“Religion is the opiate of the masses.” - Karl Marx
There are many instances of violent ignorance that result from those who blindly follow their religious leader’s teachings. In many cases this has led to unjust persecution. Just like opium, religion has dulled and skewed people’s views to the point of killing other humans.
Take, for instance, our nation’s current situation in Iraq. A few months ago I attended a convention put on by David Rovics, a singer who spreads his political views through music. He told of an instance where he wore an anti-Bush shirt. A man saw it and told him that Bush was a man of God, to which Rovics replied, “Who would Jesus bomb?”
It is a legitimate question, because Jesus wouldn’t bomb anyone. Instead he would forgive, yet his name is still used to support these actions. This is the warping effect of organized religion. It seems to say that if something goes against what the church is teaching, then it is evil and must be eliminated. There have been many instances of this, including the Crusades where thousands died to spread Christianity. Joan of Arc was persecuted for going against the word of the Church even though she was trying to serve and save this very organization.
Now in the Iraq War there are Christians who will yell for more confrontation in the name of God. I even have had a run-in with my own Baptist grandmother, who taught me to love everyone and always be forgiving. And yet, she believes that Iraqis deserve this persecution. I feel this attitude results from blind acceptance of what her religion says.
In his State of the Union address, President Bush said, “With the might of God on our side we will triumph over Iraq. God will watch over our troops and grant us a victory over the threat of Saddam’s army. God will bless us and keep us safe in the coming battle.” Bush uses God’s divine will in speeches, and the uninformed follow this sacrilege to the point of murdering Iraqi civilians.
So what should we do? Information and knowledge are key. Our religion must not conflict with our ability to think for ourselves, rather they should question if what they believe is right. This is hard, especially for those who use religion as an opiate, but it must happen, and there must be a way to inform these people.
The truth must be extracted so that religious propaganda and the truth of the situation can finally see eye-to-eye. This could be through educating religious leaders to maintain an open view, so they could pass this on to their congregations. Another solution might be to encourage free thought by not banning books, as has been done in some places. These are ways of eliciting opposing, intelligent views, and give people the chance to become educated. This would give another chance to people who need another chance, both the persecutors and the persecuted.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.