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Shoot Me Up

December 6, 2010

Legendary Karl Marx once wrote that region is “the opium of the people”; religion is like a drug in that it distorts reality, changing individual’s perception of the world. When I first learned this, negative connotations of the word “opium” flooded my brain. I pictured Injecting religion into my skin, clouding my mental capacity, and withering away as if I were following the footsteps of Jimmy Page’s trail. I, myself, have never been a religious person, but I have an ample amount of friends with a variety of beliefs. I started to wonder, is religion really clouding their perception of reality? And is that such a bad thing?

I thought about my roommate who actively practices Hinduism, and started comparing the way she views the world to the way I, a non-religious person, do. Countless examples began racing through my head. When I sit down to do my homework, I plop my backpack on the floor and begin to get situated. Across the table, my roommate begins praying (it catches my attention because of the involvement of her arms during prayer): my foot was rested on my backpack. So what? Well, to Hindus, books represent wisdom, and wisdom is sacred. Resting my heel on my backpack is similar to me spitting on the importance of intellectual wisdom. When I get out my school work, I don’t think where my feet rest; I don’t think about how important and even sacred my books, this school, and my education is to me. If anything, I normally think something close to, “I want to burn my homework”. My roommate, on the other hand, seems to cherish every page of even the most monotonous textbooks. She believes that it is a blessing to have the opportunity to learn. And it is.

If I agree, though, why don’t I unzip my backpack with delight? Is it because I lack the “opium” that change the way I perceive things? It is true that this is simply one example, but the difference in work ethic and determination between her and me is easily noticed. And after pondering over Marx’s view of religion as opium for the masses, I couldn’t help but make the connection of our habits to our religious views. Say Marx was on to something and that religion truly does alter our view of reality. Is this delusion really a bad thing? If the end result is the difference between an A and a C, maybe experimenting with “opium” isn’t such a bad idea…

  1. cwatson872 permalink
    December 7, 2010 12:38 AM

    I think it’s important to consider that no one can really claim to have an objective view of reality, and therefore one is almost allowed to choose how the allow their reality to be altered (for better or for worse). I think religion can be both a negative concept like the opiates Marx compares it too, but it also can be a great and uplifting concept – like I see your roommates practice.

  2. Molly Niedbala permalink
    December 7, 2010 12:08 PM

    I don’t think religious “opium” is a bad thing at all. I often wish I could believe the wonderful things that different religions espouse. For instance, I’d much prefer to believe in a heavenly afterlife than one consisting of nothing more than bleak non-existence. It’s been proven that religious people actually live longer than non-religious people – perhaps because they’re less stressed? Belief in a higher power must be very reassuring when times get tough. As long as what they believe makes them happy and doesn’t interfere with their lives or others’ in any unproductive way, the religious are probably better off.

  3. adamkornbluh permalink
    December 7, 2010 12:20 PM

    You make an interesting connection between religion and reality, but I feel you only highlight a small example that doesn’t truly give an thorough overview of the subject. I do not doubt that religion plays a large role in your roommate’s life and it may very well be the reason for her academic success. Religion may cloud the mind in arguably benevolent ways such as instilling the Ten Commandments into the value system of a people. However, this is a two-way street. Religion has brought on wars and with them the murders of countless lives. I’m not saying that religion is a bad thing. But when Marx refers to religion as “the opium of a people,” it is important to remember what happens when usage spirals out of control into a dangerous addiction.

  4. nickcolaccino permalink
    December 7, 2010 1:46 PM

    Very interesting piece! I’m glad that you acknowledged that your example was a small one in the grand scheme of religion and and it’s influences, but it is an important one as well. I agree with adamkornbluh in the idea that things are good in moderation. When I read this part by Marx I immediately thought of the evils of religion, and those evils seem to be related to religion in some way. Many have cited various religious beliefs while attempting to justify racial and gender superiority, and these ideas easily flow into the political world. Monarchies, for example, are entire governments based on religious ideals of ‘divine rule’. I think that when Marx argues that religion is “the opium of the people” he is citing things like monarchies and inequality rooted in religion as a justification for our mistakes, thus distorting reality in a harmful way.

  5. eghat2 permalink
    December 7, 2010 3:39 PM

    I think that you have made an interesting observation in the post, regarding whether or not Marx’s so called ‘opium’ is a good thing or a bad thing. According to our lecture today, Marx sees ideology as false beliefs which people hold in order to ‘legitimate subordination or domination’, or rather, make their world seem better than it really is. If religion is viewed as an example of this ideology, then , as you have discussed, people who practice religion have a distorted (opium like) view of what is going on around them.
    It seems to me that – assuming that Marx thinks religion has a similar effect as opium – religion is definitely a good thing. If people have chosen to not revolt and change their situation, than it is better to try to look at things positively than negatively. That is not to say though, that there should not be revolutions. Marx seems to encourage said revolutions, in order to change the situations that so many are trying to distract themselves from.

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