Opiates of the people

6 Sep

Mexican Cross


On Sunday September 4 2016, Catholic nun Mother Theresa was canonised by Pope Francis for her work amongst the poor and sick in Calcutta, and two miracles attributed to her involving the apparently inexplicable curing of cancers.

As part of the celebrations the poor of Rome were treated by the Pope to a lunch of pizza, which, as a few of us agreed on Twitter, can be deconstructed to loaves and fishes if it contains anchovies.

It was with some disbelief that I watched media reports of this event showing great crowds of people rejoicing. There are still so many enslaved by religious delusion? I had thought it largely replaced by reality TV.

My chain of association led me next to Karl Marx:

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.*

I don’t know that anyone has put it better: the demand to give up illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions. How many situations are there to which that insight might be applied?

Mother Theresa did not always enjoy good press. The late Christopher Hitchens, for example, was scathing, claiming in a piece titled “Mommie Dearest” that it wasn’t the poor she was interested in but rather poverty itself, which she used as a vehicle for her extreme right-wing religious views. Her habit of ensuring the dying were baptised into her church, no matter what their religious beliefs or lack of them, did not endear her to many of the living.

For me, the term “canon” refers to a patriarchal hierarchy of literary works, or, with two “ns” the final crescendo of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Associations here lead me back to the time when my sons were young and the 1812 was used by the defence forces in a recruitment drive. This didn’t fool those boys who sang in joyful unison whenever the advertisement interrupted their favourite shows: “Join the army get your balls blown off.”

I often think of this for comfort, when I torment myself about having been a bad mother. One way or another, I nurtured pacifists who from an early age could see through (some) illusions. I recall as well the time their father took them on an expedition to the public viewing of a warship and I refused to go. That ship was built to kill people, you know, I yelled as they went out the door, in an effort to counteract what I felt as an undermining.

The canonisation of humans as “saints” requires ” proof” of at least two “miracles” performed directly or indirectly by those “saints.” That the Catholic church persists in these delusions is hardly surprising, given its attitudes to priests who molest and sexually assault children in their care. Their entire system is delusional.

The emphasis on an after-life that validates suffering in real life, while not peculiar to Catholics, works in the service of the privileged who live off the efforts of those they exploit. Just as the glorification of war advantages arms dealers and politicians, who never set foot in its theatres of carnage.

In the same way that morphine lifts me above my pain so that I’m still aware of its presence but far less troubled by it, religion and other delusional beliefs lift people above the daily pain of an unfulfilled existence, without addressing the underlying condition.

There are many discouraging circumstances in the world, but I don’t know that I’ve felt quite the same sense of weariness about them that I felt at the spectacle of Theresa’s sanctification, which brought home to me the domination of opiates over human life, and I’m not referring to the chemicals.

Aside: As I wrote this a gaudy cross, part of my much-loved collection of Mexican kitsch, fell off the wall where it’s hung for years. However, a gaudy heart, part of the same collection and hung beside it, remains. Make of that what you will.


*Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

31 Responses to “Opiates of the people”

  1. helvityni September 6, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    “This govt is way more closely related to the anal discharge bacteria of these animals, than the animal itself.” Hypo

    If we can somehow get rid of that stinking lot, and soon, I’ll start believing in miracles.

    If anyone ought to be canonised it’s me. GO lost his colourless hearing aid when mowing the huge lawn (more like a football field) on our farm.

    I walked from the house and picked up that tiny object from the overgrown grass; some higher power was guiding me to it…

    Dear Francis has asked me to post it to Rome. It has never been a better time to be living in Oz.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Jennifer Wilson September 6, 2016 at 9:43 am #

      Helvi, Wow! You could be the female patron saint of lost objects, I think St. Jude is the male…which is where the inspiration for Hey Jude comes from as in Hey Jude where are my socks

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hypo September 6, 2016 at 9:49 am #

        Miracle number two>
        If Helvi can locate Mals credibility ,she has indeed attained saintliness.
        Alternatively she could find a heartbeat of humanity, or a modicum of intelligence in the Libs, but that would be an almost godlike challenge.
        : )

        Liked by 3 people

        • helvityni September 6, 2016 at 11:16 am #

          Hypo, before coming here I posted this on AIMN:

          “Terry, enjoyed the pairing of Marr and Henderson on the Insiders, David always managed to shrink Hendo into a foetal position. When Kate (Carnell) appears, I get up to feed the dog. Hewson must be just about the only Liberal politician I don’t mind…”

          Will that do, Hewson also lives here, we see him around the place, and are always greeted in most friendly fashion….


          • Hypo September 6, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

            Once upon a time Hewson and Fraser were what the Libs stood for.

            Now they just fellate big business and poke the eyes out of the weak poor and sick, while they think of ways to hide them or starve them.
            Not even the richest scum of the right will survive on the planet they are shaping.


      • paul walter September 6, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

        All these years without St Jude..what grief I could have saved myself knowing about St Jude.

        Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter September 6, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

        Jennifer, I wonder as to the Marx quote, if getting rid of religion would help anyway. won’t denial merely seek out another bearer when denied the platform of religion with which to in-dwell and perform its silent mischiefs?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson September 7, 2016 at 6:25 am #

          PW, Yes, I think you’re right, reality can be a painful place & many of us would prefer not to be confronted with it.
          Though as Marx claims, as have many before him & since, from the mystics to Freud to Foucault, and pop psychology, facing the reality of our experiences without denial & delusion is our only hope for advancement into decent human beings.

          I’m inclined to agree, illusion, delusion, falseness don’t expand the soul, rather they shrink it & as Frued pouted out, a great deal of energy is expended on maintenance of these things that could be better spent on experiencing reality, no matter how painful.

          I see it is a kind of shedding: a shucking off of one layer of dishonesty, illusion after another, they seem infinite.

          Liked by 1 person

          • doug quixote September 7, 2016 at 7:38 am #

            Some people are very fond of their delusions, and won’t shed them willingly. Our best contribution would be to ensure that education is secular, so that the delusions are not foisted upon future generations.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Hypo September 6, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    With Bernardi playing attack dog over Dastyari, we could expect the ALP to nail Bernardi to his own petard.There is every likelihood the pet biblio-fluffer for RWNJ Christians and the churches anti gay lobby, Cory baby has a few donations to explain,himself.
    However as we know, both the LNP ans ALP have their arses owned by the religious interferers corrupting our constitution.That fact is the only Royal Commission we need.
    Like I said yesterday, the wives/partners of the current Liberal Party are the only ones worthy of sainthood.Fancy being hooked up to such toxic rancid cowards.
    It must be the money and the perks.(Fancy that).

    The parliament and govt of Australia is corrupted and distorted(controlled) by religious interference,period. This is totally unconstitutional.(Illegal)


  3. peartonblog September 6, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    Yes! ‘The emphasis on an after-life that validates suffering in real life, while not peculiar to Catholics, works in the service of the privileged who live off the efforts of those they exploit.’

    While all religions (maybe not Quakers?) support the status quo, the Catholic church has been historically and currently, especially effective at promoting poverty, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and the destruction of strong, diverse and rich indigenous cultures globally, leaving them with a fairytale you couldn’t make up (?)

    The concept of ‘one true church’ was never going to end well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson September 6, 2016 at 9:44 am #

      I don’t know much about quakers, they seem a more peaceable lot than most.


      • Hypo September 6, 2016 at 9:52 am #

        They make good porridge.

        (Double entendre, optional)

        Liked by 1 person

    • doug quixote September 7, 2016 at 7:53 am #

      The Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) are all death cults. They look forward to the end of the world, a Last Judgement where the righteous will get their eternal reward and the rest will burn forever.

      They wish.

      All their eschatology will achieve is to ensure the ultimate annihilation of the human race, and it will probably take the planet with it. The “certainty” that their God (and only “their” God) will save them is the ultimate delusion.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Toni Blackmore September 6, 2016 at 9:58 am #

    A practicing Catholic until not all that long ago I’ve ignored the whole sainthood nonsense since realising as a teen it’s just the machinations of old blokes in frocks. But gawd, pizza for the poor pisses me off in so many ways. Paralleling biblical imperatives like the loaves and fishes may speak to the current pope’s gargantuan ego, false humility, and selective application of Catholic social teaching, but honestly, a crappy bit of pizza to celebrate a miracle? A miracle, right? Not a new set of Prada vestments, but a full blown, spooky, supernatural event! Their god’s doubtless wondering what the fuck s/he has to do to make these greedy cosplay fans give the poor a decent feed!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hypo September 6, 2016 at 10:21 am #

      It’s a perverse and anachronistic cult whose focus is to destroy other cultures,ply them for invader capitalism who destroy and exploit the original sustainable landscape management and then subsequently indoctrinate and steal from the brainwashed.All done under a cloak of deceptive guilt.Couple this with serial and institutional paedophilia.What took you so long?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson September 7, 2016 at 6:27 am #

      The Pope’s vestments come from Prada?


  5. paul walter September 6, 2016 at 10:24 am #

    Remarkable. There is the difference with JW, some thing completely unexpected, completely original. I Wont add more just now because there is enough in it for me to want to digest it at leisure

    Liked by 3 people

  6. davechaffeyhippie September 6, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    Deluding ourselves with nonsense is part of the human condition. No one is immune. The delusions of others are tragic/depressing/funny. Our own delusions would help to cure the world of all its ills. Accepting this is the toughest red pill to swallow; then the hard work can begin of finding ways to minimise subjectivity when making assessments and judgements. Has anyone yet managed to unplug from the Matrix and read the raw code of the Universe? I would say this is impossible; but we can maybe get glimpses. There is hope; this is one of my healthy delusions!


    • paul walter September 6, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

      dch, they are fascinating subjects…agree re the matrix and think it is probably just as well, were humans remotely likely to understand it the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. doug quixote September 6, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    The next most stultifying thing was the absurd coverage on SBS and ABC, with live crosses (no pun intended) to Rome. Unsurprisingly the Pope did in fact declare the deceased soul-harvester to be a saint.

    In what way is that news? We may as well cross live to John Howard declaring Menzies to be a great prime minister.

