“Religion…is the opium of the people” – Karl Marx
In 2010 I wrote a blog post inspired by a young man I observed on Facebook. Religion for him was ultimately a drug. It gave him a high whilst he was in church, but out of that environment he got a downer and felt depressed. The type of Christian church he went to (Charismatic/Pentecostal) sold him religion as a solution to his problems but his problems never seemed to be solved and ultimately where does blame lie – in God, or himself? It’s a never ending spiral of depression.
Perhaps that’s why some pastors can appear overly obsessed with the “evils” of drugs, alcohol, clubbing, masturbation, secular music, etc. recognising them as competing forms of the same quick, unsatisfactory, temporary, feel-good fix that they are offering.
A typical example of this kind of pastor, that markets God and religion as a solution to people’s problems and as the answer to their (selfish) desires, is from a comment on a pastor’s Facebook page:
I’m not mentioning his name because the comment is indicative of many of the bland, feel-good statements by pastors. The idea that only good is coming is obviously ridiculous, as is the idea that you have to “receive” it. It also does not prepare us for the bad which is certain to come and gives us no tools to deal with that.
“Today the ‘Good News’ of Christianity…is sold to us as that which can fulfil our desire, rather than as that which evokes a transformation in the very way that we desire” – Peter Rollins
I’ve started reading The Idolatry of God: Breaking the Addiction of Certainty and Satisfaction by Peter Rollins. He uses Jacques Lacan’s concept of ‘The Mirror Phase’ to highlight why we feel anxiety in our life and that sense that we are not complete and need something to fill a void. Rollins writes that at the age of around 6 months we develop a sense of self. This awareness of our individuality highlights our feeling of separation with the world and we feel we have lost something. In truth we never had it. Rather that deal with that reality we look for ways to overcome that sense of loss believing the problem exists outside of ourselves rather than inside. Anything that claims it can fulfill our feeling of emptiness by making us complete – consumerism, religion, etc. – is effectively misleading us. They all become objects that we start to idolise as the answers. The truth is we need to understand this feeling is the human condition and embrace it. This seems to echo Buddhist thought which recognises that holding on to our feelings and desires only makes them stronger.
The scientific method helps us understand our world as it really is. What we seem to need are philosophies to help us deal with that reality. Any philosophy or belief that prevents us engaging with reality will fail to equip up with the tools we need to deal with our condition. When we realise there are no external answers to our problem, that we will always feel a sense of incompleteness, we can find peace and move on.