Category Archives: Religion

Reflections on Marx, Religion and Opiates For the Masses

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When Karl Marx opined that religion is the opium for the masses it was not the throw away line it is today. I am writing this as I watch the sun set over the gulf of Mexico and smoke my $5 robusto and sip my $20 dollar bourbon.

Within my limited historical scholarship it seems to me that humans, ever since evolution bestowed upon them the awareness of suffering, temporality, and death, have been seeking substances to dampen, or ideas to vanquish, the horrifying experience of that reality.

While some of those substances (LSD, mescaline, ecstasy, opium!) give one a temporary sense of alternate and eternal realities, others merely dampen it.

As I write this the clouds briefly accrue a God-like glow of crimson and then slip into filaments of white against the darkening sky, and the temperature drops a few degrees at this moment on this region of a small planet. I go inside to replenish my glass. Our two dogs come with me; one, oblivious to my thoughts, wants to share his chew toy with me.

While religions, all of them, from the old and organized, to new and old ideas of enlightenment and “oneness with the universe” attempt to obliterate the terror of being sentient beings with limited life spans, substances like marijuana and alcohol merely dampen that reality.

And while religion works for many it has also been the unholy source of corruption, perversion, suffering and death for others.

With a sweater it is warm enough to sit outside and miraculously the WiFi reaches a chair by the barbecue. The sky has become both misty and mystical. A scattering of stars appears between the low clouds. I know I should leave my cigar alone, for the second half will give me an overdose of nicotine and a dry mouth through the night. The replenished glass of bourbon with much ice to soften it will let my eyes linger on the beauty of the night without too many intrusive thoughts.

Marijuana would let me do the same I’m sure.

It is one of those realities that could be used to argue both for and against intelligent design: anything that can make us feel good, or relieve us of the terror of existence, when used excessively, can harm us. I will leave the cigar butt in the ashtray and I resolve to not replenish my glass again. The dogs lie on the cool patio stones beside my chair.

My companion comes out to join me, commenting how lovely it is, and asking if I would like a refill. My resolve vanishes as quickly as a startled gecko.

We sit together in the balmy night air, breezes bringing mist from the gulf, the dogs at our feet, and I think how quickly time passes, and I tell myself to stay in the moment.

Pennsylvania and the Catholic Church

By Dr David Laing Dawson

A cult is a cult is a cult is a cult.

The Cathedral at Chartres, I suppose because of its magnificence as well as its age and physical location, allows one, as I did, to stand in it and outside it and imagine the 14th century: the fields stretching off in the distance, the peasants on foot and oxen cart slowly approaching this edifice, dressed in rough cloth tunics and hand sewn goat skin boots, bringing what offerings they could. This cathedral was built to impress, and impressive it is. And that I suppose is its purpose. It is, in modern vernacular, awesome, and in the centuries before this, designed to instill awe.

Standing there it is easy to imagine those illiterate peasants approaching the castle of knowledge and salvation. They did not yet understand why there was night and day or why water ran downhill or some fell ill with fever and others didn’t. And the church, for the next few centuries, would try to keep it that way.

And at Chartres, more than other cathedrals and churches, it is easy to see and experience the power of the building, and to understand its purpose by imagining the first hundred years of its existence.

Power and control. And, more quietly of course, sex.

What a con. What a magnificent con.

I’m not really knocking it, for we humans seemed to need an organizing system and some guiding principals sent to us from on high. Even now, in parts of the world where we have socially evolved to the point where we can, through very human processes, set those rules and expectations ourselves, many of us still yearn for the help of God. And, God knows, the Catholic Church, for much of its existence, has been no worse than Islam, Scientology, Mormonism, the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, or the Branch Davidians.

But I would like to point out that it is we humans who have, within our own secular governing bodies, in many parts of the world, arrived at the conviction that a.) women are full citizens with equal rights, b.) men do not have the right to non-consensual sex with women, and c.) we adults really shouldn’t be sexually abusing children and teenagers. Note that it is not Joseph Smith, the Pope, the Imams of Saudi Arabia, or Jim Jones who arrived at those conclusions.

Cults. It is what they are all about of course. They strip women of power. They permit non-consensual sex or, at the very least, coercive sex with females. And they justify the sexual abuse of children, pre or post pubertal children, male and female. And they all prey on the innocence and naivety of our less educated, less wary and less suspicious citizens. They are all, all, all about power, control, and sex.

Someone pointed out that if it had come to light that over 300 Jiffy Lube employees had been discovered to have sexually abused over 1000 children it would be the end of Jiffy Lube, but the Catholic Church will continue, as will Islam, and it seems there are always a few charismatic psychopaths (male) hanging around ready to start new cults.

Though it has been heartening to see, over the past 50 years, that increasingly large percentages of the citizens of most advanced nations, when polled, say they are either not religious, or do not belong to any particular religious group or cult.