said did not include God. Unfortunately, Marx's idea that people would work together to build a stronger society without any individual advancements or benefits have been found to rely on a fallacy that people are, generally speaking, good and generous. What is found in Marxist and the companion communist societies is that those who gain the power wield it in extraordinarily evil and harmful ways.
That notwithstanding, was Marx right? Is religion simply a crutch for the weak minded or unlearned? Is religion an illusion from which people need to be freed? Let's evaluate.
Let us first stipulate that the veracity of a claim does not lie in its adherents. In other words, a truth claim is either true or not. An educated person believing an untruth does not make the untruth, true. An uneducated person believing a truth does not make it any less true. Truth must be examined on its own, not based on who or how many people believe a certain thing. That being said, when a mass of people believe one thing, it does add the weight of believability to the claim.
Let us also stipulate that for some people religion is an opiate. Marx was not referring specifically to Christianity, but to religion in general. There exist many false religions which are, sadly, deceptive and illusory opiates that do more harm than good.
So, is religion based in truth? There are logical, philosophical, and even scientific facts to support the existence of God. Many of our articles explain these evidences in detail. There is ample evidence that humanity is flawed and in need of salvation. The failure of every attempt at Marxist, communist, and related forms of government and culture demonstrate this. The solution to humanity's problems obviously does not lie within humanity; we need God to save us. One might also consider that most brilliant writers and thinkers in history have shown themselves to believe in one god. Religion is not something in which only the uneducated masses participate.
Across time and cultures people have found a need for help outside themselves, this is clearly true. Marx and others call this a crutch. But because people seek understanding beyond what they can see, this does not invalidate the existence of God. In many ways, it validates it. There is evident universal human understanding of something more. The Bible says that this is our Creator God who "has put eternity into man's heart" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
As stated above, we must distinguish between false religion and true religion. Religion that is based on the idea that man can reach God through effort is false and ultimately leaves its followers lost. Christianity teaches that humans are incapable of coming to God on our own. But the God who created us provided a means of salvation—Jesus Christ. This God is interested in personal relationship with us and genuine life transformation. Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection proving that He is God incarnate and victorious over sin and death, when we put our faith in Him, all our sins can be forgiven and we can be made completely new (2 Corinthians 5:17–21). This is not mere religion and it is no opiate; it is God's truth and the only way of eternal life (John 3:16–18; 10:10; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:12–38).
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