By Val Reynoso
When Marx said religion is the opium of the people this was not to be conflated with antisemitism or to say atheism should be enforced on everyone like many bourgeois interpretations of it claim, it was a figurative statement in context of the worker and the colonized person’s condition under capitalism-imperialism and colonialism.
This was written late 1800s when opium was popularly prescribed as a pain killer just like pills are used today, so when Marx said religion is the opium of the people what he meant is that religion is oftentimes used as a pain killer, as a temporary alleviator of the tangible pains and socioeconomic losses one experiences as a result of capitalism-imperialism.
We were colonized, enslaved tortured etc, robbed and our lands pillaged, our homes and temples destroyed and sacked, our children killed or trafficked, Christianity enforced on us, which for centuries our people, while overtly colonized, will then use to pray for our conditions to be improved, to pray for hope when capitalism-imperialism and idealism has produced hopelessness, to ask for our desires to synthesize with reality when capitalism doesnt permit for them to. that is the opium, the figurative opium, and capitalism-imperialism is the wound.
Marx was Jewish, when he said the religion of his people is money, he was not being antisemitic, he was using this same analysis above, that when capitalism-imperialism has left Jews at a socioeconomic and colonial disadvantage (Jews of any race weren’t racialized as white until well into the 20th century, particularly with the rise of the Zionist movement) then religion becomes your replacement for money, your new source for living and being under a system that wants to extract infinite profit from your finite existence. When he said to abolish religion as an illusory happiness he does not mean incite genocide on Jews or other oppressed nationality, hes saying to abolish the conditions that necessitate this usage of religion as a source of hope and desperation. To abolish capitalism-imperialism and seize means of production so that people may have their needs met and wont need to pray for them to come anymore.
Val Reynoso is a Politics and Human Rights undergrad, journalist and Marxist-Leninist activist.