This essay examines Karl Marx and his conception of religion as a social narcotic. In his Critique of Religion and Philosophy, Walter Kaufmann states: "In all religions, aspiration and demands have been countered to some extent by a quietistic tendency which has earned them Marx's contemptuous epigram contemptuous epigram 'Religion is the opiate of the people ....'" (Kaufmann 427).
As a dialectical materialist, Marx had the view that ultimate reality is material. Religion, then, is established on divine revelation and deductive logic. There is no empirical the theological doctrines of various religions way to know that the theological doctrines of various religions are really true. The most that a particular religion can base its claims on is faith, which really amounts to superstition. If people are to know and understand the real world, they must give up superstitious beliefs because they have a narcotic effect on the mind. As an opiate, religion drugs people into thinking they have found a form of security and salvation. However, this comfort is actually an illusion. Progress cannot be made in society until mankind has discarded the drug-like effects brought on by the superstition of religion--so Marx is saying.
J.B. Priestley makes this observation: "Marx and Engels succeeded where other and perhaps sounder theorists failed, chiefly because they created a new myth when a new myth was urgently needed. What they did ultimately, without being aware of it themselves, was to achieve a substitute religious basis and framework for society" (Priestley 202). Searching for reality is not easy. When a person stares right into the sun of what they think is truth, it is possible to go blind.
In the first chapter of Capital, Marx states: "The religious reflex is but the reflex of the real world. And for a society based upon the production of commodities, in which the producers in general enter into social relations with ...