Opium of the masses— yes, that’s how Marx defined religion.
My interpretation of the statement is this: just as opium alleviates pain without healing physical injury, so religion provides solace to people— a fantastical relief from their oppressive economic realities. To Marx, religion was a reflection of the more fundamental economic relations, rather than being an independent entity.
But I’m not writing to propagate the views of Marx (I do not even fully comprehend what Marx says). I’m just trying to gauge why religion is so important to so many people— why humans believe in the divine energy, why they need the supernatural intervention to prevent them from going astray?
Religion has a massive hold over people in India. On one hand, it binds people together and on the other it rends them apart. It teaches people to be humane and tolerant and unabashedly allows unholy, impious acts to be committed in its name. So much happens in the name of religion, but nobody really talks about it.
Because talk of religion in an even handed manner and you’ll be most likely branded as committing blasphemy.
I may not be the most religious person in the world, but I sincerely respect all religions, faiths and beliefs. I’d introduce myself as an agnostic because I’ve never understood the idea behind religion (Please enlighten me if will). Why do we need religion to complete our identity?
Every other day the media hunts down a not-so-holy ‘holy man’, unearths his life story and contemplates whether or not he’s deserving of the glory and fame he’s showered with. Obviously, when people who claim to be guardians of faith are embroiled in sex scandals, you lose faith. Some woman appears in her shiny dresses and expensive sunglasses and makes a mockery of your revered beliefs; you lose some more. And when so-called godmen amass huge wealth in a span of few years by fooling unsuspecting people, you give up!
A lot of bigotry, killings and hostility emerges from religion. But is religion the root cause of conflict? Is religion intolerant or are people uncompromising? Every religion talks of tolerance and peace; ideas which are so conveniently forgotten when it comes to supposedly protecting your own beliefs. In a multi-religious (and secular) country like ours, religion is abused as a proxy for war. We probably learnt to use religion as a warring tool during British reign (Or maybe before that, my knowledge is mostly limited to what happened during and after the British Reign). The British are said to responsible for fuelling hatred and instilling religious intolerance in the minds of the Indian people. And few individuals with an insatiable avarice for power exploited this intolerance, effectively creating two nations out of one.
Since antiquity, innumerable battles in the name of religion have resulted in so much killing; whether you talk of the persecution of christians by the romans or the recent ‘islamic’ expansion.
Religion can either restrain the urge to fight, or exacerbate it.
Which god would want to pit people against people?
Which religious text promotes bloodshed and needless violence?
Power-hungry people scheming to control the masses misinterpret religious doctrines and quote them to their advantage. They pit people against people. They promote bloodshed and violence. It’s the people who kill (The gods merely watch). Hindu or not, Muslim or not; how does it matter? We’re all the same. Our purpose is to propagate love, and not hatred.
The remedy according to me? As long as you keep your religion to yourself, problems do not arise. What beliefs you cherish, in the privacy of your home or even in public, is hardly bothersome. The problem arises when you begin imposing your ideas on fellow humans. When you claim, that your god is supreme and thus must enjoy a higher status. And worse still, problems arise when you use religion as a license to kill.
Here on Earth, man is god. And religion, like all other things in life, is a matter of preference. Just as you might prefer red over blue, you might also choose to follow one religion over the other, or you might choose to follow none at all. And this difference of preference doesn’t necessarily divide people. My best friend, is a very religious person and whenever she’s low I tell her to be patient and have faith in god. That’s how I comfort her. And when I’m down, she never brings up God because she knows that this is not something that is going to work for me. And I think that’s how it should be.