Religion as mankind’s smartest invention

There was a time when religion made me see red. This “opium of the people” that made them lethargic and mad – how nice wouldn’t our world be if it wasn’t for religion!

But that time was when I was 20 years old.

Then followed a period when I respected religion, since something practiced by so many people must have a point. I respected people’s need for ceremonies, but I still saw it as a need.

It wasn’t until recently that I started to admire religion as man’s greatest invention. I now look upon religions as philosophies rather than churches. What is a religion if not a distilled society – a way for humans to describe themselves and their experiences with the lowest common denominator in order to understand themselves.

This is most evident in the polytheistic religions. There were many gods, and each of them represented a typical story in the lives of humans. The stories functioned as a guidebook as for how to live. We make a mistake if we think that these people were “stupid” enough to “believe in” various gods. Instead, they were smart enough to make their abstract lives concrete enough to fathom. Just like we do today when we say that someone is a careerist and someone is a bohemian. Or a John Doe for that matter. We simplify and idealise.

In a way, religion is what makes us human, since animals don’t practice it. Everyone who, like myself, is hopelessly in love with humanity should hail our amazing capacity for abstract thought. Yes, I’m a religious man!

Not to be continued – I respect my own attention span.

5 thoughts on “Religion as mankind’s smartest invention

  1. Let’s not forget the rest of that Marx quote. Yes, Uncle Karl described religion as “the opium of the people,” at a time when opium was not just a recreational drug but also a medicine and an anaesthetic. He meant that religion elevates us above the very oppressive material realities that his work exposed, and conceals these realities in order to make human life tolerable for the oppressed.

    But Marx was too sensitive merely to see religion as a hopeless delusion. The full quote runs: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

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