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Religion: Opiate of the Masses?

January 2nd, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments

Maybe religion is not actually the opiate of the masses.  Maybe rejecting belief in a timeless God is really the opiate of the masses. There are many people who answer, ‘yes,’ to the question of God’s existence, but he (not He) is drawn in their image. Whatever they believe in, whether homosexual marriage, redistribution of wealth or any other idea, they’re sure he supports it. That is a rather comforting view.

You might argue that religious people do the same thing. Since they believe in gender differences and in the life of a pre-born child, they posit that God surely agrees. However, I think there is a very real difference between the two groups. One test boils down to an issue that is given disproportionate importance today—evolution. I have never understood why, when science literacy is so low and when scientific knowledge of practical, applicable fields is so necessary, evolution is the ‘must-teach’ issue. Not only that, but disagreement is treated with the passion of an, admittedly non-violent, Torquemada. Heresy must be rooted out. Not only that, but statements that are clearly unprovable and hence, unscientific, such as firm conviction that there cannot be life after death are among the credos that must be upheld.

Why is this so important? My husband’s great-uncle and Torah teacher, Reb Elya Lopian, was a leading rabbi of the 1900’s. He used to say that for millennia Jews believed that after death they would appear before a Heavenly Court, where a replay of their life would show. At times God would activate the pause button, and to their immense shame and regret, He would ask the equivalent of, “What were you thinking?” Reb Elya continued, “The interesting thing is that once movies were created and people could see technology that allows us to view such a scene, the belief in this after-death movie lessened.”

Forget religion being comforting. I imagine many of us would yearn not to see God’s disappointment in our choices, not to hear a final judgment including angry words we spoke, hurtful accusations we made and foolish or wrong actions we took. The idea of a nothingness after death means that no matter what I do, I am able to move forward without worrying about facing the consequences of my actions in an eternal World to Come.

I understand the desire to cling to a theory of evolution that refutes a God of judgment. Without some spiritual existence after physical death, it is easier to calm consciences and live as we choose. The very folk who believe that often condescendingly tell religious people, “I wish I could have your simple faith.” Perhaps the opposite would be more accurate. Without faith, I can more confidently live life as I choose. Traditional belief is not an opiate; it is a wake-up call.

 

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4 comments

James says:

What a powerful Musing! One is reminded of a quotation from Oscar Wilde, to the effect that ‘When a man rails against the Church, it is usually because it will not let him do just as he wishes.’ Oscar gave us many great flashes of insight. But your Musing this week is a much more dire warning: eschatologically speaking, don’t leap out of a twenty-story window, just because you don’t believe gravity exists.
What a concept for some: that God exists, and yes, God is paying attention and keeping score! If so, then our actions, like the stone in the pond causing infinite ripples, have consequences in the wide world forever.
(Dear Rabbi, your detailed answer to Matthew today will satisfy many!)

Peter B. says:

Hi Susan:
I agree with your conclusions regarding why teaching of Evolution is deemed so necessary. I’d like to suggest an additional thought or two along that line.
First, some background. Karl Marx published his Communist Manifesto in 1848. Eleven years later, Charles Darwin published his book “On the Origin of Species” (1859) which has ultimately succeeded in the main, at displacing Judeo-Christianity in explaining our origins. Marx recognized the value of the principles of Darwin’s “Origin” (especially “survival of the fittest”) in supporting his economic theory, thus publishing his major follow-up work “Das Kapital” (1867) which was based upon the false premise that “labor”, the physical handling of the materials and instruments of production, is the real source of wealth creation. In the year that Marx died, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche published “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” (1883) which is the first of his works to include the phrase “God is dead”. Nietzsche was profoundly influenced by Darwin’s “Origin”.
Ten months after Marx’s funeral in London was attended by between 9 and 11 mourners, the Fabian Socialist Society was founded in that city. At the center of their logo is a wolf wearing a sheep costume, exposing only the wolf’s head. For the past 130 years, this Society has worked patiently and tirelessly in promoting the false “truths” of their materialist-atheist world view.
It is my contention that Darwinian evolution is the foundation upon which this entire world view stands. Without Darwin’s theory as supported by Nietzsche’s atheistic philosophy, Socialism (or Communism – same thing) is a very tough sell.
Lastly, since its founding in 1636, Harvard University continues to be the model for university curriculum throughout the United States. As Harvard goes, so goes the nation. You may find it interesting to know that Harvard University was pivotal in gaining worldwide acceptance of Charles Darwin’s “Origin”.
“The years following the first appearance of On the Origin of Species [first published in 1859] were marked by significant success in getting the message out. . . But the victory of Darwinism was not marked by reason alone. It was the result of a well-planned intellectual and social revolution. . . The strategy was largely defined very early by that small band of revolutionaries who were determined to make Darwin’s theory orthodoxy – Darwin himself, Hooker, Lyell, Huxley, and Gray. . . (in fact the prestigious journal Nature was founded in 1869 as an organ for disseminating Darwin’s thought.) . . . Darwin used [botanist] Asa Gray at Harvard to help take America, . . . Asa Gray was Darwin’s man in America, . . . Gray wrote a three-part defense of Darwin for the Atlantic Monthly, . . . Darwin was delighted with it, and had paid for the cost to reprint it, sending it off to strategic places to blunt the theological objections and recriminations.” – Quotations excerpted from The Darwin Myth (2009) by Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D.
The so-called facts of Darwin’s theory included the principle of natural selection which was chosen by him because it excluded any creative action by God.
Either God spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai or He didn’t. I stand with those who believe that He did. Darwin, et al. stood with those bent on proving that He didn’t.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor they cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” – Exodus 20: 8-11 (King James Version)
As William Shakespeare’s Hamlet once said, “Therein lies the rub”.

