Religion used as a Pacifier for the Poor

by Philip Jonkers

“The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.” ~ Cecil Frances Alexander

The above rhyme represents an attempt to whitewash the then current and allegedly divinely sanctioned social class composition. For one thing, to claim such class division is according to God’s will is a sure violation of the 3rd Commandment (you shall not take the name of the Lord in vain), and automatically signifies Alexander’s lack of obedience to Christian ethics. Secondly, it works to help prevent the poor from envying the rich — as God supposedly wants the poor to remain poor. It is therefore a strategy that very much benefits the rich. We thus find the likely culprit implied by the obvious answer to the cui bono – who benefits question.

Indeed, Napoleon and Marx basically addressed the very same issue:

“Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

“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.” ~ Karl Marx

When the name of God is abused as the poem insinuates, religion indeed very much acts as an effective pacifier for the poor. It works to relieve the anxieties and stresses of living under circumstances marked by poverty and grave inequality. Religion in this function indeed serves to soothe passions of revolt and quell ambitions for social upheaval; desires that are inspired by the discontentment that belongs to living under oppression and exploitation by the parasitic upper classes.

It is this function of religion — a political rather than a spiritual one, of seeking subversion rather than liberation of the people, the worship of power rather than God — that deserves condemnation.