Some weeks ago something was said that reminded me of a time, long ago, when someone pointed out to me that my religion was simply an opiate that dulled and blinded me to reality. This came from a person with whom I’d been very close. She told me she wanted to live her life fully, somewhat echoing H.D. Thoreau’s thoughts on life from his book, “Walden’s Pond.” I was, if I understood her correctly, living a life that was based on the illusion of better life after death, one that believed the illusions fed to me today, keeping me in a sort of bondage, addicted to a false hope that allowed me to endure without complaint the hardships of today, and to submit joyfully to them all.
So I began a little research. I learned the full quote from Karl Marx (published in 1843) is: “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.”
Then I looked at one of Karl Marx’s other publications, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” published in 1848. According to Wikipedia, “it has since been recognized as one of the world’s most influential political manuscripts. Commissioned by the Communist League, it laid out the League’s purposes and program. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and present) and the problems of capitalism, rather than a prediction of communism’s potential future forms.
“The book contains Marx and Engels’ theories about the nature of society and politics, that in their own words, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” It also briefly features their ideas for how the capitalist society of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism, and then eventually communism.”
Class struggle. For Marx, religion permitted the poor to remain poor through their religion suppressing any objection of those that controlled them. For Marx, those that exploited the poor used a little bit of charity once and a while to make them feel okay about their exploitation of the poor. And all the while “religion” allowed this to happen.
Now look at a source for Marx’s idea of opium of the masses: According to Wikipedia, The phrase “This opium you feed your people” appeared in 1797 in Marquis de Sade’s text L’Histoire de Juliette. Marquis de Sade. What a character. He was a total mess. He believed in unbridled freedom: the freedom to whatever one pleases regardless of who is hurt or murdered. What Sade is saying in his book is that the State uses religion to appease the people, to keep them in line and controlled. People are controlled when they look to their religion, their government, any world enterprise or institution, as their savior. And their religion supports this view, exploited, which is fully exploited by the state.
Furthermore, Sade said that that the appeased people become fully dependent upon their controllers, and fall into a mortal weakness. If their nation is threatened, they are easily overcome. It makes no difference to them who is controlling them, for they are poor, blind, and too weak to now object.
And it’s true, we see admonishment after admonishment by the Apostles in their writings that we are to live at peace with the government, live in harmony with each other, as best we can. And if that’s as far as we understand our religion, then we will submit to all forms of enslavement, joyfully going onward, blindly.
For the class struggle Marx desires is to envelope the world, for evil capitalism to be defeated, for socialism and communism to succeed and dominate. The way it played out in Russia after the Bolshevik revolution was a suppression of religion.
But it seems that suppressing religion is not enough; it must be replaced. Hence, in the case of USSR, the communist party becomes the religion, for it, itself, is the savior of the people from the clashes of class. Class is done away with, stamped out, molded by the Party into exactly what Marx accused religion of doing: first making the people into soulless serfs, announcing that they are the property of the State, and that the State will provide their “soul.”
While Communism and Nazi Fascism are different, opposed, the aim of each is similar, to control the people through replacing G-d with a hero-worshiped man. Take Austria in 1938. The country was in terrible economic shape. Stories of Germany rising out of economic depression at the false=messianic hand of Adolph Hitler led Austrians to vote to become one nation with Germany, to accept Adolph Hitler. Adolph Hitler was to the Germany people a savior, and now he would be the savior of Austria. There were few outcries from the religious institutions of Germany. Hitler took over. We know how that worked out.
In Germany, the religious institutions supported the Germany government, with some exceptions. One pastor didn’t go along with the Hitler. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He paid with his live.
Dr. David Livingston, a Biblical archeologist and scholar, writes that:
“There are some basic principles for “using” religion in controlling others. If we know and understand them, we may not so easily be caught in a trap ourselves.
“To begin with, everyone yields final authority to someone, some person. There are five possibilities among which everyone chooses who will control his life.
“First, we may choose ourselves. This kind of person may say, “I am the captain of my own fate, and hang everybody else. I will do my own thing.” Such a one tends to be proud, defiant and sometimes lawless because he has set himself up as his own final authority. This was the position of the kings and emperors of the ancient near east, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
“A second possibility is to yield to someone else’s final authority. This can be imposed on people by force. But however it happens, people become somebody else’s slave.
“The third possibility is to yield to God. This may sound like a good way, but there can be trouble with this position. The problem is that if the god to which a person yields is a figment of his own imagination, he is in the first category mentioned above. He is worshipping himself. People may think they are worshipping God, while they are only worshipping an idea of God they themselves imagined. Or, they say “visualize God to be as He is represented in some great painting.” But, that is not God at all. Some may say that actually all ideas of god are nothing but the creation of man to meet a deep-felt “god-need.” Those believing this need to go on to consider the next two possibilities.
“The fourth possibility is to yield final authority to someone else’s idea of God. This is where real trouble arises. If we yield to someone else’s concept of god, we become his servant. This makes one a slave of the most complete kind. Because anybody who controls someone else’s religious thoughts really controls his whole person. Israel was warned in Exodus 23:33, “. . . if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.” And by the time of the Judges, Israel had already discovered that serving someone else’s idea of god ultimately leads to servitude (Judges 2: 12,14). Jeremiah later pled with Israel not to serve the gods of the nations, “And it shall come to pass, when ye shall say, Wherefore doeth the Lord our God all these things unto us? Then shalt thou answer them, like as ye have forsaken me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours.” (Jeremiah 5:19, see also: Amos 5:25-27).
“When we serve a god that someone else has “dreamed up,” we become their slave. That is what the rulers of Russia, Japan, China, and other nations have done to their subjects. Rulers in the Ancient Near East did exactly the same.
“By now the reader will have begun to discover the most basic method used in gaining control over others. It is simply this:
“Whoever controls a person’s religion, controls his will; whoever controls his will, controls his thought-life; and whoever controls his thoughts, controls that one’s actions. Possession of another person as totally as this, makes him a complete slave, even though the person may actually seem free and have a high living standard.
“If there is one word which describes the method used to control others, it is “deceit.” Those who employ deceit are following the Father of Lies who has gone out to deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9; 20:3,8,10). The fact that he can deceive everyone indicates that he has a number of agents using his methods. It also indicates that great masses of men — hundreds of millions of them — have been living in spiritual slavery.
How to be really free
“Thank God there is a fifth possibility. That is, we can allow our lives to be controlled by the True God Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. Jesus said,
If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
“To be sure we have yielded our wills to Jesus Christ Himself, we should read for ourselves about Him in the Bible, the Word of God. No other description of Jesus is completely trustworthy. And having decided to follow Him, we want to be certain we are not just following someone else’s understanding of Him! Of course, we should listen to and read of the exposition of God’s Word by other men of God. A very important aspect of our obeying Christ is to be in fellowship with those of like mind. But, even so, we want to get God’s will for ourselves as directly as possible from His revealed Word.
“The True and Living God HAS revealed Himself. He is not hiding from us. He reveals Himself in His Word very plainly. Then, in the written Word we discover that in this last period of time in history, He has come into the world in the Person of His Son.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
“Will you ask yourself, “To whom have I yielded to have the final authority in my life?”
“”Religion” IS an “opiate”… but CHRIST IS LIFE!
And He said, “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.”
“The antidote to spiritual slavery is to surrender our wills to Jesus Christ, then let our minds be washed with the pure water of the Word of Truth as we determine to obey Him. Meditating on God’s Word day and night will make one prosper and set him free (even though he might be a slave in Caesar’s court: Psalms 1: 2,3).”
Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .