Karl Marx

BBC asks: What is the future of religion? Does organized religion have a future?

BBC asks: What is the future of religion? Does organized religion have a future?

THE QUESTION:

This cosmic theme is raised by a British Broadcasting Corporation article under the headline, “Tomorrow’s Gods: What is the Future of Religion?”

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

In its early history the BBC (born in 1927, the year of the U.S. Radio Act) was nicknamed “Auntie” for its comforting, old-style tone. But The Beeb goes futuristic in a current online series that takes “the long view of humanity.” An August article offered the forecast about  religion (click here).

Writer Sumit Paul-Choudhury, former editor-in-chief of the New Scientist magazine, notes that religions ebb and flow across eons.

The Parsees’ religion originated with Zarathustra (a.k.a. Zoroaster) in roughly the era of the ancient Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. The faith  had millions of followers in the Persian Empire’s heyday but today counts only 60,000. Christians began as a tiny Jewish sect, spread through the Roman Empire, and today are found  most everywhere and practice the world’s largest religion.

Rather than seeing religions as providing spiritual truths and essential morality, Paul-Choudhury leans toward the “functionalist” theory by which creeds evolved to provide social cohesion. Think Karl Marx, who deemed religion the “opium of the masses.” As clans and tribes gave way to large and diverse nations, people were able to coexist through devotion to “Big Gods,” and so forth.

Importantly, this BBC writer foresees a bleak future. Growing numbers “say they have no religion at all. We obey laws made and enforced by governments, not by God. Secularism is on the rise, with science providing tools to understand and shape the world. Given all that, there’s a growing consensus that the future of religion is that it has no future.”

Thinkers have been promoting that same consensus since the 17th and 18th Century “Enlightenment.”

A special problem hampered religions during the past century, he briefly acknowledges. Nations like Soviet Russia and China “adopted atheism as state policy and frowned on even private religious expression.”

Frowned”?

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From our 'No comment' department: This is sort of a journalism Marx Brothers joke

From our 'No comment' department: This is sort of a journalism Marx Brothers joke

You cannot make this one up.

I think we have to rank this one right up there in the top ranks of items that we have ever featured under the heading "From our 'No Comment' department."

Let's see if you can spot the error in the top of this Associated Press report, as it ran earlier today. It has since been corrected.

Note that the dateline is from an always-exciting location during the Pope Francis era, when it comes to breaking stories on the Godbeat. Yes, I know there was a post earlier on a story linked to this. Thus, please consider this a quick mini-update on that  post by our own James Davis.

Here goes.

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) -- Pope Francis says gays -- and all the other people the church has marginalized, such as the poor and the exploited -- deserve an apology.
Francis was asked Sunday en route home from Armenia if he agreed with one of his top advisers, German Cardinal Karl Marx, who told a conference in Dublin in the days after the deadly Orlando gay club attack that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.

Oh my.

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Was Marx right that religion = "opium"?

Was Marx right that religion = "opium"?

ROD ASKS:

Was Marx right? Is religion the opiate of the masses?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

This blog’s third item about atheism and atheists in seven weeks!  Rod cites the famous quote about religion from a 26-year-old Karl Marx in 1844, four years before he co-authored the momentous “Communist Manifesto.” Here’s the full context in his typically prolix prose, from the introduction to “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”:

“The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. 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. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness…” (Oxford University Press translation, 1970).

Before seeing how some analysts unpack those words let’s scan a bit of biography. 

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