    Perhaps there should be a caution: “Viewers are advised that the following story contains scenes of religious claptrap”



    • paul walter September 6, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

      Oh, dq, you nailed it there.


    • Hypo September 6, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

      Better plan.Let the devouts all move to Vatican City, and they can sustain the flock rather than interfere with the lives of all other global inhabitants.Like all other ‘self respecting’ cult would do.Rather than dodge tax forever and steer govt policy.


  8. paul walter September 10, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

    Easy to read piece that relates a little to above



  9. samjandwich September 13, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    It’s funny, I’ve spent periods being relatively anti-religion for more or less the same reasons as JW. However these days I’m quite content to let the sum total of one’s life experience lead one to whatever world view one sees fit to espouse, whether that’s a religion or a rampant disregard for same.

    Partly this is because some of the kindest and happiest people I’ve ever met are religious, and remain so despite the fact that they are perfectly intelligent people and entirely capable of perceiving that the bible is mostly fanciful clap-trap. Also there are plenty of people who simply don’t have enough access to information to build a sufficient evidence base to counter religious arguments… I just spent the last three weeks in PNG, where people in the villages typically have no opportunity to stay at school after about year 8, and where belief in Christianity is widespread, not coincidentally IMO. In a way it’s sad that their traditional beliefs are so rapidly being taken over by Western-imposed ones, but that’s just the way information flows work.

    I think that if you can manage to convince yourself that there’s a God of some sort then you’re actually pretty lucky, since the secular alternative of the meaning of life being “to come to terms with the fact that life has no meaning” can be pretty depressing sometimes. Contrary to Marx I don’t think that knowledge and happiness are necessarily interlinked (not least because it’s pretty impossible to be happy when you consider all the shitty things that happen in the world).

    In fact, I’m usually wont to describe happiness as essentially an aesthetic experience – and whether you reach it through religiousness, chemical stimulation, doggedly maintaining a sense of faith in humanity on balance, or watching zoom cats, is largely irrelevant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Toni Blackmore September 13, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

      Prescriptiveness is the trouble maker. Live and let live still works when it comes to unfathomable beliefs of others. And yes, I’m looking straight at those colonising Christian missionaries whose handiwork you’ve been observing. Scripture spouting extremists to a man. The problems start when I decide everyone *must* waste hours every week on sloth videos, and then demonise Zoom Cats to knock out the opposition. Sloths are pretty adorable though:)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hypo September 13, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

        You mount the perfect case for disendorsement of the Liberal Party.The interference of chaplaincy etc.is another frontier of mind control and tax extraction by the back-door power base.
        The RWNJ within Labor and Liberal need to be weeded out by a Royal Commission for corrupting the constitution.Then they should join a church of their choosing and continue their missionary zeal where it belongs.On someone else’s teat,not the tax payer.
        A point was made today that even if an electorate effectively voted 99% yes in a plebiscite on SSM, the ‘principled’ member could still vote against it.
        The question is rigged as well, to package the question to sound like ‘gays want more power through law’.
        That on a background of the previous two stroke of a pen ‘Christianising’ of the marriage act by Howard.

        The sooner a true non religious alternative party can tackle political reform and get sky fairies out of law the sooner we will reach human level.
        Labor and the LNP are church property.


      • samjandwich September 13, 2016 at 8:26 pm #

        Sloths are cute… but I’m increasingly convinced that watching sloth videos isn’t far off the logical epitome of the Aussie life at the moment. In fact my extremely well-read-and-travelled 36-year-old house guest is watching Milo and Otis in the next room as we speak!


  10. Hypo September 13, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    “whether you reach it through religiousness, chemical stimulation, doggedly maintaining a sense of faith in humanity on balance, or watching zoom cats, is largely irrelevant.”
    Sure.If it were a personal and individual pursuit.But it’s not.It is a global fraudulent scam.The christian religion is a destructive culture consuming industry.
    Missionaries are just ppl who pimp for govts and turn the locals into fractured train wrecks or automaton zombies.Too busy melting down to defend land or preserve culture.

    The scam has taken over policy control in most western nations,which are based on and profited by invaded culture.

    Of course people can be intelligent and believe in sky fairies, but it should not give then any extra votes or power.But it does.
    Strangely the kindest most ‘christain’ people I have met, were not.So there was never an ulterior motive.Go figure.

    Religion and recreational drugs have a lot in common.But they should both be personal choices and not impact on anyone elses rights or safety.

    One of the greatest burdens on our finite budget and social cohesion is religion.On many fronts.

    Should religion distort govt policy and receive permanent tax breaks and concessions?

    Plebiscite that Turnbull.

    It’s a NO from me.


    • samjandwich September 13, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

      It should be needless to say I agree in principle Hypo. But I think it’s time you accept that perfection doesn’t exist even in the most conducive of environments. Ever tried living with someone you’re in love with??


      • Hypo September 13, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

        Good grief,
        A slice of moderate ‘near normality’ or sign of pseudo humanity would suffice.
        How a country go from where we were before Howard to where we are today and not only wallow in it, we somehow appreciate it.
        A forensic analysis of the subtle way they drugged the water supply, is the least we need, FFS.


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