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Freethought Today · Vol. 27 No. 6 August 2010

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

The opiate of the people

“Religious suffering is, at the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opiate of the people.” Those are Karl Marx’s words from over a hundred years ago, and they are relevant to this day.

In a world where the majority of people are oppressed, lonely and confused, religion offers hope and happiness by, in effect, asking people not to think for themselves. It brings them bliss through blatant ignorance. 

Why does religion want to restrain thought? The general public, if allowed to question religion’s principles, would revolt. Religious leaders exploit ignorance and mental lethargy to assume control. To keep control, they enforce dogmatic principles to discourage questions.

Religion also breeds a sort of familial mentality. Followers see their faith as a way to include the whole family in a joint exercise, but by doing so they are directly influencing the behavior of their progeny as well, setting them up to join the religion when they grow up. That basically leads to hegemonic control over society.

This kind of power is completely theocratic and authoritarian because the leaders are neither elected by common consent nor are they subjugated to the policies of the religious public.

The world today isn’t what it was a million years ago. Religion was created in a time when people were more ignorant. Human culture and thought have changed since then, with the separation of church and state, but religion continually tries to impose its antiquated beliefs.

As humanity faces new problems and challenges, we must grow and evolve to face these new problems. This is ultimately what religion disrupts. Just like a drug, religion is a restraint on human growth and the expansion of creative conscience.

Ankit Kaushik was born in Hyderabad, India. He attended McLean High School, McLean, Va., for two years and graduated from 12th grade in Hyderabad. He will major in biomedical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

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