Carol says:

Dear Susan,
As usual you have hit the nail on the head. Recently in an interview, Pope Francis told a reporter after being asked “Is there a single vision of the Good? And who decides what it is?” the Pope replied, “Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good” (Scalfari, 2013). This is the true opiate of the masses. From the time of Adam and Eve, man has wanted to run his own life, make his own rules, and suffer none of the consequences from doing so. In this case, any rules other than the ones he makes for himself/herself are a pain and are to be avoided. This is the grand delusion that there is no God.
Along with this delusion is the idea that man is not a special creature or created with a special purpose, nor having a destiny. This makes him common, plain, and just another animal like the beasts of the field. In this way, because life is not something to be cherished, he/she throws it away as just so much garbage because evolution teaches, he/she can just make another one. So abortion is the rule not the exception. Again more opiate for the masses.
Having been a substance abuse counselor, one theme (hence delusion) that I saw constantly running through the comments made by my clients were, “I don’t have a problem; I can quit any time I want to.” That is the lie, with drugs. You can quit however, but it’s going to be painful and humans certainly don’t want any pain, they can’t even stand being without deodorant.
The world promotes many lies hence; people suffer from a lot of deluded thinking. We see a President, a Congress, and others leading this country that only want to follow the rules/laws when it suits them. Why would people want a book to follow that teaches them how to live a good, honorable life? They didn’t write it, so they wouldn’t want to follow it, and of course the one who did write it is dead so it really doesn’t matter because there is no absolute truth.
All men die is the great equalizing truth. What they find at the end of that road is going to definitely surprise them. I agree with Reb Elya Lopian; in researching many near death experiences, life reviews are mentioned quite frequently. As for religion being a comfort I don’t like religion; I prefer relationship. Man was created for relationship. As a follower of Jesus, when he left this earth, the Holy Spirit came to be a comforter and a teacher to his followers. It is not religion that comforts me it is He that was sent to live in each of His believers. I have needed and had this comfort since the age of 12; I do not know what I would do without it.
As I age, I am now 60, my relationship with God grows ever closer; as I repent for the things I have done wrong, I am hoping that my life review will consist more of statements such as the one in Matthew 25:21, “Well done good and faithful servant” than criticisms (BibleHub, 2013). However, if it doesn’t, I know that he will correct me as a father corrects a child he loves. I do not agree with your last statement, “Traditional belief is not an opiate; it is a wake-up call.” It is not traditional belief that is the wake-up call; the wake-up call is the call from the scriptures to:
ד שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד. 4 Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.
ה וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ. 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might (Mechon Mamre, 2013).
I am sorry, the Hebrew is not being displayed properly I fear. Anyway, it makes my point that man needs a Lord but prefers an idol (himself/herself) instead of the genuine one.
Shalom,
Carol
References
Bible Hub. (2013). Matthew 25:23. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/25.htm
Mechon Mamre. (2013). Deuteronomy chapter 6. Retrieved from http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0506.htm
Scalfari, E. (2013 October 1). The pope: How the church will change. Retrieved from
http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2013/10/01/news/pope_s_conversation_with_scalfari_english-67643118/

Judy says:

Wonderful post, Susan, and great comments. The teachings of the world are distractions. They don’t need to be proved or fully embraced. As long as they distract, then the adversary wins. I’ve been distracted. Thanks for helping me refocus.

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